THE COLUMN’S JOHN GARCIA SITS DOWN TO INTERVIEW THE DIRECTOR, WRITER, CREATOR, AND STAR OF THE HIT WEB SERIES YOU SUCK, NEW YORKER/FORT WORTH NATIVE TYLER MARTIN!
JOHN GARCIA: We are sitting here in the audition room in New York City where episode 4 of a brand-new web series titled DON’ SUCK just aired recently, and we are talking with its creator, writer, director, and star of the series Tyler Martin. Well actually Tyler is living in NYC and of course I am in Dallas, but we have been communicating back and forth to create this unique interview.
I normally don’t do “Q&A” per se, but this is a very special connection. Tyler was born and raised in Fort Worth and has acted professionally since he was five. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BFA in Musical Theatre with an emphasis in Directing from Sam Houston State University. Tyler won a COLUMN AWARD for his performance as “Tobias” in SWEENEY TODD (one of his personal favorite roles). He then moved to New York City, where he joined Actor’s Equity, has been in multiple Off-Broadway productions, and in several independent films.
Which brings us to the web series DON'T SUCK, which premiered at the Big Apple Film Festival, and is currently being released on Tuesdays on Youtube.com/dontsuckseries.
Since the web series has aired, it has caught on on social media with fans praising his dry, biting, yet hilarious writing and acting while each week he watches his subscriber numbers increase. Martin is remarkable as the central figure of the series. His combination of physical comedy and machine gun comedic delivery and timing has you hitting the pause button several times. It was wise to show his range as was well in Episode 2. But episode 4 was my personal favorite so far! For all actors-we have all been there and Martin as actor, writer, and director shows the world the insanity that we all have gone through in those rooms, that it will have you in hysterics!
The series follows a gay Texan coming on a bus to the Big Apple (but no T&A song cue from A Chorus Line). But he has his EMC card, his big dreams-and his big insecurities. The viewer watches each week as we follow him through starting a new life, it is a rollicking comical view that includes his best friend, his first big love, his always nude roommate, and that insane world we live in call theater. Christopher Trepinski (City Encores! GRAND HOTEL) as his always nude roommate Marco is hysterical. The scene stealer is Katie Ailion as Alex, Tyler’s best friend from Texas who moves to NYC. She is the star of Episode 3.
Now it has adult themes, situations, and language, so this is not for kiddos.
So, let’s have a chat with Tyler…………………….
JOHN GARCIA (JG}: I am giving you a virial hug if that is possible over the internet!
TYLER MARTIN (TM): Oh, it is! And I am giving you an even bigger hug back!
JG: Wonderful to hear from you and reconnect with you. I watched the last four episodes and laughed my face off. We really didn’t know each other back in Texas, other than of course at the COLUMN Awards gala and so forth. But you have the gift for comedy writing! Was some of that ad-libbed done on set on the day you shot the scenes?
TM: With such a tight schedule, we really stuck to the script, with very little ad-libs. Whenever we had extra time, I would do certain takes and ask for ad-libs/paraphrasing - for example, Robert Price, who you will see later in the show, is a strong improviser. Knowing that, we did a couple of scenes that include some improvisation. However, almost all that is in the show was scripted.
JG: When we chatted last week via email regarding the background on the creation for this web series you said, “I had wanted to work on a series for a while, but, for me, it was money, time, energy and the fear of it not being worth it that held me back. In the end, none of those excuses really held much weight. It wasn’t those things, it was me holding myself back. It took me getting so artistically/personally unhappy, that I decided to do it.” Can you expand on that?
TM: I had never written, or filmed, or directed, or acted in a web series, but for some reason I had this idea to make a web series. Although I had experience as a writer and director, that experience was confined to mostly theatre, not film. To say it was intimidating to start is an understatement. So, I kept putting it off. I kept coming up with excuses why I shouldn’t or why I couldn’t. Although I was working professionally, I was feeling artistically unfulfilled. Finally, I became so upset artistically, that I made myself a promise. I promised myself I would go to a coffee shop every day for a month to see if I could make it happen. Sometimes I would just stare at the screen, and other times I would write for like five hours. After multiple months and several drafts, DON’T SUCK was born.
