Mitchell Jarvis and Wesley Taylor first worked together six years ago when they costarred in the original off-Broadway production of Rock of Ages. By the time the show had moved to Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre, a friendship had swiftly blossomed. They started making behind-the-scenes videos of their experiences in the heavy-metal musical, which gained them a following even more swiftly.
Together they created a "twisted dramedy" called It Could Be Worse, which starred Taylor as a struggling actor embroiled in a love triangle with characters played by fellow Broadway vets Adam Chanler-Berat and Gideon Glick. After their first season, they took to Kickstarter to raise funds for the second, and with the help of the show's ardent fans, they more than surpassed their goal. Not only that — the show was recently acquired by the free online platform Hulu for distribution, beginning July 17.
As Jarvis and Taylor prepared for the show's second season launch and a 54 Below celebration concert on July 15, they chatted with TheaterMania about how It Could Be Worse was created and just why, ultimately, things really could always be worse.
Give me a brief overview of the It Could Be Worse origin story.
Wesley Taylor: Mitch and I met in the original off-Broadway company of Rock of Ages six years ago, so we've been making videos together since then. We [started] just f*cking around with a camera, not paying attention to narrative or a consistent tone. Once we found out people responded to it, we made a Web series called Billy Green. From that, we developed a following and we really committed to the episodic structure in It Could Be Worse.
Would you classify It Could Be Worse as a backstage comedy/drama?
Mitchell Jarvis: We didn't want to have much to do with industry-related work stories. It Could Be Worse is much more of a character study and a study of sexuality and humiliation.
Wesley: It just so happens that the backdrop of the show is show business, which is the perfect platform for humiliation. Write what you know, right?
When did Hulu enter the picture?
Mitchell: We hadn't set out to find a distribution partner until we got funded for the second season. We really upped the ante on our production scale. We wanted to try and find a larger audience. That's when we started getting meetings through Wes' management company. We got to Hulu via Pivot TV. It was all kind of blind-leading-blind. It's been a real learning experience.
Wesley: We just wanted to tell the story and put the first season online. Never did we think that the first season would end up on television.
Mitchell: But we were conscious of the possibility. We made sure we wrote our own music rather than score with music we didn't have licenses for. We were hedging our bets, but it was nothing we were actively pursuing until five months ago.
How did you land upon a concert at 54 Below as a launch party?
Mitchell: We had the idea that we should do a launch event, but a screening is an expensive proposition, and we have a unique skill set in the cast of our show. We wanted to do something different.
Wesley: We were approached by 54 Below, who asked us if we wanted to do a concert, and of course we did, because everyone in the show happens to be a Broadway star and can sing. It'll be a good promotional thing for us, two days before the launch. Our cast is so talented that they're performing across the country all the time and it's really hard to get everyone together. So it's tricky to be in the same place all the time. Just getting everyone to sign the Kickstarter swag...
If you were a fan of the show, what would you have wanted from that Kickstarter swag ?
Wesley: If I was a fan of the show, I would like the original scripts signed. That's kind of cool. Anything I say is gonna sound douchey, 'cause it was our own stuff. A lot of people pledged for Skype chats. I Skyped with many people internationally, which was crazy. I Skyped with this adorable gay couple in Australia. That's really fun when you connect with a fan who just wants to ask you questions about the series. All of this wouldn't be possible without them. We remain very grateful to the fans.
Will there be a third season?
Mitchell: Wes is on the fence about it. I was absolutely a no, and then we finished the edit for season two and I was flooded with ideas. Now I'm fully convinced the story is not finished. Wes will come around.
Wesley: I will never say never will I ever...because who knows? I didn't think there would be a second season.
Mitchell: The last moment [of this season] is a cliffhanger!
Wesley: The tale is culminated in both seasons, and we wrap it up with a bow.
Mitchell: [Wesley] didn't let me write a series finale. He insisted I write season finale.
Wesley: I guess I did encourage that.