BuzzFeed Sets Interactive Instagram Drama 'Romeo Likes Juliet'

Romeo Juliet Maggie Jung Chantel Houston - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Buzzfeed

The queer love story will unfold across seven Instagram profiles as the characters post photos, Stories and videos in real time.

BuzzFeed is putting a modern twist on a classic love story. 

On Oct. 9, the company will unveil an eight-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet that will play out live on people's Instagram feeds. The project, dubbed Romeo Likes Juliet, will make use of seven character profiles on Instagram to tell a story across photo posts, comments, Instagram Stories and longform video platform IGTV. 

Romeo Likes Juliet was commissioned by BuzzFeed head of video Andrew Gauthier and hails from BuzzFeed Originals' experimental group, which previously launched a choose-your-own-adventure story for Snapchat. The goal, according to executive producer Jennifer Berky, was to explore whether audiences would take a more active role in a story. She adds that they selected the classic Shakespeare play because it tells a "universal" story that would be accessible to many audiences. "What we're looking for is really for the audience to interact with the characters in different ways," says Berky. "They get to live out the story with the characters and shape the narrative." 

In addition to setting the new story in modern times with social media and cellphones, BuzzFeed also adapted all roles for women and selected an all-female cast. Maggie Jung, who heads BuzzFeed's experimental group, plays the part of Romeo in addition to writing and directing the series. She stars alongside Chantel Houston as Juliet. 

"It was an opportunity to tell a queer love story," says Jung. "Diversity is super important to us and we wanted to tell a story about identities that are not often represented in the media." 

To create the complex story — which consists of as many as 30 pieces of content per character each day, from posts and comments to Stories and videos — the team behind Romeo Likes Juliet took over a whole room at BuzzFeed's Los Angeles outpost. "It looked like a conspiracy wall," jokes Jung of the storyboard for the project that they hung onto the walls. 

In the lead-up to the launch of Romeo Likes Juliet, Instagram users will be able to follow accounts for all the major characters, including Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Rosaline and Senator Capulet.