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– by Nancy Tapia

 

Things are crazy when it comes to politics these days. Between the left and the right, it doesn’t take much for things to start getting hostile and heavy. With that in mind, it makes sense to cover those issues through the lens of comedy, and that’s exactly what’s being done in the webseries The North Pole.

A new season of the webseries is dropping online TODAY, and we recently had a chance to sit down with the cast and crew from the show and discuss it as a whole, the upcoming second season, Rosario Dawson’s involvement, and more, starting with writer/executive producer Josh Healey!

The North Pole Season 1 and 2 are available for online consumption on THEIR OFFICIAL SITE NOW!

LRM Online: How did The North Pole start?

Josh Healey: So the North Pole is the real-life nickname for a neighborhood in North Oakland. And our director, Yvan, and some of our other co-writers, who you’ll meet, born and raised in North Oakland. Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, they repped the North Pole, and like so hard they called themselves polar bears. And then the idea is that now with gentrification and other issues, as the climate of the neighborhood is changing, it’s like the polar bears, the native community, is becoming extinct in their own environment. But there are some polar bears who ain’t going out without a fight. So the show’s about four friends, three born and raised in North Oakland, one new to the area, who are trying to make sense of their community, their neighborhood, their environment.

Josh Healey: Here is Santiago Rosas.

LRM Online: Hi. Nice to meet you.

Santiago Rosas: Hi, hi.

Josh Healey: Come sit down, dude.

LRM Online: Jump in.

Santiago Rosas: Oh, thank you.

LRM Online: I was telling him I got a chance to check out the first season.

Santiago Rosas: Oh, you did?

LRM Online: Yeah, last night. Wanted to freshen my memory.

Santiago Rosas: For sure.

LRM Online: But how did he get involved into The North Pole? How’d you get the invite?

Santiago Rosas: Well, I’m an actor, and I’m based out of San Francisco, Oakland, Bay Area. And I heard about it through ASF Casting, which is like casting networks. And then I went into the audition. I had a homie that was actually working on the audition prior, and I never put two and two together. And then when I submitted myself to come in to it, I was like, oh, I think this is the role that my friend was trying to get. And so I went into the audition, had a really good time, and yeah, I met Josh and met Yvan and Darren. And that’s pretty much for me how it started working-

Josh Healey: He nailed it right when he walked in. We were like, oh, that’s Benny. It’s done. It’s a done deal. And he killed the audition, and the whole cast, some of the cast members we knew beforehand. Some of them are longtime friends and family, homies. You know, it’s a community affair. And then some people, it’s new to the family, and it’s about growing. And that’s like the whole team, that’s what it felt like making the show, like this is extended family.

LRM Online: As a writer, how did you come up with this concept to start with?

Josh Healey: Yeah-

LRM Online: And the title, because at first I was like, “but it’s in Oakland.”

Josh Healey: Yeah. I mean, like I said, it’s based off of the neighborhood in North Oakland, and this idea, playing with this metaphor of an environment that is under attack from different threats, environmental, social, political, and the local community, the polar bears are having to respond. And so for us, it’s the perfect metaphor, but it’s real in the Bay Area, like people represent that. And so we just wanted to name this is where we’re from. This is where we’re at. And this is what we’re here to defend. And this is also what we’re here to like show love, and have fun, and like it’s both, as you saw, a very serious show, and a ridiculous comedy. And that’s how we live. And that’s how, not just Oakland, but that’s how people live. And so we wanted to show the full spectrum of that humanity.

LRM Online: The first season, you cover real issues going on because you said there’s the serious part.

Josh Healey: Yeah.

LRM Online: You have the drought. You have about the transition in communities. You know, people like trying to come in and make a change. But now for this Season 2, you’re covering some pretty political stuff that’s been going on with immigration and all that. I mean, it’s mainly you.

Santiago Rosas: Yeah, you know what? I’m super excited about it because of what it represents. In many ways I feel that the North Pole, in itself, just Season 1 and Season 2, it’s about healing. It’s about freedom. It’s about taking our stories, reclaiming them. It’s about, it’s a call to action. You know? I think the duty in being an actor is to work on material that stands for something, to do something with our craft, with what we know. And you know, I think it’d be amazing to have our audiences just take from this just to be bolder, to be unapologetic from like where they come from, and just join the fight. You know?

I’m super excited to be a part of it, and I feel that, hopefully, also like there’s a lot of healing that happens with our communities. When Josh was telling me about Benny being Salvadorian, I’m Mexican, so I can relate to a lot of the struggle in being an immigrant because my parents are immigrants. And I have a lot of friends who are immigrants. But when he told me that that main character was Salvadorian, I was super excited about that because I got a chance to do more research about what their experiences are because I know that there’s a common similarities with what immigrants go through, but like specifically, like the Salvadorian people, they’ve gone through a lot of stuff. And so, for me, as an actor, because I have craft and because I take it serious, I wanted it to be about truth, so I went on, and I did my own research. And that’s one of the great products of just being an actor, like understanding that you’re here for the greater good, and you’re here to bring truth to these stories.

I mean, and just being also Mexican, and being inspired, you know, on set like we have people that were directly affected by this. We have DACA students that were, you know, working on the project themselves. So everybody, not just myself, but everybody every day when we showed up to work, it was serious. And it was professional. And we were there for a reason. And now we’re here, so hopefully we get like good feedback from it, and people just enjoy, and they realize that we did put in a lot of good work, lot of time, and it was a sacrifice, not just for us, but just for everybody, for what they’ve done.

