On the tipping point of gentrification, a close-knit Atlanta community is forced to integrate with wide-eyed opportunists, both striving for their own self-preservation on a path that’s not always black and white.
Intersection is a dark comedy, written in a diverse, all-female writer’s room and produced with a cast and crew of over 80% female and BIPOC.
After watching all six episodes of Intersection, I was left overwhelmingly inspired to take a step back and observe my place in this world as a creative voice and fellow neighbor in my community. Similarly, this spark of overwhelming inspiration was palpable post conversation with the creative hive mind behind this poignant and timely series. The show holds up an unavoidable mirror to its viewers and doesn't hold back tapping into the uncomfortable vulnerability many face on a daily basis.
I had the absolute pleasure speaking with the creative team, who collectively wear many hats, Meg Messmer, Muretta Moss, Jacinete Blankenship and Jennica Hill. We spoke about how they collectively came together, tackling this subject matter and the importance of this show.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Sadie Dean: Well, first off, I really enjoyed this web series and I wish there were more episodes. So, how do we make that happen?
Meg Messmer: I mean money. [laughs] Yeah, that's the short answer. We would love to make more episodes. We talked about having three seasons, because we think that the issue – gentrification - is so multi leveled. And so, our first season is really focused on the street level of gentrification, the signs and you see them, the second level is diving into more landlords and the people that are sort of developers, and then the third season would be a macro level of the politicians and really the zoning. That was our hope. We made it to make it , but then we also made it as like a, ‘Hey, we could make this into a half hour.’ We'd love to get funded and make a season two or season three.
Muretta Moss: Thank you so much for even watching and wanting to see more of it. To echo what Meg said - the plan is to make more. We did this this first season as a teaser. We're just waiting to see how it goes and where it gets picked up and take it from there. It's still in motion, even if it isn't actively in production.
Sadie: How did this idea and project initially start for all you – knowing that you’re all collectively wearing many hats on this series?
Jennica Hill: Interestingly enough, I had set up a meeting with Meg to ask her about producing something else - I had a friend's script I really wanted to produce. And during that meeting, we got to talking; I had been doing this job that required me to do a lot of research. And so, we were talking about sociology and topics like that. And then she brought up the show, she wanted to write about gentrification, and was like, 'Would you want to write that with me?' and I was like, 'I don't know what that would entail. I've never written anything before, but I would love to.' And then she had already kind of brought it up to Muretta at another time, and then we started meeting. And it was very slow going at first. And we didn't know how to write this show. And then we were like, 'We're three white women. We can't write this show. We need to find other people to help us write it.' And so then we found Jacinte [Blankenship] and Karen [Ceesay] - Jacinte and I had taken an acting class together.
Jacinte Blankenship: Yeah, we had been studying together for a while in class. And we had talked about working on maybe some theater pieces. And I think at the time, the sizzle was about to get going and I was part of that. And that's how the discussion got started about me contributing as a writer which immediately I was a little anxious about it. At the same time, there was this huge opportunity to just dive in and see what my voice could be, especially on this type of subject matter and set in a city that I credit to a lot of who I am - I became an adult here. And so, I have a huge love and appreciation for the city and its people. And so yeah, start saying yes, instead of ‘I don't know’ [laughs] a lot more. It's amazing just how this started to take shape. I'm extremely grateful for having been involved with everyone.
Jennica: Jacinte is a phenomenal actor. And I knew she could write well, because she thinks like whoever she's playing, she inhabits them. So, I'm like, ‘Listen, I think you'd be perfect.’ Originally, she played O.G. in our sizzle, which is really funny. And now she's the perfect Jenaya. It worked out the way it was supposed.
Sadie: It’s really incredible how much story and character development you’re able to fit into six minutes. I’m curious, why the web series format and not pitch it to get it set up as a scripted series like on a network or streaming platform?
Muretta: Well, when we originally created the sizzle, I think that was something that we thought maybe would get legs and that we were going to be able to with the show Bible get more traction on. And then it was like, it's a dark comedy about gentrification, so it's hard to get people excited about and understand the tone. I thought our first sizzle was very interesting, but it didn't get the traction that we wanted. So, we just kept moving forward, knowing that we had an idea and a story that we wanted to continue to share.
As far as the new media web series format, I just think that's something that we were able to tackle. And there's just so much to tell. So, as far as doing a full pilot, we could have done that. But we liked the format of just the intersection of the different characters and mini six episodes seemed to fit that better. And it was something we were just able to do. Money does play such a big factor, especially in indie filmmaking.
