You may not know filmmaker Otessa Ghadar, but I bet you can relate to her. She's the creator of a popular web series called Orange Juice in Bishop's Garden (the name comes from a scene in the first season). A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama about growing up in DC in the grunge-era nineties, those from here will find her take on the past a virtual tour down proverbial memory lane. However, even for those of us who grew up elsewhere, perhaps even in a different decade, the themes her series touches upon will likely resonate. In fact, OJBG has not only gained viewers throughout the United States, but according to her web stats, which Otessa monitors as closely as my cat monitors the ham in a sandwich, the series has fans throughout the world, from South Africa to Iceland to Namibia to Japan. I met Otessa at Teaism last week to figure out why her show's so dang addictive and what this DC native thinks about her hometown now, compared to then.
SCOUT: So, where exactly did you grow up?
OTESSA: I grew up in Adams Morgan and I actually still live there. But it was an incredible neighborhood to grow up invery vibrant and cool. It's virtually unrecognizable now from what I remember. I guess, a lot of blocks over the course of 15 years will change, but I think that that neighborhood in particular has had a major overhaul. I think other than The Brass Knob and Madams Organ and that McDonalds, everything else is different.
SCOUT: Like increased puke on your doorstep on the weekends?
OTESSA: There's definitely more of a college student vibe there nowwhere they go out to party on the weekends, and there's definitely some mornings when I've seen people have eaten pizza and thrown up on my stoop, which I could do without, but I still like the neighborhood.
SCOUT: What's your favorite spot in Adams Morgan? Or maybe like a secret spot that not many people know about...
OTESSA: There are definitely some amazing alleys with beautiful murals around there, and some of those you'll see in the upcoming season. I have an obsession with mural art, especially now that I'm seeing a ton in DC. A couple of my favorites are behind the Safeway [off Columbia Road]. If you're a nerd like me, I highly suggest doing a walking tour. Also a totally weird thing I'm totally obsessed with is the Brass Knob. It's fascinating to me that you can go into a store and see nothing but antique and Victorian hingesan entire wall of hinges. Kudos to them to maintain their store throughout all the urban renewal.
SCOUT: Is this the kind of stuff you look for when you're shooting? Or maybe here's a better question: where do you like to shoot?
OTESSA: There are a lot of places I've gone back to a whole bunch. I love the Spanish Steps [at S & 22nd Streets, NW]. They're architecturally beautiful, there's that fountain so there's running water. You almost want to throw coins in it and wish to fall in love. I also like the area behind the Uptown Theater. It's kind of hidden. It's so cool. You go there and you can see these plastic tables and chairs and you get the feeling that kids hang out there, getting up to shenanigans or something.
SCOUT: While it's not shenanigans, you've definitely been getting up to a lot. Five seasons! How did it start?
OTESSA: This is terrible to admit, but in many ways is started out as an elaborate form of procrastination. I was in grad school working on a completely different script and I hit a wall with it. But I couldn't just stop writing, so I started making these short little vignettes, which I actually ended up feeling much more drawn to, maybe because it was based off of a lot of my memories.
How autobiographical is it. Like when your family watches are they all, "Oh snap. Otessa got away with THAT?!" Or when your childhood friends watch it are they all wondering which character they are?
OTESSA: A lot of it is definitely inspired by things I remember and there tends to be at least a little bit of me in each characterI want to be able to relate to all of thembut I'd say if there's a character I feel the closest to, it's Sarah Roberts. And actually not just that character, but also that actress. The experience working with her has just been amazing. It's funny though, I do have friends that come up to me and say things like, "I'm definitely Roxanne" or something and I'm like, "You think so?" I never really have any intention of doing that, so when I hear that I always feel a little guilty, like did I subconsciously do that? For me, it's always been mostly fiction. There's also a certain element of urban legend going on, or like the ridiculous gossip that went around, like the liquor store that had an 8-year-old behind the counter.
I told you this was a good show! Catch the trailer at the end of this article and make sure to follow Otessa and OJBG on Twitter to keep up with the latest news, and not just about OJBG, but about her larger production company, 20/20 Productions.