Olivia Baptista | Here We Wait

While most will recognize her as Kylie from Here We Wait, many will be surprised to know that Olivia Baptista is a co-creator, writer and producer on the series as well. A self-proclaimed nerd, Baptista dishes on her exploration of the afterlife through her sci-fi series. Read more below the jump to learn more!

netTVnow: Tell me about your experience in the web series industry.

Olivia Baptista: Before Here We Wait, my experience was only as a fan girl! My creative partner and co-creator of the series, Diane Chen is responsible for getting me into the web series world and I fell in love with the medium. Vlog style, mockumentary, so many forms of comedy, of drama, too little sci-fi but what’s out there is great – and there came a point where we were kinda like why don’t we try this?

netTVnow: What did you find most surprising about creating a web series?

OB: Here We Wait was our first venture into the world of web series and I think the most challenging – yet inspiring part of it all was that in the web series realm there are no rules. You can dictate length and structure and style or theme without necessarily being held to any sort of expectation. I found that very freeing. I am also surprised by how little there seems to be in Here We Wait's genre. 

netTVnow: Here We Wait is a very interesting series and definitely not a genre that’s been heavily explored yet, where did the idea for the series come from?

OB: I am lover of all things “genre” Orphan Black, Firefly, Black Mirror the list goes on. Diane and I also love shows with a strong ensemble, we’re proud Grey’s Anatomy fans since day one! So from its inception, we knew we wanted it to be ensemble driven and we knew we wanted the tone to be a little sci-fi or “genre.” We were also determined to keep it to one location.  

We knew we had access to the Ria Mar – the restaurant where the series is set. So we set out to create a world that looked like a restaurant, felt like a restaurant, but ultimately there is this undertone of something is not as it seems. It’s in the way they speak, they interact, the fact that they cannot leave or walk outside. And how to make eternity with the same eight or so people interesting...

Which got me thinking, what if that wait staff all come from different time periods? How does a 12th century Viking tribeleader like Siv become so close to a pragmatic spice-turned-slave-trade mogul such as Andie? Or how do a WWI Italian army boy like Pietro and modern day southern belle, Charlie, strike up a meaningful friendship? It allowed for lots of room to explore historical context and play.

netTVnow: How would you describe the series to someone?

OB: Imagine a place where you literally order and are served your last meal before you reach your proverbial final destination beyond the physical world. That place is Here. A dramatic, slice of life, sci-fi web series focused on the interactions between an eclectic waitstaff in purgatory tasked with providing each patron passing through with a positive experience and pleasant sendoff. ‘Here’ is a place where a job is expected to last for an eternity – until the world and people its employees know begin to fall apart.

netTVnow: The cast dynamic is already so strong, what was the casting process like?

OB: First off, thank you! The casting process was one of my favorite legs of this journey. Diane and I were pretty locked in on our roles so we set out to cast a true ensemble that was made up not only of talented actors, but of people who could occupy the same world, even though all the characters come from different parts of the world and different time periods and such. To cast eight roles, we had over 2,000 submissions. Our partner and fellow co-founder of MHP, Amber Porter, was the casting director. She narrowed it down to about 100 actors that Diane and I got to meet in the room and it was so fun getting to read with so many talented and diverse actors. Amber did not limit us on age or race, and in some cases, gender. It was just about bringing in whoever seemed right. As actors, Diane and I take great pride in the audition process. We recognize it is a nerve-wracking experience and work hard to treat it as an opportunity to play and get to know the person. I could go on and on, but needless to say, after much pairing of actors and jiving of energies – we finally found the core ten actors you see in Here We Wait. 

netTVnow: Each character is so uniquely different from one another, in a
few words, how would you describe each character?

OB: Only a few words each?! Okay, okay. I’ll do it in order of staff seniority which is actually the same order in which they appear in the series.

Siv – Brash. Tough love – but it’s still love. Will do anything for her staff, her ‘family’.
Jake – Patient. Strong, yet innocent. A boyish quality lingers in him.
Andie – Grounded. Unassuming. Believes in rules and the order of things.
Pietro – Playful. Prankster. Hot headed. 
Rachel – Fun-loving and loud. Impetuous in a charming way. Competitive to a fault.
Thalia – She’s got the slyest knack for circumnavigation. Keeps to herself. Uncomfortable with feels.
Kylie – Boundless curiosity. Never gives up. Believes in everyone – except maybe herself. 
Charlie – Fire. Trusts her gut. Operates off instinct.
Boy – Wonderfully naïve. Pure. Charming.
Gideon – Works for “There”. Overworked and frequently overruled. A strong presence, although his motivations, loyalties and behavior are mysteriously fluid.

netTVnow: How would you describe your character Kylie?

