Last week, a crowd of young, hip creatives spent an evening gathered on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the premiere of the second season of the popular web series Be Here Nowish. Revelers received party favors in the form of screen-printed totes containing sprigs of rosemary, condoms, and lube, conveying a tone of self-care and safe sex positivity that resonates on the show created by Natalia Leite and Alexandra Roxo.
It has been a whirlwind year for the duo and their production company Purple Milk, that included the release of a their feature film Bare, production for Be Here Nowish Season 2, and a viral video series on Vice.
I chatted with the two filmmakers, who also direct and write the series, about the new season that sees their characters, Nina and Sam, trying to grow up and make healthier choices as they approach the milestone of turning 30. They tackle new territory this season (fair warning: some spoilers ahead), and, as always, the show is full of the hilarity that comes from inhabiting various New Age sub-cultures on the path to self-realization.
AfterEllen: In this season, you have a storyline about a character with HIV. What made you want to include that?
Alexandra Roxo: We first had a storyline where my character is dating a man who turns out to be a trans male. We really felt that trans men aren’t depicted enough in the media. There’s so much about trans women. But also, in that moment we were trying to decide how to approach that because everyone is talking about trans people and trans issues and we were like, “Do we want to be in this exact same circle that is happening or do we want to just think about what else isn’t being talked about? What is something else that we think is important to have this space?” One day we were driving, and Natalia had just had a friend who had HIV. She mentioned it: “What about a character being HIV positive?” It’s interesting because I remember clearly my reaction being like—I got freaked out because that is something that is a little scary for us to tackle. But for us, when anything is scary, we’re like “Okay, cool—that means we have to do it.” … Actually, in the hetero community of dating, as much as people know about STDs, there is still this, like, “Oh, this is not gonna happen to me” vibe. And we wanted to talk about that in the context of a straight couple, and a straight white male.
AE: I noticed the themes of getting your shit together, and making healthier choices while approaching turning 30. How much of that was a reflection of your own lives, and to what extent are you each like your characters, and how?
AR: We definitely pull from our lives for the show. Season 1, Natalia and I started filming it in New York and then were like, “Oh, let’s go to LA for the winter and write,” and so we sort of changed the show based on what we were experiencing. And then a year passed and we really did grow up a little bit from where we were in that time, and so it is more of a reflection. But there is a lot in the show that is not [true]. Like, I’ve never dated anyone with HIV. We have some friends who are HIV positive, but that’s something that was new. And the relationship with Aurora—the polyamorous open relationship—that was something we thought would be interesting and we have friends who are in open marriages and we wanted to include that, but it was not necessarily something either of us had experienced directly.
Natalia Leite: Well I dated someone who was in an open relationship, but I’ve never been in a polyamorous relationship myself. … And with the HIV [storyline], I have a family member, a good friend. … We really felt that was something we wanted to tackle. No one was really talking about it.
AE: I’m curious about that distinction you made about being with someone in an open relationship but not being in one yourself.
NL: I was dating someone who was in a relationship with a guy. I didn’t want to have a relationship with him, and if I had maybe opened that door it would have happened but I was very clearly like, “I don’t want this!” which was exactly what happened with Nina.
AE: I really enjoyed that moment in the show. I cheered when she spoke up for herself and walked out of that situation.
NL: In Season 1, you get to see [Nina] get with a bunch of girls but now she just wants a normal relationship, like “I’m gay and I’m not a mix of all this other stuff.” Some people are defining how queer you are, and she’s just like, “I’m gay and I want a normal relationship!” which I feel like, nowadays, is less common. It’s almost frowned upon to be like, “Yeah, I’m just a lesbian.”
AE: How does Sam identify and would you foresee giving her a queer storyline in the future?
AR: Maybe, if we do a third season. I think at the end of the day, we feel that queer is not necessarily about who you have sex with—it can be how you have sex, it can be the [type of] relationships you’re in, and so even if you have a heterosexual partner, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be engaging in a queer lifestyle or queer sex.