CONVERSATIONS IN LA: The Show We Should All Be Talking About
For years, Angelenos have been stereotyped based upon their verbal communication styles and skills — or the lack thereof. Many of those who live outside the Southern California bubble dismiss Angelenos’ conversations as reflections of the fantasy world they believe we live in where the line between reality and fiction is often blurred. True depth, substance, and emotion are not common for Conversations in LA — dialogue for Angelenos is limited to edited soundbites.
InSummer 2015, these Clueless misperceptions of Conversations in LA inspired TV development executive, Jesse Margolis to launch an Instagram feed called @OverheardLA. Delicate curation and simplicity showcase an entertaining selection of random, snippets of conversations overheard by eavesdropping neighbors. For 651,000 loyal followers — including Jennifer Lopez and Vanessa Hudgens — @OverheardLA shares the outrageous, absurd, and often tone deaf musings of Angelenos. We do say the darndest things while sweating at doggie yoga class in Santa Monica, hiking in coordinated outfits in Runyon Canyon, and during a Snake Venom Age Control Facial appointment with Sonya Dakar.
With Hollywood as a backdrop, Angelenos are committed to Keeping Up With the Kardashians with the Shas of Sunset by their sides while in pursuit of becoming the next housewife of Beverly Hills — this is how friends and family back home envision our lives. To them, I became “Hollywood” the day I packed up my car and drove West.
Another recent transplant, East Coast native and veteran stage actress Anne Marie Cummings is challenging stereotypes about Angelenos in a brilliant, new digital series, Conversations in LA. As a filmmaker, Cummings offers no apologies and calls “bullshit” on how others have depicted the City of Angels. As the series creator, writer, director, and star, she has found her calling and is re-writing the LA Story of Angelenos with authenticity and truth.
Conversations in LA is a modern-day story about a young Hispanic man who’s already had a fair amount of sexual experience and is genuinely searching for a meaningful relationship — newcomer Gustavo Velasquez weaves mature innocence combined with youthful fearlessness for “Gus” to be irresistible when his world collides with Michelle Macabee (Cummings). Although most men would run — not walk away — once Michelle opened up about her current career transition, grieving the loss of a pet, and menopause, Gus decides to stay but grapples with Michelle’s age. Michelle is torn between her desire to just have sex with the young Gus versus being in a loving, committed relationship with him. Michelle turns to her pet loss therapist for help and her two close friends, Alex and Nicole (in the midst of denying their own mid-life crisis’), witness Michelle’s transformation and become obsessed with redirecting her life down a path they deem acceptable and “normal.”
Season 2 premiered September 13 via iTunes and Amazon, promptly picking up where the conversation left off last season when there were too many red flags for Michelle to ignore. While Michelle drives us around Los Angeles, we listen to a radio show about the mid-life/menopausal experience. She gets a text message from Gus asking her to meet him at their downtown spot since he’s on break from work. No sooner than she says yes, he pops the question. Once we meet-up with Gus, he pops yet another question which changes everything for both of them.
Inthe second episode, Gus leaves he and Michelle’s neighborhood to meet Sonya, his older sister. Sonya (Alyssa Gabrielle Rodriguez) complains about her minimum wage jobs, asks Gus if he’s living with an “older lady friend,” and then gets around to the real reason why she needs to talk to Gus. Rodriguez captivates as she digs deep and shows no restraint as she is overcome with emotions after years of internalizing anger and jealously — we are reminded about our own sibling rivalries. When Gus realizes what Sonya wants from him, he has more than a few things to say about it which changes their relationship forever.
It’s no surprise that Cummings and Velasquez received 2017 Daytime Emmy Award nominations in the lead acting categories for Daytime Digital Drama Series (as well as Vanita Harbour for her supporting role). Their chemistry and dynamic on-screen are rarely achieved with characters as complex and layered as Michelle and Gus — they are Angelenos having the Conversations in LA happening around us.
Welcome to Los Angeles, Anne Marie Cummings.