How Katja Blichfeld Went From Anxious ‘Super Christian’ To Queer Stoner Icon


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NEW YORK ― Katja Blichfeld was stoned when she had the impressed thought to show a ho-hum intercourse scene right into a threesome that includes two organic brothers.

It’s one of the memorable scenes within the Season 2 premiere of HBO’s “Excessive Upkeep,” and in latest tv total. It opens with a person and lady, shacked up in a Brooklyn lodge, who’ve determined to increase their one-night stand into the subsequent day’s afternoon. Unbeknownst to them, America elected Donald Trump president shortly after midnight, and most of liberal New York is reeling. However with their telephones lifeless, and their libido nonetheless in hyperdrive, they resume coitus none the wiser. Instantly, a rest room flushes, and a second, bare man emerges from the toilet. The three proceed to get it on in a barrage of positions and couplings, all of which not often make it to mainstream screens.

Simply as “Broad Metropolis” ended the media’s century-long conflict on pegging in 2015, “Excessive Upkeep” blessed our virgin eyes with an incestuous MMF threesome in 2018. Solely later does the feminine in that initialism notice that her two male bedfellows share the identical DNA (spoiler: it includes a name from their mom), making your entire ordeal that rather more transgressive. That revelation, together with the inevitable understanding that Trump is commander in chief, requires a cigarette.

I met up with Blichfeld, co-creator of the net series-turned-HBO present, on a sunny day in January to trip the Staten Island Ferry. Showing glam but androgynous in a striped turtleneck, floral socks and Cobain-esque tortoiseshell sun shades, she regarded just like the star of a millennial reboot of “The Babysitter’s Membership.” Aboard the commuter boat, I requested her how the concord fest that rang within the present’s new season got here to be. 

“Initially we had been going to have a person and a girl fucking the day away,” Blichfeld recalled. However after smoking weed with Ben Sinclair, Blichfeld’s fellow “Excessive Upkeep” co-creator and ex-husband, and Russell Gregory, the present’s govt producer, she had an epiphany: What if the marathon intercourse romp was a threesome? Sinclair and Russell had been down. They smoked some extra to have fun, after which Sinclair sweetened the pot: “What in the event that they’re brothers?”

“That’s a traditional instance of how issues occur on the present,” Blichfeld defined. “We’ve an thought and smoke some pot till we land on one thing adequate to shoot.” It’s a becoming technique for a present that’s loosely based mostly on the adventures of a scruffy, congenial weed vendor and the marijuana-hungry shoppers who name upon him. 

David Russell
Katja Blichfeld behind the scenes of “Excessive Upkeep” Season 2.

Over the previous six years, “Excessive Upkeep” has metamorphosed from a buzzy DIY net collection into an acclaimed HBO butterfly. What was as soon as a set of lo-fi however visually considerable brief movies concerning the lives of interconnected New Yorkers underneath the affect is now a beloved Friday evening phase of status tv. On Thursday, HBO introduced the present was getting a 3rd season. 

“Excessive Upkeep” leans even additional into its kaleidoscopic view of NYC, a always regenerating funhouse of puzzles, dramas and mini-mysteries. It pushes its anthology format to new heights, alternating between varied tenors and moods sharpened by the results of THC. It renders a variety of personalities ― a defected Hasidic Jew; a doctor-by-day, drag-queen-by-night; a feminist gun proprietor ― with piercing accuracy.

When requested how he captures the expertise of a rebellious Pakistani Muslim teen, Sinclair replied, “When persons are like, how are you going to write about that perspective like, bitch, that was my perspective! We’re all going by means of the identical issues.”

Blichfeld and Sinclair began the present collectively in 2012 as romantic and inventive companions. Blichfeld’s background was in casting. (She gained an Emmy for her work on “30 Rock.”) On the time, she noticed untapped potential in Sinclair, an actor whose earlier roles on IMDb embrace Indignant Man, Drunk #1, Wild Eyed Man, Lunatic, and Brooklyn Fool.

“The roles he was getting had been all somewhat bit spiky — characters that had been borderline psychotic or violent criminals,” Blichfeld stated. “I noticed a softer facet to him I believed was actually interesting.”

Collectively they sketched a tough character identified solely as The Man, who Blichfeld described as “idealized Ben” or “Ben on his finest days.” He’d go on to grow to be the present’s central determine ― a pleasant information who light into the background of different individuals’s tales ― and, ultimately, its protagonist.

David Russell
Katja Blichfeld and Dominique Christina behind the scenes of “Excessive Upkeep” Season 2.

“Excessive Upkeep” Season 2 offers devoted viewers one thing new: a deeper have a look at The Man. It marks the primary time Sinclair’s character will get a real narrative arc of his personal, a peek at his previous, his present worries and, most essential, his condominium. In Episode 5, known as “Scrumple,” we meet his ex-wife, a graphic designer named Julia who lives down the corridor from him and calls him Scrumple. We be taught all through the course of the episode that she left him for a lady, a plot twist that mirrors Blichfeld and Sinclair’s actual life.

Blichfeld and Sinclair, who started courting in 2009 and married in 2010, formally broke up the evening Trump was elected. In a beautiful essay for Vogue, Blichfeld describes her journey coming to phrases along with her sexual identification; she got here out at 37, earlier than splitting up with Sinclair and beginning a dedicated relationship with a girl.

