By Vania Andre
The new series, which debuts May 22 on Complex, follows the lives of two Haitian Americans living in Miami, trying to navigate their way through dating, life and adulthood. Haitian Times spoke to the creator of the series in an exclusive interview about the genesis of the show, and just how much of it is based on real life.
Popular news and culture media platform Complex is launching their first scripted series, Grown, this month. Created by Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Edson Jean, the comedy is about two dichotomous twenty-something year-old cousins who are forced to cohabitate while trying to figure out their respective lives.
From the authentic perspective of two young Haitian Americans, Grown is a narrative about fatherlessness and figuring out manhood, all set in the culturally diverse backdrop of inner-city Miami.
The series follows Josh, a socially-awkward Haitian American, and his “promiscuous and problematic” cousin, Wes, who pulls Josh into a series of misadventures consisting of women, self-discovery, and social media relevance.
The genesis of the show was born out of Jean-Baptiste’s real-life experiences. After moving out of his mother’s house to live with Jean and cousins, Jean-Baptiste found that his “manliness was often scrutinized,” especially when it came to his relationships with women.
“I had never been the best at talking to girls, so I got some help from Edson [Jean] in that arena,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I was set up on a few dates by him that failed miserably. At the time, I lacked confidence which would lead to a series of awkward encounters.”
Following each date, both men would have a “debrief” of the encounters, which ultimately led Jean to push Jean-Baptiste to chronicle his experiences.
“I had already been writing a show about just the weirdness of moving out, but after building a repertoire of interesting moments, we compiled them together into an early version of Grown,” he said. “We then saw an opportunity to expand just beyond dating and found a universal tale of boys trying to be men, alongside our relationship with the Haitian culture,” said Jean-Baptiste.
The series starts off immersed in Haitian culture to give the characters context to their upbringing. As their storylines progresses, other aspects of the characters and the city of Miami are explored, all under the umbrella of how “culture informs our decisions” as described by Jean Baptiste.
“As we developed the show, more and more of these characters started building a life of their own,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Josh and Wes are based on Edson and I, but have evolved into heightened versions of our old selves. The characters, Montiece, Robin, and Alex are also based on a few of our closest friends, while some of the other quirky characters are based off a couple of Miami residents that I think everyone will Identify with.”
The pair, who graduated from New World School of the Arts, were working on the project for a couple of years and “had it all fleshed out,” but didn’t exactly have a specific network in mind to air the series. Through their work with Adaptive Studios, they were able to secure a home for the show with Complex.
Grown debuts May 22 on Complex and will feature eight episodes.
“Everyone is going through some sort of journey of figuring themselves out. Some people get paralyzed when they doubt themselves. In Josh’s case, he tries to mediate this paralysis by finding the answers in Wes, only to realize that maybe wearing [someone else’s shoes] isn’t the best way either,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I believe people will relate to the consistent introspection the Josh goes through and how the growing pains ‘finding yourself’ can have implications to your surrounding relationships.”