It’s not often that industry buzz happens around a pilot but Remember is thrashing that traditional concept, along with many others. This comedy/drama about the lives of a group of queer African American friends in Los Angeles has been acquired by Berlanti Productions. The notable ensemble cast features Bernard Davis Jones as the main character Omar as well as Griffin Matthews (SAG Award-nominated actor of Primetime Emmy Award-winning series The Flight Attendant), Devere Rogers (of Primetime Emmy Award-winning series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Brandon Gill (ASCAP Film and Television Music Award Winning film The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), and Hosea Chanchez (of Image Award-winning series The Game and Primetime Emmy Award-winning series The Shield). Director Tari Wariebi made use of editor Xiao Luodawei on this production to help him craft a tone where anxiety meets humor. These two professionals have collaborated on numerous productions but Remember breaks new ground in a genre-mixing style that achieves something quite extraordinary.
Remember can be described as the next evolution of a style set in place with the British series Fleabag. Audiences laugh while wincing, uncertain of whether it’s embarrassment or curiosity that elicits such a response. Xiao informs, “We have the over the top elements such as the cringe-worthy opening sex scene in which one of the lovers is insistent on listening to Gospel music during the act. This is balanced by moments of true sincerity where the main characters support each other. There are a lot of dramatic moments in the story where I would intentionally choose the most realistic performances and make the flow seamless so the seriousness of the situation comes through but we also go loud and big when the situation demands and justifies such choices.”
In the story, Omar is hooking up with other men, partially in an attempt to get over his ex. While he meets and is interested in Alaska, a man he meets at a laundromat, it is his friends who are the actual bearers of love in his life. As we learn about Omar and his secret health challenge (from which the series derives its name), the characters teach us what it’s like to be young, black, and gay in Los Angeles during modern times. Within this pilot, Wariebi and Luodawei have achieved something remarkable; the kind of instant connection and investment in an ensemble that typically takes a whole season to cement. The pacing is often unexpected, causing an “emotional whiplash” that makes on question what just happened and reflect upon why it was so delightful. The moments of heartache are suspensions of time that serve to increase the humorous ones.
For his part, Xiao Luodawei takes his greatest satisfaction in the fact that he immersed himself in the world of these characters and gave light to their world. He comments, “This moment meant a lot to me because I am a straight man from China who grew up very distant from the queer African American experience in Los Angeles. Yet I am able to serve the storytelling of this culture and community with an open mindedness and willingness to learn. I am very dedicated to my craft. It meant a lot to me to see my efforts pay off.” For the message of a work of art to connect to the public, it must begin with a community of creative professionals who perceive the concept that we are all connected and that the “one” prospers along with the “many.” Xiao Luodawei and his collaborators on Remember have created something truly magical and spectacular; something that will move audiences everywhere to cry and laugh. Remember is impossible to forget.
Writer: Arlen Gann
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