Meg: We wrote a pilot, and I remember pitching that pilot, and people were just not really conceptualizing it or getting it, or they weren't interested in it. And in my some of my career, when I've been in motion and like making things, that's when things kind of come to me and I took a page in the book of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, they basically created and made their whole pilot and then sold it off that.
Then we found out about the short-form Emmys. I think was Muretta that said, ‘Yeah, there's a short form Emmys,’ and we were like, ‘Wait, we could make something that could be worthy of the Emmys? Yeah, let's do that.’ Even if we weren't going to get an Emmy - I mean, we obviously want to get an Emmy - but we thought, let's make something that's good enough to be seen on TV. Let's aim for that as a goal and the content. And I think it really leveled up our scripts.
Sadie, I don't know if you knew this, but we wrote six episodes in 2020 that we were ready to shoot in March. And then we shut down four days before, because our locations all dropped out. We were still going to do it. And then when all the George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, and all the Black Lives Matter protests were happening, we came back together and I think Karen said, ‘No, we can't do these same scripts. We have to start all over again.’ And we did. It was tough. There were times when all five of us were kind of like, ‘Is this going to work out?’
Muretta: We were sitting on Zooms, like two or three times a week, and rewriting. And it was tough, because we were in the midst of the pandemic, and then just everything happening in the world.
Meg: And our show is triggering in a sense, so many aspects were triggering.
Sadie: You’re also the showrunner on this, Meg, in terms of bringing in other directors and DPs and finding crew in that filmmaking community, what was that like for you especially in keeping that tonal consistency through all six episodes?
Meg: Yes, that's exactly what we wanted to do. And when we had done our Seed & Spark campaign to raise some funds to do it, I always wanted it to be over 80% female and BIPOC cast and crew. So, we did. Obviously, the cast is diverse because of the subject matter, but the crew specifically, and in my line of work, I come from producing, so I have many pools that I can choose from, but most of those are white, most of those are male. And so, it was a challenge to reach out of my comfort zone and say, ‘No, I'm not going to hire this person, even though we need them on Friday, I need to go look for somebody else,’ knowing that I may or may not get somebody. And we weren't paying people, anything, basically. So, it was a challenge. But then in the end, what we got was so much more rewarding than just making it - we got like a community of people that showed up for our premiere - I get goosebumps thinking about it, because they were so supportive. And it just felt right.
Sadie: I love that. Were there any storylines or characters that were maybe creatively challenging to approach to write in their voices, or maybe something that was empowering to tackle as both a performer and as a writer?
Muretta: I think that it was all relatively challenging. We spent years when I look back, diving into gentrification and my own impact as a real estate agent, and just in race relations, specifically in Atlanta. Looking at the world like, like the black and white constantly, it was very shaping and eye opening and constantly. Something that sticks out to me is like just shooting it during COVID. We had like a mask fight during the writing, ‘Do we have all of our scenes with people with masks on?’ We somewhat took a compromise on that.
And then Mary Margaret is someone that I would say is from my own persona in life, it's heightened in the script, but there are experiences I've had as a real estate agent that I've taken and heightened and a lot it's very cringy to see played out on camera.
Sadie: I thought you were going to mention climbing through the window of a house you were showing. [laughs]
Muretta: [laughs] No, I've done that. But not like in that situation. I have done that in another house, in the country because my cell phone didn't work. [laughs]
Meg: [laughs] Muretta helped me find my house in Georgia. And I remember looking at this really shoddy house, and she fell through the floor. [laughs] This is reminiscent of that.
Muretta: Because what do you do? You just get up and you continue showing, right? [laughs] Yes, memories.
Sadie: [laughs] Right, of course. And what about for you Jacinte – anything that was creatively challenging during the writing phase?
Jacinte: Yeah, well, I do remember creatively, we all were trying to really figure out who Jermaine was. That was a big part of hashing out, ‘OK who is this guy?’ Because we needed to represent all the nuances within a certain sector of this community. And everyone doesn't think the same about what's happening. I think it was a big opportunity to show the perspective of what it means for someone in the community who wants to take some agency and get involved in what's happening, and not feel victimized by it. I remember specifically, Meg and Karen, being kind of on opposite sides of the spectrum as far as who this guy was, and I think we eventually came to a really good understanding of who he is.
