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Fairfax, the new original series from Amazon Prime Video, is an animated comedy starring Skyler Gisondo, Kiersey Clemons, Peter S. Kim and Jaboukie Young-White as four middle school best friends on a passionate quest for clout on Los Angeles’ famous Fairfax Avenue, a block known for its winding lines of young streetwear aficionados waiting to buy the newest sneaker release.
Created and executive produced by longtime friends and Los Angeles natives Matthew Hausfater, Aaron Buchsbaum and Teddy Riley, Fairfax humanizes the hypebeast experience by finding humor in the fundamentally relatable desire to be part of a community.
Episode one follows the earnest, outdoorsy Dale (voiced by Gisondo) who’s just moved to the Fairfax area from Oregon as he joins the “Gang Gang” (a crew of 13-year-old friends) who spend their days hunting down the latest Latrine clothing release: the Dr. Phil Box Tee. THR‘s review of the series calls it “visually energetic, humorously frantic and populated by an exceptional voice cast.”
The characters, designed by artist Somehoodlum, were created on spec “before they were voiced,” he said, adding: “I never think about how my art is going to be animated so it was really cool to think about how a hoodie was going to look from the back, from the other side.”
While pitching the show, Hausfater, Buchsbaum and Riley had a clear vision of who they wanted each of the four main protagonists to be, but conceptualizing those archetypes was not without challenge. “It was really hard to encapsulate all aspects of ‘hypebeasts’ in four characters, that was something we struggled with,” Somehoodlum explained. “All I did was represent a style.”
Somehoodlum’s aesthetic is influenced not only by satire but by the distinct colors and textures of Los Angeles, creating an atmosphere for the show that is equal parts grit and saccharine illusion. “L.A., in general, is the land of opportunity; it feels like anyone can come as a fan and leave as a legend,” he said. “This is where a fan becomes an actual contributing member to the culture: I’m just inspired by Tyler, the Creator — that’s what my pastels are all based off of — the Golf Wang look books back in the day from 2012 … It comes from the love of this community.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, the cast, creators and special guests gathered on the avenue at the pop-up “Latrine Store,” which is based on Latrine, a fictional streetwear brand created within the universe of the show. The pop-up ran through Nov. 5 and gave away merchandise like fanny packs, bucket hats, yo-yos, skateboards and salad tossers.
All eight episodes of the first season, which premiered on Oct. 29, are exclusively available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, and production for the show’s second season is already underway. THR spoke to Hausfater, Buchsbaum, and Riley about the Los Angeles that raised them and inspired the site-specific series.
What role has Fairfax Avenue played in broader Los Angeles culture? And why did it feel like the right environment to set a new animated comedy?
TR: Fairfax played a huge role in our formative years. We’re all from L.A., and we all grew up loitering the block, eating challah french toast at Canter’s at two in the morning and watching Fairfax evolve from this block full of Jewish delis and bakeries into this incredible mecca of streetwear and pop culture.
MH: We went to great lengths with our animation studio Titmouse to make the show feel authentic in that when you see the block or when you see incidentals, as the background characters are called, they are from every single walk of life, socio-economic background, and it’s really as diverse as Fairfax in real life.
How would you define a hypebeast, and what does the streetwear subculture mean to you?
MH: I think hypebeast is just a shiny new word for saying you love and admire and are a fan of something … It really just means that you are a huge fan of streetwear and that you will do anything — short of death — to get your hands on a pair of sneakers, or a box tee or, you know, a sweater.
AB: I think every teenager is a hypebeast at some point in their life. It is the obsessive need to get something and that’s just baked into what it’s like being a kid. It’s the stuff. It’s like a hot item that is advertised on TV and baked into your brain and you just need to have it, or else.
Why does Amazon Prime feel like a good home for the show and your audience?
TR: We came up loving animated shows like Recess, Hey Arnold, Rocket Power, Animaniacs and South Park. We wanted to make a show that felt like a 2021 version of those with our own sensibility and humor involved. Whether you’re 13 or 35 or older, you’ll find something to connect with, whether it’s a joke, or an emotion, or a storyline. We wanted to find that balance between making a really specific show that felt contemporary, while also telling stories that you could connect with whether you’re from Fairfax or not.