“Repression is blinding, is all I can say,” she wrote. “Self-acceptance impossibly exhausting. It might take a lifetime.”

On the primary day again at work post-breakup, the 2 introduced that they had been separated however that the present would go on. They kindly suggested their writers’ room ― the primary for the present (beforehand written completely by Blichfield and Sinclair), which incorporates a mixture of comedy alums and playwrights ― to not “be freaked out.” After all, there have been nonetheless instances when each Blichfeld and Sinclair felt like bailing on the undertaking.

“If we didn’t have this obligation, I don’t know what would have occurred,” Blichfeld stated. “However to come back out on the opposite facet collectively, I really feel like we now have a really distinctive bond ― much more so now ― as a result of we had been in a position to climate a breakup collectively.” 

“For all of the ache that was skilled, it wasn’t as dangerous as you’d suppose,” she added. “As a result of we had been compelled to be in the identical room collectively on daily basis, it compelled us to must faucet into our larger selves.” 

David Russell
Katja Blichfeld and Kate Lyn Sheil, who performs The Man’s ex-wife, behind the scenes of “Excessive Upkeep” Season 2.

The brand new post-breakup and -election season of “Excessive Upkeep” manages one other replace: It infuses its common carefree comedic tone with an applicable dose of hysteria and dread. It explores the explanations individuals may be drawn to pot in 2018 specifically ― whether or not they’re dealing with political outrage, a claustrophobic relationship or the aftermath of a motorcycle accident. 

Blichfeld stated she’s discovering herself smoking much less and fewer this yr. She began out as a lightweight smoker in highschool, participating in occasional late-night Del Taco journeys or Bjork video-watching events. The behavior ultimately developed into morning and noon rituals. “I used to be actually dulling myself,” she recalled. However after Blichfeld got here out, her need for marijuana dimmed. She nonetheless has a stash and smokes considerably usually, however the distinction is “evening and day,” she stated.

Apparently sufficient, Blichfeld’s first movie, “if you happen to might name it that,” was about weed. In reality, it warned of the hazards of marijuana, particularly that getting excessive might make you go loopy and soar off a constructing.

“Tremendous real looking,” Blichfeld joked.

The “DARE”-era brief ended with younger Blichfeld ― 9, “tremendous Christian” and residing in Lengthy Seashore, California, on the time ― burying a lifeless smoker in her yard and throwing crimson roses onto the grave whereas “Toy Troopers” by Martika performed. 

Anxiousness drove that movie and the opposite writing Blichfeld did as a child. Her early efforts at journaling, she stated, had been formed by worry ― particularly, a worry of being posthumously pored over, Anne Frank-style.

“Each time I sat down to jot down, I used to be like, ‘somebody would possibly learn this later, so it higher be good,’” Blichfeld defined. “I’d put a bizarre strain on myself after which wouldn’t do it.” 

She now calls writing “the profession I all the time needed however didn’t dare to pursue and even dream of, earlier than.”

NBC through Getty Photos
Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld throughout an interview with Seth Meyers in 2016.

It’s engrossing listening to Blichfeld speak about her previous insecurities ― which she does, candidly and sans apology ― as a result of at this time she appears virtually magically snug with herself. And but she nonetheless possesses the humility and self-deprecating humor of somebody who can’t fairly imagine the place she ended up. 

Profitable individuals in inventive fields typically possess a confidence in themselves that’s overseas to the remainder of us. For some girls ― particularly queer girls and ladies of coloration, who’ve traditionally needed to work more durable for recognition and respect ― their drive is particularly pronounced. Blichfeld, nonetheless, strays from method. Like “Excessive Upkeep,” she appears to have developed organically and in her personal time, in line with no mannequin however her personal. 

“I’ve lived so many lives,” she advised me. 

For the previous yr, Blichfeld has been courting a author named Adele, whom she’s described as possessing a “smoky voice and a daffy high quality that jogged my memory of Lucille Ball.”

Precisely one week earlier than our interview, I handed them on a road in Manhattan’s West Village. They had been holding palms and skipping in unison just like the bubbliest of overgrown kids. On the time, I used to be nonetheless making an attempt to lock down an interview with Blichfeld, and crossing paths appeared like an omen, the sort of semi-magical twist that “Excessive Upkeep” would possibly tack on on the finish of the episode because the credit rolled.

In that second, the anxiousness Blichfeld would later describe to me appeared completely absent. As an alternative was radical acceptance and rapture with town round her, the place she will “go actually wherever and really feel both impressed creatively or reaffirmed in my humanity.”

Simply as Blichfeld has developed over the previous years, so too has “Excessive Upkeep,” maturing right into a fuller model of itself with out ever actually rising up. As a substitute of conforming to the panorama of status tv, the present reshapes it, clinging to an imperfect aesthetic and silliness that so many really feel wandering the streets of New York.

As for what’s in retailer for Season three, we are able to solely hope Blichfeld and Sinclair proceed to ask us into their heads, rehashing ache and delight that’s each private and common. Maybe we’ll even revisit the incestuous brothers of the duo’s pot-stained desires. The present, like its makers, is at its finest when it connects with its former selves.

“Excessive Upkeep” airs Fridays at 11 p.m. on HBO.

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