JG: On the same topic of the creation of the series you stated, “College halted my creativity because I was so focused on grades and pleasing people. My senior year I directed a show and was reminded of that passion.” That hit home to my heart personally. I went through the exact same thing when I was in college. What do you mean by pleasing people? That I find is an emotional thread I find common in our theater tribes.
TM: This is a complicated subject. Theatre politics aren’t fun to begin with, then add grades and intimate competition on top of that. I cared way too much about my 4.0 GPA (which totally doesn’t matter now), about getting that scene in acting class that was only given to students who that professor deemed the best (totally doesn’t matter now), getting the most desired voice teacher (totally…well, you get it). I think theatre education can fail its students when it becomes about living in that bubble and pleasing the 5 people who have complete control over your education and if you are cast or not that year. I got lost in that world, caring so much about how everyone perceived me, and I left feeling like I didn’t let many people get to really know me. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I knew myself till my senior year, when I, to my surprise, took up for myself, telling a director I would not continue to do an exercise because it wasn’t helpful. In that moment, I took control of my education and craft. I wish I had done that earlier.
JG: DAMN! Kinda same thing here. I had this Professor at UNT who was brutal to me, “You are too short, you’re ethnic, You’re way too chunky, and you really are not attractive. So you’ll never play the romantic leads.” I could hear the other students softly gasp behind me. He would go on, “No, its best he knows this now.” I simply stood up and said, “I do know that, since my freshman year. I’m a character actor. I know I’ll never fall I love on stage or have a romance on stage. I’m the one to be the side kick. I get it.” But after class I went into the bathroom and sobbed. He was a bastard. He didn’t teach me anything, I already know that since high school. Old bitchy queen.
JG: What advice would you give to someone who might be in that exact same situation right now like you were in college?
TM: Remember you are paying (racking up debt for life, most likely) for your education. If you aren’t getting what you need/want, talk to your professors, reach out and try to take charge of your education. In the end, you’re there to learn and grow. If you are not learning but obsessed with who got the most callbacks that semester, I’d say take a look at your education and question it.
JG: What we see on the episodes, percentage wise, how much of that is your actual life? Because I must tell you some of those scenes we have all been there! Such as the ex, the audition, sending out a text by accident, and trying to figure out those damn bus MetroCard machines!
TM: I say it’s inspired by my life. When I began writing, it was close, but as I continued, it grew further away from my reality. There are some comparisons, some similar relationships, similar interactions/conversations, but the Tyler in DON’T SUCK is very different from me. Hell, I hope I’m not that awkward!
JG: Well I did see an ATM machine at a Racetrac once……….enuff said (LOL.
JG: How long does it take you to go from brain to script to shooting it?
TM: We were ambitious! After writing it, which took a few months, we held auditions, cast it, shot it and edited it under a year. We were planning for 6-8 months, but we had issues with an actor’s schedule which forced me to do rewrites. That’s the nice thing about working on your own work though! I just rewrote it. Still, even with hiccups, considering it was just my partner and I doing everything with a lot of volunteers, we made great time.
JG: Episode 4 was my personal favorite so far. Your writing and direction for that one was a window to at least one Equity audition we all have been to-and even some non-equity ones too. Such as the method actor warming up in front of everyone! From the monitor to the scene read-I was dying! Give the reader an insider’s view of shooting this episode. Did anything stay on the cutting room floor? (EDITOR’S NOTE: Watch this episode NOW then come back to read Tyler’s answer).