How do you handle ‘clout’ and the quest for fame differently in Fairfax, in a way we haven’t seen before? I know these are middle schoolers, but how do these themes extend beyond that stage of life?
AB: Every story we told boiled down to what we felt was a universal, relatable theme. So, for instance, Episode 106 is about making a varsity team; everyone can connect to what it feels like to want to be on a team and wanting to be the champion of that varsity team. So, the hope is that an audience can still see and connect to this story, even though it doesn’t necessarily resonate in their life at that moment.
TR: What’s funny to us is that there are so many people our age and older who behave just like the kids in our show, if not more immature [laughs]. Whether you’re 13 or our age, we know people who are trying to get a fit off, or who are trying to make content on social media and brand themselves. I think adults can watch the show and laugh at themselves a little bit. Because whether they realize it or not, I think everybody is trying to kind of find their place in this weird game of the internet.
How has working as three friends and collaborators informed the creative process from when you first began developing the show to now?
AB: It’s been a fantastic process that is ever-evolving; we are constantly learning and trying to make our process better. Obviously, three is an interesting dynamic — truthfully, like a marriage, it requires work. It’s a process and it’s a delicate balance, but it’s something that I think we have succeeded at doing, and frankly love doing.
MH: I don’t know if it is for these two guys, but it is a dream come true for me to work with them. Because, you know, we came up as writers together; Teddy and Aaron had a script on the 2012 Blacklist, I had a script on the 2012 Blacklist. I’ve read every single script they’ve ever written, and I’ve always been like, ‘Man if I could just find a way to work with those guys …’ because they’re so funny. And they have such good action comedy, whereas I’ve always been kinda like this rom com guy. And the alchemy in the recipe when you put us all together is truly what makes Fairfax. Teddy and Aaron are my two best friends, and I am incredibly lucky to get to do this with them because it’s really challenging and I’m sort of in awe of anybody that can do this as one person.
TR: It was a blessing in disguise because if there was something that we all loved, we knew it was strong. Matt always references The Voice, and how we have like a three-chair turn system. Whether it’s a song, or a design, or a storyline, everything gets the three-chair turn. And if it doesn’t, then we figure out a way to beat it so that we’re all really happy with what the final result is.
How did you approach casting the ensemble of characters?
TR: We wanted to cast people that felt new and different for an animated show, people that weren’t your regular usual suspects of voiceover actors. Some are and they’re incredible, but some are people that you go, ‘Oh, whoa, I didn’t expect to see this person in an animated show’ and that’s what we found to be so satisfying about working with them. It was all about actors that could bring authenticity and a voice and a personality to these characters, and everybody else was a combination of people that we’ve long admired or people we thought could bring just a hilarious voice to the show. I mean, John Leguizamo and J.B. Smoove voicing our pigeons was just a dream come true. We couldn’t have asked for better improvisers and funnier people. Everybody on our show did such a great job helping us build out that world.
How did Somehoodlum, who designed the animated characters, help your vision come to life?
AB: Somehoodlum is an incredible artist that we had been a fan of just through the internet; we really connected with their color palette and felt like it spoke to Los Angeles, and their visual style was just something that felt really unique and felt different from the other animated shows that we were familiar with. The process working with them was incredible. They’re incredibly collaborative and a dream to work with and just have such an understanding of the world of Fairfax. They are so in on the joke there. If you look at their Instagram, satire is kind of baked into everything they do. So tonally it really spoke to the voice of the show as well. It’s a perfect fit.
What’s your favorite, quintessential place to go on Fairfax?
AB: I’m a foodie so … Animal was one of my spots. I just think Animal was one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. I love eating there. And obviously Jon and Vinny’s. I’m all about that grub.
MH: I also love food. I think Meals By Genet is one of the best meals you can have in Los Angeles. And then obviously, love and respect and a big shout-out to Tyler, the Creator and the Golf Wang store. As well as goo which is a hair salon where my wife sometimes gets her hair done. And Zak! Zak. is truly where I get my glasses.
TR: I’ll say the Fairfax Flea Market is a quintessentially L.A. experience. You can’t go wrong on a Sunday market.
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