“Our photographer just texted me and said, ‘You better have gotten a bunch of ratchet lettuce,’” said Alexandra Roxo. A girl salad–that’s what Roxo and her Drink Purple Milk producing partner Natalia Leite are prepping for this cool New York afternoon. And they mean this literally, too. To promote season two of their hilarious and poignant web series, Be Here Nowish (which you can rent now), the bicoastal duo are playing with bags upon bags of lettuce they’d just picked up at the grocery store, killing time until they get in front of the camera.
It’s pretty perfect they’re tossing themselves into salad, so to speak, as Be Here Nowish is a delicious and generous helping of spirituality, sexual fluidity, identity crises, and rocky relationships. Here, Roxo and Leite, writers/directors/producers/stars of the project, play Sam and Nina, native New Yorkers, who seek spiritual awakening in their new home of Los Angeles. It’s unlike any basketcase-BFF web series on right now, as these women present an eye-opening look into millennial new age culture that hasn’t been this smartly and genuinely portrayed before.
VH1 got a chance to speak to the creators of the show about what to expect in season two, how close they really are to their characters, and the incredible hustle that got them on screen.
How did you guys meet?
Alexandra Roxo: We met three years ago at a party. We had mutual friends and we had heard about each other and each other’s work. We were kind of each going through a break-up and some changes at the time and bonded quickly as friends. Then we had an opportunity to work together on this documentary [Serrano Shoots Cuba] that was going to be shot in Cuba. We didn’t know each other that well at the time, but intuitively we felt like it was the right choice for us to partner up. So we ended co-directing it and selling it to Vice.
How did you discover your creative chemistry?
Roxo: We both are really hard workers and we had collaborations with other people in the past that we never felt the right chemistry with. Natalia’s also someone who’s ambitious and really committed to work. We realized that we were both down to commit ourselves to something and it was priority. It wasn’t a side project or a hobby. It was our mission.
From there, it was just through having fun as friends. We were both dedicated to our spiritual path. We came from backgrounds with moms that taught us a bit about spirituality growing up and we had other things in common, too, that we thought were really hilarious. We had similar stories that we told about our parents, like Natalia’s mom putting tin foil under the bed to reflect vibes.
Was Be Here Nowish a response to not seeing that kind of portrayal of new age culture on screen?
Natalia Leite: We felt like there wasn’t anything out there in the media that showed you the culture the way we were experiencing it, and also for our generation. We don’t want to give up everything. We want to meditate but also go to a party at 12 am. It’s a lot more complex because of what it means for our generation today and how we’re trying to soak it all in.
How do you guys react to other media portrayals that poke fun at new age culture?
Roxo: One thing we really didn’t want to do was make fun of it. In general, we don’t want to poke fun at anyone else in our work. We’d never want to bring up another spiritual tradition that we haven’t had an experience with because it wouldn’t feel authentic.
Leite: Also, we feel like the deepest spiritual teachers are able to laugh and see humor in the situation, no matter how serious and genuine they are.
How do you guys balance your spiritual teachings with giving into your vices?
Roxo: It’s just life. It’s like being in the world but not of the world. Sometimes you want to go get wasted and do molly, and then next day, you’re like, ‘Oh shit, there’s no way to meditate. My brain feels like a mashed potato.’ If we were meant to be monks living in the Himalayas, we would be, but we’re not. We’re in the thick of it. It’s just a practice of balance and it’s really tough. You do the best you can.
In season two, it’s a little less about partying and more about our characters focusing on balancing career, love life, spirituality, and friendships.
How do your characters progress in season two?
Roxo: Sam has been living in L.A. for a year so she’s committed to a whole L.A. life, but she’s also cut off a part of herself. She’s more on a spiritual kick, but it made her cut men out, cut out sex. Then Nina shows up, and she’s been in New York, and she’s still been a bit of a mess, which we see alluded to because she can’t pay her rent. So they’re in different places and coming back together. That’s where the season starts. Sam’s focusing on her career, and Nina’s trying to escape her life in New York and make a new one but she finds herself drawn to some of the same behavioral patterns.
How autobiographical are your characters still?
Roxo: It’s been a funny experience for us because we write things that end up happening in our real lives. Then the story’s also influenced by our real lives. It’s so ironic, this thing that we created that’s fictional is now actually happening. [Laughs.] Are we manifesting this?
Leite: We’re really fast manifesters! It’s freaky. The whole show came about with us writing the web series in New York, and while we were doing that, we both got really fed up with the city and wanted to spend some time in L.A. to try it out. So we made our characters move to L.A. From then on, the story has been influencing what’s happening in our lives.
Roxo: We should write next in the show that we’re millionaire ballers! See what happens!
This season, you have Kate Lyn Sheil (House of Cards), Baron Vaughn (Grace and Frankie) and all these great new people. How’d they come on board?
Roxo: Kate and I went to college together at NYU. The school introduced me to a bunch of awesome people, and Kate is one of those. Also, Lindsay Burdge. Baron was somebody we thought was really hilarious so we just reached out.
