She's making a splash in her first ever web series, WingWoman, Victoria Barabas is not a person you want to mess with! Taking on the role of lead, co-writer, producer and so much more, Barabas debuted her series just a few weeks ago and it's already gaining popularity. Learn more about the actor below and be sure to check out WingWoman which just aired its finale last week.
netTVnow: Tell us a bit about WingWoman, it’s such an interesting concept and a breath of fresh air compared to some of the typical run-of-the-mill series out there.
Victoria Barabas: It's a long format, six-part series that explores the comedic relationship between a single guy and his hired wing woman. The concept actually came to me because I wanted to create a series based around a man and a woman, and I wanted the relationship be original, or one that hadn’t really been done before. I had come across a Craigslist job post several years ago in which a company was hiring young women to escort men out on dates specifically as their wing women – that is, to help these men approach women they would like to meet.
The idea was that women would be more receptive to another woman approaching them than they would be to a man or two men approaching them. I thought this was ingenious, and immediately imagined a whole host of comedic scenarios that might arise during such situations. Imagining what a prolonged relationship between a man and his hired wing woman would look like quickly fell into place, and voila, I had a series with unending possibilities.
netTVnow: How did creating the series come about? Was it your first web series?
VB: This actually is my first web series, in every way, shape and form. I had no idea what I was doing. After coming up with the idea, I met up with a friend who had produced his own series so that I could pick his brain. How do I get a crew together? What camera should I shoot on? How do I get a cast together? How much money does it cost? How do I get that money? My questions were endless, and his answer was surprisingly simple. He said, “Just write it. The rest will fall into place.” Fortunately for me, he was right.
I wrote a 30-minute pilot for the series and an outline for what the subsequent episodes might look like, including an arc for the characters and the first season. I then realized I wanted a male perspective in the writing, as well as to help with some of the punch lines, and I was recommended a comedy writing duo, brothers Robbie and Joey Wunder, to help me out. They came on board, and shortly after I met Michaela Myers, the director for the series. She had directed several series and shorts and was well entrenched in the improv community here in L.A. She came on board as a co-producer and director, and between the two of us, we gathered a cast from actors we knew around town. I started doing some research and found a DP who I loved – Ryan Morgan, and brought him and his crew on board as well. I was fortunate enough to have an investor for the series, who funded most of the project. The remainder of those funds I raised through Indiegogo.
Moving forward as the producer was like jumping off a cliff and having to climb your way back up – you just have to figure it out along the way. I ran into countless obstacles, but I just took one thing at a time and problem-solved. Collaboration was key, as was trusting everyone I had hired. In the end, everything did surprisingly fall into place. I’m still in awe of how it all happened.
netTVnow: What were some of the challenges/things you found most surprising?
VB: Everything was a surprise! There were challenges around every corner, from collaborating with my co-writers, my director, my editor, to finding locations and securing insurance, to battling unforeseen issues on set, like a rattling fan from a bar cooler creating sound issues or an actress bailing out minutes before we shot her scene! I really learned how to roll with the punches – literally improvise along the way. As with any first try at something, you have to take everything as a learning experience. You file these issues away and remember them for the next time, so that you’re better prepared the second time around.
I think one of the most surprising things – something that really struck me throughout the entire process – was how willing people were to help out in any of these situations. The cast and crew went above and beyond what was asked of them. Our first shoot was a 12-hour overnight shoot, from midnight to noon the next day at the bar my boyfriend manages. Everyone stuck it out and performed so well, despite their exhaustion. My boyfriend stayed on as a manager for the bar and to oversee that nothing went wrong after he worked an 8-hour shift. On another day, one of my actress’s husband ran on a production errand during one of our shoots because we were in a time crunch and we didn’t have a production assistant that day. We shot one scene in which I wanted the bed strewn with all sorts of gadgets and sex toys for comedic effect, but I didn’t have time to go out and buy everything I needed. On the day of the shoot, I gathered the bits that I had, which wasn’t much. I told the cast and crew about what I had wanted, and everyone ran out to their cars to see if they had anything they could contribute. In minutes, we ended up with everything I had wanted and more! Friends of mine let me shoot in their places of business, in their homes! And when it came time to raise funds for the project, I was astounded at the support I received from friends and family. It sounds a little hokey, but I think keeping a positive attitude throughout the process really does wonders.
netTVnow: You mentioned co-writing the series with Robbie and Joey Wunder. What was it like taking that on? I’ve heard that co-writing can sometimes be a bit tricky!
VB: You’ve heard right! A friend of mine recommended Robbie and Joey when I mentioned that I thought the script could use a male’s touch. I wanted the series to appeal to both men and women, and I realized that as opposite genders, we might have different senses of humor. And I was right. While collaborating with the brothers, we definitely butted heads on what we found funny or even realistic, and I have to say, I think our differing opinions often stemmed from the fact that they are men and I am a woman. But in the end, that’s what made the series work.
