ATX Exclusive Interview with Everyone Is Doing Great’s James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti
If you grew up watching television in the 2000s, then you probably know James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti from a little show called One Tree Hill. The two met on set and from there, the rest, as they say, is history. Now, five years after One Tree Hill has wrapped, the two have joined forces to create a new television project: Everyone is Doing Great.
Lafferty first came up with the idea and immediately pitched it to Colletti.
“I had the germ of the idea and before I even got it down on paper, I knew I wanted to do it with [Stephen],” he said. “We’d been wanting to work together for a really long time. So I just drove straight over to Stephen’s house, with a six-pack of beer, and your [Stephen’s] brother was there at the time but you guys made time for me and we just started riffing on it.”
“I said [to James] that I love everything about that,” Colletti recalls about Lafferty’s original pitch. “I can see it as clear as day right now; there’s something very interesting about that little world and that little perspective that is not only unique but, most importantly, hasn’t been done to our eyes. But also, [it’s] so relatable to anyone outside of the industry at any point in their lives. That’s where it was a perfect marriage in my mind of what James wanted and then what I wanted to do as well. And we just ran from there.”
The show tells the story of two actors, Seth and Jeremy, who were once on a hit television vampire drama, “Eternal.” Five years after their show has ended, they lean on each other as they struggle to reclaim their previous level of success and relevance, awkwardly navigating the perils of life and love amidst a humorously painful coming of age.
“The show is very funny, but also tackles real issues in a very meaningful way and that’s a testament to the great writing from James and Stephen,” Ian and Eshom Nelms, executive producers of Everyone Is Doing Great, said of the project.
“Stephen and I have worked really, really hard to grow as artists since One Tree Hill,” Lafferty said. “We haven’t had to struggle that much, but for some reason, there would be just so much awkward humor in the experience of two guys who didn’t prepare themselves at all and are now floating without a paddle.”
Lafferty and Colletti star in the roles of Jeremy and Seth respectively. When asked whether it ever crossed their minds to have someone else play those parts, both of them immediately said no.
“It’s funny, I told [James] that I always felt we were destined to make this show,” Colletti said. “Because there was always this feeling of, while we’re in this industry, we share a lot of similarities about our viewpoints and how we go about it and also just certain pet peeves we have with people acting entitled and egos have always just rubbed us the wrong way. We’ve seen it and we’ve seen it from all different sides, whether it’s in our work, whether it’s promoting something with somebody who is an animal or just being around people who feel like they are better than everyone else. Those stories crack us up when we talk about it. I just had a feeling…maybe that’s what clicked. James was telling [the idea] to me and I was like waiting for this moment. I was like, ‘Oh yeah. It’s finally happening. We’re going to do this type of show that will have a lot to say.’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe we didn’t think of this before.’ It was like, ‘Yes. This is the show we need to do.’”
“And also we couldn’t afford to hire anybody else, so we had to recruit ourselves,” Lafferty added.
While Lafferty had done some television directing before, seeing a television show through from concept to a finished first season was something neither one of them had direct experience with. But they used their past experiences on television sets to help inform the choices they made regarding Everyone is Doing Great.
“It was all those experiences leading up to this show that made us ready,” Colletti said about the kind of research they did to prepare for creating their own show. “Because if we didn’t have those experiences, those failed projects and the things you just shoot with your friends, then we don’t have this show. Its a result of trial and error from other projects.”
“A lot of it is, like Stephen said, learning through osmosis from the indie filmmakers that we’ve worked with [in the past],” Lafferty continued. “The Nelms Brothers are those indie filmmakers [for us]. They’ve been pulling their projects together themselves for years now. We had Michelle Lang, who was our producing partner and she also starred in the pilot, she was instrumental and the person you just couldn’t do it without. She took it from being an idea we had on a piece of paper to set.”
Now that the pilot is complete, the two are looking ahead to finishing the first season, which they’ve already written. Just last week, the two announced that they launched an IndieGogo campaign as a way to raise funds to make their series a reality.
“There is a lot of platforms where you can put this material on,” Colletti said as to why they chose to go ahead with crowdsourcing. “You don’t need a studio, besides their money. We all need money, but you can still find a home and get an audience if you have the funds and you don’t have a studio. If you’re able to do that, it offers up a lot of opportunity and takes some stress away from having to report to certain people. To maintain creative control is everything, it’s huge and this allows us to do that.”
Colletti continued, “Even if [someone] just said, ‘I understand what you guys are trying to do but would you add in this element so it kind of gives it this color,’ it hurts you and could hurt the show in a way. So this allows us the opportunity of creating a show that we want to make.”
Crowdsourcing also offers them the chance to get fans involved and build a community through the show.
“The shows that we’re passionate about have built community around their shows because people love to talk about them and see themselves in those shows,” Lafferty said. “We felt like this was a really… on the ground, unconventional but organic way of building a community around our show from the very beginning. You are the seed that will eventually grow into the tree that is this show as a backer of our IndieGoGo campaign and that is invaluable to us.”
The duo has no set goal for Everyone is Doing Great in terms of how the audience will be able to watch the show once the money has been raised and the rest of the first season has been shot. But they are optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead for them.
“We’re doing this, not because we want to stay in one tiny little lane, but because we want to see where this takes us,” Lafferty said. “We’re really open to creative ways to get the show out there at this point.”
For now, they are taking the pilot all across the world this summer to multiple television festivals including the Monte-Carlo and New York TV festivals, a process that Lafferty called “really eye-opening.”
“We’re already on a mission here to make a series,” Colletti said about the festival screening process. “So to be able to, while we’re in the process of that, go out and get some feedback and have them champion us even more, it’s a great kick in the ass that says, ‘Just keep going.’ And that’s been priceless.”
“It helps continue the conversation about the show because that’s really important to us,” Lafferty said. “We know we’re asking people to support a show most people haven’t seen yet, but the fact that we get to go screen our show all around the country and the world, it means that the conversation can continue. And that’s important for us because the more information people have, the better.”
Now that audiences are getting to see it, what do Lafferty and Colletti hope they take away from the pilot?
“I want it to be different than they expected and I want them to laugh,” Colletti said.
Lafferty said something similar. “I want people to find humor in the struggle that these guys are going through and I want it to make them feel that they’re not alone in their struggle and that they can find the humor in their own lives.”
If you want to donate to the IndieGogo campaign, you can do so here. You can follow James on Twitter and Instagram, Stephen on Twitter and Instagram and the show on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured Picture: Michelle Maurin