How did you guys start working with Karley Sciortino (a.k.a. famous sex columnist Slutever) and how did her perspective add to the show?
Leite: We’ve been friends with Karley for a while now and always loved her writing and her work. We asked her to act in season one, which initially was going to be just for one episode but then decided to write her into the entire season ‘cause we loved working together. For season two, we asked her to come onboard as a contributing writer. Alexandra and I crafted the story and wrote the first draft for each episode and then Karley worked with us on revisions, adding some of her own jokes. We all have a similar sense of humor so it was super organic and fun to be writing together.
Since the show came out in 2014, pop culture has become so much more progressive. Everyone’s talking about everything these days, which is amazing. So what’s there to talk about in season two?
Leite: Yeah! We actually wondered what people weren’t talking about right now. We tackle some things that we think people should be talking about, which we want people to see in season two to find out, but we also changed some things last minute that’s already getting so much exposure, so we had to figure out new approaches to the subject.
Roxo: It’s not so much about, ‘Oh this is wild and crazy and no one’s talking about it!’ Maybe two years ago when we first did the Ayahuasca date it wasn’t so popularized, but now it’s so in pop culture. It’s really fascinating because, honestly, are people really doing that work and are they showing up and are they learning and are we making a global shift? Or is it just trending on the surface? That’s an interesting thing in general about pop culture, when people latch onto things. Like, ‘Oh! Ayahuasca! Everybody’s talking about it!’ But, really? Do you think people in Minnesota are regularly doing Ayahuasca? It doesn’t mean that people are implementing these spiritual messages.
What’s great about the show is that sexuality is just incidental. In what ways do you explore that on the show this season?
Roxo: We talk about open relationships, alternative relationships…
Leite: A lot of it is us tackling our dating life in a different way. Nina’s struggling with what it means to have a progressive open relationship and how that works with wanting to have more traditional things in her life that she hadn’t considered. Sam is focused on her career but ends up meeting someone who makes her think that this is someone she can really invest in and think of a future with, but it turns out she has a health condition she has to deal with. There’s also a lot of us exploring other new age practices and health trends that we hadn’t explored in season one, like vagina steams.
There’s also a spiritual speed dating scene–that’s something that actually happened to us in Brooklyn. We did orgasmic meditation, which is basically g masturbation. [Laughs.]
What inspires you guys right now? Who excites you?
Roxo: So episode four of this season is directed by our two friends Andrew and Pete who direct The Eric Andre Show, and Natalia and I have both geeked out so much because we love Eric Andre. It’s great and hilarious and weird.
Leite: Obviously, we also love Amy Schumer and the Broad City girls.
You used Kickstarter to fund Be Here Nowish season one and you produced your own feature film, Bare (starring Diana Agron and Paz De La Huerta). What have been the challenges to doing that?
Roxo: It’s just challenging on multiple levels and also really rewarding. The only people responsible for this is us.
Leite: At the end of the day, we made it happen. We didn’t have a famous person endorse us, or someone with a lot of money support us. We really just hustled. Like with making Bare, we had creative control. We had to knock on people’s doors for money and we had to film it ourselves.
It can be very empowering, too. That’s part of the message we want to put out there. Even this season of Be Here Nowish, we’re self-promoting it. We got some cool offers, people who wanted to send it out, but at the end of the day, why? Why are we going to sell this show to someone else and lose all control and not see a dime? That’s not why we’re doing it, but we want everyone to benefit and be successful, so we might as well do it our way. It’s possible. With the feature, we didn’t know the first thing about producing a film, but we’re resourceful, we can ask questions, we can figure it out, and we did.
What do you have planned for the future?
Roxo: We’re working on a project with Vice right now that hopefully will become a series. We’re working on a new feature script [called Seeds] that was a finalist for a grant from the San Francisco Film Society. Hopefully we’ll get to do another season of Be Here Nowish. This season we made it shorter; we fundraised six episodes.
Why only six episodes this season?
Roxo: Well girl, when money’s tough, you gotta do what you can. [Laughs.] Honestly, it’s expensive and we’re doing it on such a tight budget that we’re asking so many favors. We’re doing an hour’s worth of content, which is like half a movie. We have creative control, yeah, but we have to go to private investors and private equity. Since there’s no proof of monetization of web shows yet, then it’s harder to get funding. But if we make our money back through self-distribution this season, then it’ll be a really cool model to show other people.
The way we’re looking at it is you can distribute a web show the way you distribute an independent film. People buy it online for five bucks and that’s a total valid business.
It was awesome to see you guys reach out personally to promote the series. You really are doing this yourselves.
Roxo: I know. [Laughs.] It’s just an example of our way of doing things. Like we emailed someone at The Guardian because one of the writers there loved it, so now we’re premiering our first episode on The Guardian. We all support each other. It’s about going beyond what the system has to offer and not just being content with the way you’re ‘supposed to do things.’ Forget waiting for someone to do it for you. Make your own rules.