There is a combination of subtle, underlying wit and outright slapstick comedy that I think really served the series and gave it great dimension. Opening myself up to a voice that wasn’t wholly mine, and trusting my co-writers to know what men find funny was tough. But this is a great example of trusting the people you take on to do their job. Communication is key!
netTVnow: The rapport between Sara and Ben is so seamless, what was it like filming with Jackson Palmer?
VB: I can’t say enough great things about Jackson. I think he’s absolutely perfect! Ben’s role was the only role we auditioned for, and he nailed it. He understood the role so fully and showed up to the audition one-hundred percent prepared. For this role, we needed a guy who was awkward, but still handsome – almost like he doesn’t know how good-looking or charming he is. In life, Jackson is nothing like his character. He comes off very smooth and suave – the cool, calm, collected type – but when the cameras started rolling, he was a bumbling fool! It was really amazing to watch, and just so funny. Jackson was so professional. He knew his lines inside and out and since our director encouraged a lot of improvisation while filming, Jackson would research funny little facts in between takes so that he was prepared to go on and on during an improv. It was genius.
He was also very sensitive to the fact that I was wearing various hats throughout the production. Jackson actually produced his own web series a couple of years ago, so he completely understood when my attention was split. In between takes, I might be figuring out what to do about a sound issue or maybe trying to call in our lunch order for the day, and he would always offer his help. It was sometimes the first thing out of his mouth when he arrived on set. He would grab me by the shoulders and say, “How can I help?” But aside from that, he would really try to connect with me in between takes. He was great at working on our relationship when we weren’t filming, so that it was just there when we were. I bet he thinks I didn’t catch this but I did! It was such a huge help and made our on-screen connection seamless, as you said. He was just great.
netTVnow: If there were to be a second season, where do you see the story going?
VB: Well I’m certainly hoping there will be a second season! Without giving away any spoiler alerts, Season one definitely ends on a cliffhanger! But I wrote this ending in specifically in order to move forward with future seasons. First, I would love for the duo to move in together. This was actually an episode we had written in the original season one drafts, but we had to cut it because we didn’t have enough time or money, or locations. I think that scenario would just be a breeding ground for comedy, if Ben’s wing woman lived under the same roof, in the room right next to him, to hear all the details of his dates.
I'd also love to bring in Ben’s friends into the world a bit more. We meet them in the pilot of season one, and when the Wunders and I were fleshing out their characters, we were very specific about each personality. The actors who portrayed them – Max Bunzel, Reggie Watkins, and Michael Strassner were absolute comic geniuses! And I think they could lend a bit more to future storylines – just add more fuel to the fire. Each of their individual relationships with Sara is also a gold mine. As with any good series, the more complex and engaged the world becomes and the more you flesh out each character, the more engaged the audience becomes. I think if you create a strong platform from which the lives of these characters can really come alive, you will have a successful series.
netTVnow: Being in the web series community, where would you hope the industry to be in the next 3-5 years?
VB: 3-5 years or 3-5 light years? I’m kidding! But, really, everything is moving so fast! The entertainment industry is moving at an exponentially rapid pace, don’t you think? So much of our entertainment is streamed from the internet. I have to say, I love this trend of networks picking up series that are already out there, or at least elaborating on them. It gives creators immense hope and fulfillment to think that they can create something from the ground up, and potentially have a network or studio back them for future seasons. Instead of going to network execs and pitching a script or an idea, you can just go ahead and create the whole thing. And if people respond, you’ve proven yourself in a way. It’s very hopeful because there are so many great ideas out there, and so many talented creators who before now perhaps never saw the light of day. And quite frankly, this trend is even moving beyond networks. If you have the means and funds to fully produce a series in line with what a network might produce, then you have full ownership. Online streaming has made it possible for the people to speak up – in sheer numbers – about what they like or don’t like. And it gives artists the opportunity and a platform to test their theories. It’s all very exciting. It feels so freeing. I would really love to see this trend continue to unfathomable, exhilarating heights.
netTVnow: Since we’re a site about web series, what are some of your favorite series?
VB: Oh boy – there are so many good ones out there. And so many I haven’t even seen! This world is still so new to me. I remember researching a few series a couple years back, when WingWoman was barely a seed of an idea, and I came across Awkward Black Girl. I thought it was so cute and endearing. Apparently HBO shared in my sentiment! I really liked Children’s Hospital, as absurdist as it is. I think Only in HelLA is genius and spot on. The series The Restaurant is great, and I also really like Sorry Ari, created by my friend Ari Frankel. But again, I’m scratching the surface here. There are so many good ones out there that I’ve never even seen!
netTVnow: And, if you could describe the series in three words, what would they be?
VB: Rom-com mismatch heaven.
netTVnow: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects to share?
VB: Well, as I mentioned before, I’ve got a season two in the works, but I’m also developing a one-hour drama script about the interrelations between employees and high-profile guests in a trendy New York City hotel. That one is definitely better suited for television rather than the web. But I think that’s the direction I’d ultimately like to go.