I binge watched the entire first season of Downtown Girls in an evening when I got home from work one night after hearing about the web series from writer Jessica Lamour. It’s not the same as binge watching a show like Breaking Bad — it’s quicker and it doesn’t leave you an emotional wreck on your couch with mascara running down your face and side-eyeing everyone you know wondering if they too could break bad like Walter White — but it was fun and refreshing to see a group of young women of color just trying to survive in New York City. They show us that surviving isn’t easy, but we get to watch them navigate the challenges by being clever, absolutely outrageous at times, and relying on the strength of their friendships to get by. I spoke with Lamour and the powerhouses of Downtown Girls, who play the roles of creators, directors, and actors on the show, about how the series came to be, what motivates them to keep going, and about some of their favorite female creators.
Can you start by introducing yourselves and your current roles on the show?
Chandra: My name is Chandra [Russell] and I’m one of the creators and directors of Downtown Girls. I also play Zo on the show.
Crystal: I’m Crystal Boyd, also a creator and I play the role of Abney.
Emebeit: I’m Emebeit Beyene, Creator, Director and I play the character Sam.
Jessica: Hi I’m Jessica Lamour, I’m the writer of the series.
I admit I’m a little obsessed with origin stories and love when creative people come together to produce great work. How did you all meet, how did you all get involved with Downtown Girls, and how did you pull Jessica in as a writer?
CR: We were literally all together kicking back and forth ideas to get our careers moving and voicing our frustrations and Downtown Girls was born.
EB: We figured that instead of waiting for opportunities to come to us, we’d go ahead and create it ourselves.
CB: The inception of Downtown Girls started right after NYU. Emebeit, Chandra, Chivonne (the fourth actress on the show), and I started a production company, 1990 Lex Productions. It’s a multi-media entertainment production company that is dedicated to creating a new narrative that deconstructs modern experiences, explores relationships, and celebrates women.
EB: We are real life best friends and the show came out of our real life experience transitioning into adulthood. After several failed attempts at writing for ourselves a friend of ours introduced us to Jessica, who, at the time, was in a transition of her own from working in accounting to pursuing writing. We met for brunch at the Jane Hotel in NYC and immediately clicked. She really understood our voice and her humor was right up our alley.
JL: I came into the mix after Chandra’s boyfriend and my mentor introduced me to them to help write the web series. I thought these girls had a great thing going. I loved their energy, work ethic, and their sense of humor was right up my alley so I instantly knew I could work with them! A lot of times you go out for a creative project only to find that all your hard work was a waste and falls through the cracks because everyone isn’t passionate about the project. But with this group, it worked because we all wanted the same thing and although we came from different paths, we shared a common interest in making people laugh and telling our unified story.