LAURA CHINN [FLORIDA GIRLS]
WORDS BY IRVIN RIVERA
Actress, writer and producer Laura Chinn created Florida Girls; a campy, coming of age series with a lot of heart. It’s a brilliant show about young adult women in Florida that is built around humor and the realities surrounding their lives.
Chinn created something that navigates the narratives of race, feminism, sexual harassment, class, education, healthcare, socio-economics, and more in a show that is easy to follow and digest. You know something is great when you laugh and at the same time think about what you just saw. You’re laughing but also having extra side feelings and that’s the brilliance of this show that Chinn created.
In this exclusive interview, learn more about Laura Chinn and delve deeper into the writing and creation of Florida Girls, in playing her character Shelby, and what’s in store for all the other characters of the show.
What stories are you mainly telling in Florida Girls?
Mainly stories about being a young adult woman in present day trying to navigate life without familial or financial support. Sort of coming of age but coming of age later than everybody else because no one told you to come of age earlier
Or nobody told you how to come of age.
Yeah exactly. There are no guidelines for you so you just have to figure it out. It’s those kinds of stories.
Where do you get your inspirations from whenever you write?
On this particular show a lot of these are based from the experiences I had and other writers’, other writers’ inputs and also instagram. I follow a lot of fun instagram people that have a lot of Florida specific stories so that helps generate ideas. Also going to Florida, talking to people, talking to friends, all that stuff.
So is the Florida Man thing real?
Yes. The Florida man stuff is real but we don’t do a lot of Florida man stuff in the show but it’s all very real.
I think humor comes from compassion. I think whenever anyone struggling with anything, if they have a sense of humor about it, it’s easy to laugh when you feel compassion for somebody.
What’s your approach in writing a show that is so close to the stories that you know?
With this show, all of the characters are heightened. None of the people are taken directly from anybody else so all the characters are very much invented. But we try to use some of the emotional stories that I’ve gone through. We try to stick to the realities of those while still trying to make them comedic.
I think the thing that’s helped us is remembering the heart and the love where I grew up and the friendships we had for each other even though we are in these ridiculous situations so I tried to use a lot of the love that I felt from my friends and just take that and make it funnier.
Speaking of being funny, how were you able to channel the narratives of living in Florida through humor?
I think Florida is just naturally funny. I didn’t know that at first. When I shared Florida stories, people laughed a ton and I realized how funny all those adventures were. I think humor comes from compassion. I think whenever anyone is struggling with anything, and if they have a sense of humor about it, it’s easy to laugh when you feel compassion for somebody.
Do you have a favorite episode in the series?
I don’t. I’m really happy and I like all of them. I especially like the ones when we tackle issues about feminism, sexual harassment, racism and those kinds of things. They’re scary to talk about because you don’t want to offend anybody but at the same time it’s good to talk about and those feel like the juicier ones. Also we had an episode where we just stayed out all night and chased boys around and that’s also a fun episode.
What’s the best part about playing Shelby?
I think she’s very similar to me so she’s a very easy character to channel. I like how much she cares and how much she tries but we also tried to make her not as evolved as I have become over the years. We tried to stump her a little bit to make it more believable that she struggles as much as she does and that’s also a fun challenge.
If you can play a different character in the show who would it be and why?
I couldn’t do any of it. I marvel at them. The girls are so brilliant and they’ve added so much to those characters There’s no way I could play any of those characters. And I felt so much for the casting process when we were auditioning girls. I was like I couldn’t do any of this. So anyone who couldn’t do it either, I get it. I couldn’t do it either. (laughs). They created such complex and interesting characters. And even the side characters bring so much to those characters that I won’t be able to touch it.
Are the other characters local?
No. They seem local cause they’re like character actors. They’re so in their characters. But we have one local actor. He plays the guy named Ken. But you have to play a close attention. Ken shows up in a lot of different places because he has five different jobs. He’s a G.E.D. teacher, he’s a bartender, and he works at a telemarketing company. We don’t speak to Ken. We just see Ken and we call him Ken. He’s a local and he’s incredible. His name is Patrick Roper and we got really lucky with him. And he was just so good playing one of the roles that we gave him- every job in the town. Which I think is so realistic. People in those situations work a lot of jobs so we wanted to speak to that.
What’s next for the girls? Is there a promise that any of them will go out of Florida eventually?
Interesting. I don’t think that going out of Florida is the answer. I think that they think it’s the answer but I don’t know if it’s the actual answer. I think really the journey for them is self-love and self-discovery and believing in themselves. I think some of them wrong l think that they’re gonna find that elsewhere. But I don’t think we see the show as the answer to self-discovery is leaving your hometown. I don’t believe that. So I think ultimately the goal for all of these girls is self-confidence, self-love and self-belief and that could be right where they are.
What do you expect the audience to take away from watching this series?
I think the people who grew up in sort of smaller towns in middle America and people that grew up not wealthy, or lower income, or lower middle-class people can watch these shows and really relate to them.
When I grew up we were like lower lower middle-class. And I didn’t relate to any of the shows where the characters are going off to college or living in New York. That just wasn’t my reality. I always wanted to make a show, which is a different reality to relate to. But then there are also people that did grow up in upper middle-class or wealthy household with education. I think it’s sort of voyeuristic for them. I think it’s a world that they haven’t seen that they don’t even get to see on TV and now they get to peek into it and it’s not depressing and dark and sad but it’s comedy, it’s light but it’s dealing with real stuff.
What’s your dream role or project?
Right now I just wanna keep making seasons of Florida Girls. I know it’s not good to put all your eggs in one basket but all my emotional eggs are in this basket.
If you were a book, what book would you be and why?
I would be a self-help book. I love the idea of how much we’re all works in progress and how much we can better ourselves when we apply ourselves and I guess that’s a theme of a self-help book.