TM: This episode has a few moments based on my real life. The side within the audition is super closely based on my actual first EPA side I read in NYC. Very bizarre, very awkward, very traumatizing. The monitor is based on an actual monitor who did truly mispronounce the name “Jamal.” And the urinal/bathroom conversation is almost an exact conversation about Christianity I had with a stranger in a Buffalo Wild Wings bathroom. As far as the cutting room floor, the bathroom scene actually had another minute and a half that was cut. Ultimately, I felt like, although it truly happened to me, it came off too far-fetched. (My life is a bit crazy at times.)
JG: Your co-stars, Christopher Trepinski (Marco), Katie Ailion (Alex) and David Gow . I’m going to safely assume there are personal friends of yours, because they are perfectly cast. I saw that Chris did Broadway Bares and that Katie and David had done a YouTube short together before! So how did you recruit them for DON’T SUCK?
TM: Actually, Christopher was the only person in the main cast that I knew prior to the show. We held auditions, with my partner, Enrique Cavazos, as the Casting Director, where we found multiple cast members. Unfortunately, we didn’t find a person to play Alex or Greg at the auditions. So, we started taking video submissions. Enrique knew Katie and we cast her and David through video submissions.
JG: I kind of feel sorry for David as Greg, some of the viewer comments don’t like him because of him being the ex. But I think that text he wrote didn’t help his character. LOL.
TM: Web series acting can be difficult. It’s not a full-length show, so, with very limited time, directors and actors are relying mostly on subtext to convey the complexity of characters/relationships. Being that Greg and Tyler’s relationship is quite complicated, finding someone that I felt conveyed the subtle, yet important aspects of Greg, made casting the role difficult. David and I talked in depth about the ins and outs of their relationship. This is primarily from Tyler’s perspective, so the audience isn’t necessarily seeing what Greg is struggling with, thus why subtext and the nuances are so important. Each of their scenes are oozing with subtext, some that audiences might not catch, but that was important to me, and I feel like it adds depth to the series that is not found in the web series world all the time. But, no worries, we will get a slightly more in-depth look into their relationship later in the series…
JG: I think it’s a gay law that we all are required to have a female best friend in college, mine is Carolyn Freeman (she lives in California now). You two are a perfect duo!
TM: Being that Katie and I didn’t know each other and had never worked together before, I’m so pleased to say I’ve been asked multiple times if we are real life besties. Similar to the Greg character, subtext is key. We also talked about and worked in detail about how the friends talk to each other, how they touch, etc. I think the nuances really make the relationship believable and relatable. (Fun fact: my real-life bestie, Paige Wells, actually worked on the show and is seen in episode 4 as the reader in the audition.)
JG: I find that so fascinating to discover that Katie is an actress and not your real life BFF.
JG: What message do want the viewers to get out of the web series and what is the future you hope to see for it?
TM: Life can suck. Hard. It can be overwhelming, confusing, and it’s easy to feel lost. But we can sometimes take what sucks and utilize it to our advantage. Own what sucks, claim it, and utilize the crap out of it. I want to give struggling audiences content to relate to, to know they are not alone. We’ve gotten such a great response from the show, people really relating to it, which is so amazing. We are in the process of talking with various people about the next stages, but I definitely plan to continue the DON’T SUCK brand and have begun writing the second season.
JG: One final question Tyler………….seriously, I see on the show you have a pink cell phone?
TM: DUH! Later on, I have a pink case with a unicorn on it.
JG: I think I have some glitter in my backpack so you can add some pizzazz to it!
JG: LOL. All kidding aside, you are a remarkable and gifted comedic writer, director and actor. I sincerely wish for you and this web series to continue to gain more and more momentum. You richly deserve and earned it. Really proud of you! Truly am!
TM: Thank you so much, John! Please keep spreading your positivity and love. The world desperately needs it. You are an inspiration and a bright, beautiful light! This has been my pleasure chatting with you!
JG: To catch up on past and future episodes of DON’T SUCK, go to: Youtube.com/dontsuckseries
NOTE: Web series for adults 18 and over due to language.