And I would say, I'm just finding the joy within, specifically Jenaya, Jermaine and O.G. - there are people that have lived in this community for a very long time. And although this is happening, and it's affecting them adversely, there's still community and still joy, and it's just good times that they share and so I just wanted to make sure that I represented life as it is - the laughs, little inside jokes that happened and really represent truly community. On a micro level, this is happening, but this is why it's so important because people belong together and there's families and there's people that are connected. So just making sure that that part of it was seen and shown authentically.
Sadie: Yeah, totally. And I love the Jermaine character too, because he is definitely in that intersection. What about for you Jennica?
Jennica: Well, Jermaine is who I was going to talk about, too, because I think he was the hardest. I mean, we're all women, too. So, I think that's part of it. I would say they were all difficult to write partly because I think we were really committed to not demonize anyone. Emory was based on myself. And so that just required a lot of self-reflection - that was difficult for me. Also, when I watched the show, at our premiere, I was like, ‘I hate her so much!' [laughs]
Then in 2020, I was doing activist stuff, and constantly phone banking, and I felt overly busy to a point where I was like, ‘Am I really even doing anything? Or am I just being busy for the sake of feeling like I'm helping,’ you know? And at the end of the day, I'm still part of the problem. And what does that feel like for Emory wanting to be there for everybody, but is still part of the problem?
Meg: It's really fun listening to this interview, because I'm listening to the ladies talk about this in a sort of an observative way. For me, one of the biggest challenges was getting a room together that was not afraid to be vulnerable, and blunt and honest. And as you can see, with all these women talking, it was an amazing room, and Karen, included. We all are so different, but we were so willing to go to places that are uncomfortable. And that's what the show is really about. And we wanted to touch on all those things. Which is why it was challenging sometimes.
Writing, as Jennica said, most of these characters are based in truth from either ourselves, or a lot of research into different things that were articles and real people that we know - we kind of pulled from. So, it's hard when you're writing about yourself, to see yourself as an outsider.
We did a thing where some of us would write parts of the episode – I have all of the writers on all of the episodes, because we did brainstorming writing together, and then we would go away, and people would maybe come in and write parts or a scene here and a scene there. And it was hard sometimes when, let's say, I would come in with a scene for Muretta and she was like, ‘I just don't think that's who she is.’ We would have to make sure we were all on the same page. But there were times I think, when people would change things in a script, and it was hard to swallow. And that happens in all writers' rooms, obviously. But this was a different process. I was the showrunner, but I wanted this to be a collaborative process. And that's why everybody is a writer credited on every single episode and not just one writer writing episode five and one writer writing episode six. We just wanted it to be as collaborative as possible.
Jermaine was a challenge. He was based on the actor who played him and he’s from Detroit, so we wanted to make sure that he had enough Atlanta in him. So, we dug into him deep. Jenaya - Jacinte she played her so beautifully - but she was based on a few different real people that we had found in articles and books and kind of an amalgamation of that. We wanted her to be very authentic. And as Jacinte said, not just a victim. The show is all about gray areas. So, we didn't want to just have somebody be this or that. Jermaine is trying to be an entrepreneur; he was a scholarship kid, but he's from the hood.
Sadie: What do you hope audiences take away from watching your web series?
Meg: I would love it to be a mirror for people in these cities that are facing gentrification where they could see themselves in it in the show, relate to someone in it and then feel like, 'Wow, that could be me.' Comedy gives people a chance to laugh and sort of have a communal experience. And then dark comedy lets you go home. And then while you're washing dishes, you're like internalizing it, and you're thinking about it more, and you're processing it, and you're philosophizing about it. And so, I think that, for me, I want somebody to laugh, be able to talk about it with somebody, see themselves in it, and then think, 'Oh, wow, am I this person in this situation? Can I be different as this person?'
Jacinte: What a great question. I would like for folks to just start asking themselves, 'What can I do better? How can I be more involved? How can I affect something in this to help someone else in their own communities?' I mean, even thinking about when we were writing, we would have side conversations where we're talking about the actual elections happening in Atlanta. We even delved deeper into what was going on in our own personal lives because of this show and what was happening. And so, I would just like it to spark some action in folks in their own personal lives and their communities.
Jennica: I definitely hope people laugh. It was really hard to write comedy sometimes with this subject matter because it really isn't funny at the root of it...at all. But I hope that they laugh, and I hope that they think about something that they used to have an opinion on in a different way, and maybe have a conversation with someone about it.
Watch all six episodes of Intersection here.