Josh Healey: There’s the director, Yvan Iturriaga.

Yvan Iturriaga: Oh, hi. How are you?

Josh Healey: Good. How you doing? Yvan.

Yvan Iturriaga: Hi, my name is Yvan Iturriaga, director of The North Pole.

LRM Online: So what were the challenges directing the first season?

Yvan Iturriaga: First season.

LRM Online: Because it covered a good different aspects of reality.

Yvan Iturriaga: For sure. It was getting to know each other. You know, it was our first project. I think we were a lot smoother the second season. And there’s a lot of limitations. We had a low budget. So we were very ambitious. So making it all fit, and the days that we had, and sticking to legal hours. You know, we had to… I, as a director, had to be very specific and very strategic on what to get, how many takes to take, you know, and balance the desire to get really creative, or just focus on getting the story out there.

LRM Online: From the first season, which of the episodes would you say that was more challenging, that you enjoyed directing, because each episode was like one topic, which, that was nice. I actually enjoyed that. Which one would you say?

Yvan Iturriaga: Trying to remember the first season. Hold up.

LRM Online: Oh. (Laughs)

Santiago Rosas: What happened the first season? Yeah. Yeah, we’re all on that season two hype right now.

LRM Online: Or you had like the water drought.

Santiago Rosas: Oh, there you go.

LRM Online: You had the eco trees.

Yvan Iturriaga: Oh, you know it better than me.

LRM Online: I just watched it.

Yvan Iturriaga: Well, the drought. That’s a good scene. I mean- For example, that scene where they go to visit Marcus’s mom, and they have the little house party. That’s a different house than where they go outside in the backyard and find the pool.

LRM Online: Oh. Okay.

Yvan Iturriaga: So the logistics of creating that scene in two different homes, and emptying a pool, or finding a pool that was already empty was-

LRM Online: That was a surprise.

Yvan Iturriaga: Yeah.

LRM Online: When you picked her into the pool, I was like, whoa.

Yvan Iturriaga: Right. So we wanted that punch, that reaction, and producing that was actually pretty difficult. To make it be seen was between, inside and outside. That was a logistically difficult one.

LRM Online: So does that mean for the second season, you had a little bit of a bigger budget to work with?

Yvan Iturriaga: We did. And also just the fact that our whole team knew each other. Actors knew their characters really well. We were a well-oiled machine. And we also just made the commitment to all of us pushing further. Now that’s from everybody on the team deciding to tell a bigger story, every character has their own arc. We have a ton of locations. I don’t know how many extras, but it was our goal to just, let’s push this further, and make it the best we can.

LRM Online: And this one, the direction, I mean, I haven’t seen any of Season 2, however, based on the trailer, it looks like this time around you’re focusing on one main topic.

Yvan Iturriaga: Well, we’re still multilayered, for sure.

LRM Online: Okay.

Yvan Iturriaga: Yeah, yeah. The main character’s definitely, this time is Benny, and his, he’s struggling with his legal status, and facing deportation. So he’s definitely the story that carries the show, but each character actually has their own struggle and the thing they have to figure out. And we have the backdrop of the wildfires that are happening at the same time, which in the Bay area was pretty heavy duty. And so we have that in our show as something that all the characters are dealing with at that time.

LRM Online: How many episodes?

Yvan Iturriaga: Seven episodes. They’re a little longer than season one.

LRM Online: Okay.

Yvan Iturriaga: So we’ve gotten more ambitious and pushed it even more.

LRM Online: And you brought in Rosario Dawson?

Yvan Iturriaga: Rosario Dawson.

LRM Online: How was that?

Yvan Iturriaga: Am I answering all of these, or you want some?

LRM Online: They had their time.

Santiago Rosas: You’re doing well.

Yvan Iturriaga: Oh, thank you, thank you. Well, first Rosario’s initial interaction was with our executive producer, Movement Generation, and she was attracted to the politics of the organization. And so she wanted to find out more of how to get involved, especially with this idea of climate change and climate justice and social justice and the intersection of that. And when she found out about the show, it was like a perfect fit. You know, she’s an artist. And we’re creating a show, an artistic expression that deals with these issues. So she loved it. And she was willing to be in it, and become an executive producer. It was like a match in terms of also how we think and how we think art can be a part of the change.

LRM Online: Now, how was it working with the writer, and how much did you guys have like, maybe like, oh well maybe changing this or that? I mean, what’s the collaboration for you two?

Yvan Iturriaga: Well, the writers’ room was four people.

LRM Online: Okay.

Yvan Iturriaga: The second season it included Donte Clark and Reyna Amaya, the actors that play Marcus and Nina. And that’s a very creative, exciting collaboration, you know, being in a room with all four of us just creating this thing out of nothing and making up different ideas. But a lot of time, you know, we gang up on Josh and tell him he’s wrong. And that’s kind of the, usually how it does. But he is the lead writer, so he goes and crafts all these ideas and puts them together. And we also have Movement Generation being giving us feedback in terms of its actual, the reality of it and how it can affect real people. And that’s a wonderful collaboration to get that feedback and how it can be used in communities in this country.

But overall, you know, me and Josh went through in the edit, and that’s where you really fight it out. But he only asked me to walk around the block once, and so I feel like that’s a pretty good relation.

LRM Online: Okay. And where are we going to be able to watch Season 2?

Yvan Iturriaga: It goes live September 10, and you can watch it at the website, thnorthpoleshow.com.

The North Pole Season 2 is available for online consumption on THEIR OFFICIAL SITE NOW!

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