OB: At the start of the series, Kylie is the newest staff member and she is pretty bad at her job because all she ever wants to do is talk to the Patrons. She’s really interested in everybody’s stories. Kylie finds the good in everything. She is a champion of everyone. She has a keen eye for pinpointing everyone’s worth,but I don’t think she can pinpoint her own worth. But you knock her down and she hops right back up. Her arc this season is lovely to follow. 

netTVnow: Without giving too much away, what can viewers expect in the next few episodes?

OB: We use the first four episodes to give you a sense of the world, the rules, the relationships and what the staff does – a sense of their eternity – only to spend the next 16 turning their world on its head. You will get more answers and even a very fun episode that’s a total deviation from what you’ve seen before it. You’ll definitely want to stick around after episode nine!

netTVnow: Can you better explain the process of turning over recruits?

OB: Sure! The Patrons that come into the restaurant are people who have just died and are on their way to whatever is next, what we call “There” and “Somewhere.” They are essentially zombies, clean slates without memories from their lives. The waitstaff’s job is to provide Patrons with a pleasant experience so that they can all go “There” after their meal. If they have a bad experience, they go “Somewhere”.

So first, a Patron is presented with water, to cleanse the palate. Then food, which is what makes them more sentient and susceptible to receiving information.

Now when the waitstaff open their ledgers – they can see facts about a Patrons life. Essentially whatever they ask their ledgers, they will see. You also see a trend in what each waitstaff member tends to talk about. Someone like Kylie is always interested in what a person’s job/work life was. Thalia is always interested in how they died. Rachel is interested in the challenge of finding the good in the negative qualities of a person’s life.

Based off the facts waitstaff read, they need to inject reminders of the good from a Patron’s life as they eat. Sounds simple enough. But if Patrons become too aware or scared or confused and do not have a pleasant experience – then they thus end up Somewhere. So it’s not good to ask questions and it’s not good to let them talk too much. You see some staff are better at this than others. 

netTVnow: Do we learn how/who gets chosen to be part of the staff?

OB: You do but it comes much later in the season. We tried to build the series so that every episode a key question gets answered, but likely leaves you with three more. We also really wanted to focus on the interpersonal relationships more than anything so while these important questions may hang in the air for a few episodes, we hope the staff’s dealings with each other in purgatory sucks you in more. And hope to draw parallels to an existential existence – especially when you have eternity to find, or avoid, the answers to the big questions. 

netTVnow: After Siv is fired, what exactly happens to her? People keep saying she isn’t Siv anymore and already so quickly to become detached.

OB: Oh I love Siv’s sendoff as you get to see the sides the staff take when it comes to death and moving on. 

You learn in episode four what makes the staff different from the regular Patrons are their memories. It’s the fact that they enter Here with the memories of their lives intact and why that is gets explained later.

So when Gideon signs Siv away in her ledger at the end of episode one – he’s essentially “firing” her – causing her to reappear sans uniform, sans memories, almost zombie-esque, like every other Patron that walks in the restaurant. Siv is now a Patron and it is the staff’s job to make sure she goes, as Jake says, to “the best possible place for her.”

Those closest to Siv – Jake, Andie, Kylie – believe that, regardless of what’s happened – she’s still Siv and the leader, friend, mother, teacher – they love. 

Those staff members more prone to detach when faced with hardship – Pietro, Thalia, probably even Rachel – are more cynical in their approach to her leaving forever. The person they knew is gone. And that’s that.

All the staff has ‘Here’ in eternity is their work and their relationships. It’s moments like this that show how difficult that can be to balance. But Siv needs to move on. So Jake and Andie try to have that ‘last supper’ with her – regardless of how heartbreaking it is for them. 

netTVnow: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope audiences take from the series?

OB: We leave tons of clues in the earlier episodes that actually hint at the fates of many of the characters. We have 20 episodes and not everyone is safe. I hope audiences will enjoy going back and watching for these ‘easter eggs’ and watching from the perspectives of different characters. Because at its core – this is a story about people and connection and I hope audiences will fall in love with these characters as much as everyone who worked on Here We Wait has. 

netTVnow: Any upcoming projects we can share or anything else to add?

OB: I just wrapped on a 1980’s gangster film written and director by the wickedly talented Chris Tardio and am in the midst of writing a comedy web series that will be ten episodes - another ensemble and tons of antics. And of course, I got all the ideas down for a second season of Here We Wait!

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