After three years of perils, planning and playing, one of the new and great Canadian episodic comedies has hit the world wide web in the form of ‘Wholesome Foods, I Love You…Is That Ok?‘! The hook of this show is “a coming of age story – for people of a certain age”, and it follows the life of Julia who is a quirky and hilariously neurotic yoga instructor with a lengthy history of disappointments to really make her work for that inner peace. And where should she find, simultaneously, both that quiet and calming peace as well as that chaotic comedy that borderlines on the absurd? Why, at an organic supermarket, of course!
This awesomely awkward dramedy is the heightened, semi-autobiographical brainchild of creator, writer, producer, director and actor Krista Hovsepian who plays the role of Julia alongside her cast of incredibly uncanny characters. I was lucky enough to have a chat with Krista over the phone just as she was on her way to Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen West in downtown Toronto for a “meditation for global peace”. If there was nothing else to say about Krista in regards to her show, it would at least be clear that she walks the walk when it comes to her character. But, it just so happens that there is plenty more to say, so let’s dig in!
I won’t spoil the show here for anyone but suffice it to say that the first season of ‘Wholesome Foods‘ is dynamic, engaging, and complete, should the showrunners wish to leave it hanging. That being said, I think anyone who watches this show from start to finish will wish for a second season and will want to continue exploring the lives of Julia and Marko and company.
“If there is a second season, it can’t take three years because that’s insane for digital media.”
Just finishing up some downtime from the release of the show Hovsepian and her crew will be digging back into the story before long to see where life may take them and their characters through a second season. Considering that there was plenty of time to discover characters, play with ideas and actors to really get into what worked and to discard what didn’t over the three year process of building this first season, Hovsepian is quite right that, with digital media today, waiting another three years would be far too long to release another season. This puts the crew’s feet to the fire in some respects to continue getting this story out there.
Given that between Vimeo and YouTube, this show has already garnered tens of thousands of hits between episodes, I’d say that this team are well on their way to getting that story out there and the positivity coming from fans of the show will hopefully spur them on to keep the story going. That being said, this story, on the face of things is one hell of a niche story. I happen to know artists in Toronto and abroad who are into the organic lifestyle, doing their daily yoga and chomping down their paleo diets and as far-reaching as that organic market is, it still is a very specific niche, all the same.
“It can kind of be like a Frasier thing where not all viewers can relate to Niles and Frasier being that fussy but it was still hilarious to watch.”
Hovsepian has got a great point here. There will be plenty of people out there who really won’t relate to these quirky characters at all, but the hilarity comes from their awkwardness, their relationships, and the very simple reality that they are a different breed of person to many out there.
“There are so many fascinating characters out there…where they have their little quirks.”
When I asked about the extent of the autobiographical nature of the show, Krista admitted that there was indeed a messy relationship, unemployment, a bout of homelessness and refugee status, as well as a huge kick in the ass while working on her Masters. But to the silliest and most important point, regarding the show…
“I didn’t fall in love at Wholefoods, but I’m still holding out…I’ll roll with the punches.”
Who doesn’t love a bit of life imitating art…especially when it’s imitating life? I guess we’ll see what the future holds with that one.
When I asked Krista about how she strung together the story for ‘Wholesome Foods‘, she told me that it was the “most unorthodox process”. Sure, there are plenty of writers out there always scribbling on something but I have to say that Krista takes the paleo-equivalent of a cake on this one.
“Like most writers we’re always just scribbling down notes…Google Docs, notes on the phone, snippets…oh that would be an amazing line of a poem!”
Surely you get the piture here…but it gets better.
“I took all of the snippets and printed them out; physically cut them into little chunks and just mapped them out on my floor here in Toronto…I spent four or five days rearranging them and trying to figure out how they made sense conversationally and then being like ‘ok, if all these conversations are happening, what are the locations that they’re happening in and how does that tie into some sort of story. And eventually I just started to see it and it started to make sense to me.”
So, what did the very first rendition of the show actually look like? After all of the pieces were compiled into a coherent story, I mean. Well, it was a gigantic 190-page story (I don’t know why I didn’t suggest she turn it into a book, now that I think of it…), and this was, of course, “not episodic at all”.
One thing that helps to string together this wonderfully offbeat show is the music. Sure, there is a theme song. That just makes sense, but the credit tunes to each episode really do help to shape the story and leave the viewer with a certain feeling each time around. And considering that one could binge-watch this show in relatively little time, it is key that the music helps to capture the mood at the end of an episode and/or help set up the next chapter of the story.
“It’s indie, mostly from Toronto. The theme song and the beat jams were written for the show by my amazingly talented friend, Sara Bortolon-Vettor.”
Given that Swept is predominantly a pusher of independent music from all over, I took to this aspect of the show quite intensely and definitely wanted to know more.
“A friend of mine who was out in L.A. but from Toronto, Ferdelle (Lauren Capistrano), put us in touch with several of her friends, most of whom are Indie Toronto artists, but there’s one from Nashville, and one who’s an L.A. local, and we just started going through their albums and working with their managers to start and figure out what worked for everybody and I couldn’t be more happy with it; it sounds incredible.”
Now, I’ll be honest here…I didn’t really bother digging much into the relationships between the cast and crew. I mean, I did ask but didn’t press and all seemed to be on the up and up. The one relationship that I was most interested in, however, was that of Julia and Marko, and therefore the real-life workings of Krista Hovsepian and her co-star Daniel De Santo. For those who love celebrity gossip (not that Canada has a massive celebrity following like our southron neighbours), you may be disappointed to learn that there is no sexy turmoil between Krista and Daniel. There will be no “Kristiel” or “Danielista”. In fact, there is nothing but friendship, love and support between these two and that is an amazing and often surprising thing to have between two costars.
“[Daniel is] one of the most supportive people in the indsutry…such a cheerleader and so enthusiastic about everything…”
There was just one thing that I was left curious about when it came to the running of the show. Both Krista and Daniel have spent time out in L.A. and have their paperwork in order to work out there…so why not shoot ‘Wholesome Foods‘ south of the border where it might gain some more traction in the film community?
“When they asked ‘why not shoot it state-side; why are you going back’, I was like ‘because we need to support our industry’; this is originally home and we need to keep creating Canadian content and supporting Canadian artists.”
Now, that is a dedicated artist who really wants to help show people what is possible to do here in Canada. There is no way someone can say that it can’t be done. It has been and is being done and there’s no turning back the clock on that one. So do yourself and your friends the favour of checking this show out. It’s only five minutes, so even if you discover its not your thing, you can hardly complain about wasting your time. Here, I’ll toss the first episode your way right here…
Finally, to cap everything off, I asked Hovsepian what she might want to say to current and prospective fans of the show. Seemingly the eternal optimist, we left the conversation with this…
“Self care is such a hot thing right now and laughter is an important part of self care. Take that time (and hopefully it’s with our series but whether it’s our series or not) take that time to sit back and just let yourself enjoy and experience and laugh and stop freaking out about all the stuff that’s happening in the world right now. I think that’s a really important part of a healthy lifestyle.”