While the success of recent television shows and films such as Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Jane The Virgin, Hidden Figures and Black Panther have pointed to the commercial power of Black and brown voices, there is still a significant uphill climb to improve diversity and inclusion in media. Fortunately, there are creators like Viktoria I.V. King, who are producing entertainment which showcases inclusive casts and roles.
Black Nerd Problems spoke with Viktoria I.V. King (creator, writer, executive producer and director of the web series F.M.L.) about her inspirations for the series and her goals for increasing inclusiveness through her work.
Black Nerd Problems: Why don’t we start with you telling me a little bit about yourself?
Viktoria I. V. King: Sure, so I’m born here but raised in London. I’ve sort of been back and forth throughout my life. I started off doing film when I was younger and then I went into theater for over a decade. Now, I’m back into doing film. I’m really excited because I have this new production company, Cyne 59 Productions, and F.M.L. is our first big series that we’re doing.
BNP: In your theater days, what kind of performances were you involved in?
King: I did work across genres and styles. At first, I was really focused on the classics. I was a big Shakespeare actor. Then it sort of moved into everything and anything. I did a couple of musicals. I did a couple of experimental plays, a lot of drama and some comedy, and I think I did one or two horrors.
BNP: What caused you to make the transition from film to theater initially, and then back again?
King: I’ve always had this obsession with film. I think I fell in love with film way before I fell in love with the theater, so going into film was quite easy because I was watching films. From film to theater, I think I wanted a more close connection with the audience. That transition from film to theater actually was slightly easier because I went into it via acting, before I started directing and producing.
I got to act in a few plays and then I decided I wanted to direct for the stage because it’s a completely different experience. It was a completely new challenge at the time for me, so I was quite interested in that. I decided to do theater and I thought it was just going to be for a year or two and I was going to get back into film, but I just got sucked in for about a decade [laughs].
I haven’t acted in about six years now, but yeah. From the theater into film, it became very clear that the theater world, especially in New York, is quite — it can be quite specific. There are certain things that work and certain things that don’t work.
I just wanted to have more creative control, especially as the director. As the theater director you can direct, but really, once it’s after opening night it’s up to the actors and your entire team that you trust to relay the vision. For me, I really wanted to have more control from the beginning to the end, and so I decided to go back into film that way.
BNP: Is F.M.L. your first big project since transitioning back into film?
King: Funny enough I did this project when I first decided to go back into film [in 2015], where I created a collective and F.M.L. was one of our first big projects. And we shot it and everything but it was with the wrong people, and I felt like the vision wasn’t fully there. So I put it on the shelf and then I did a plethora of other things. I did a feature film, I did so many short films, I did another web series. And then I’m back with this project, but doing it in a bigger way.
BNP: Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of F.M.L, what happened with the first iteration and why you decided to come back to it at this point?
King: Yeah yeah, so F.M.L., Fuck My Life, is a series about five friends who are going through quarter-life crises while working in some facet of the porn industry. Essentially it’s an inclusive comedy, where they’re trying to navigating through life and find themselves, their identity and actual money in their bank account. Their purpose is all of these other things while still trying to have their sanity. It’s definitely a comedy.
So F.M.L. originally, I think I didn’t really have a true vision as to what I wanted it to be. Originally it was just a bunch of friends who were together, hanging out and that’s really it — but that’s not that interesting, now, is it? That’s why I feel like it didn’t necessarily work. I also had the wrong people around and I myself didn’t have a vision for it.
This time around I definitely have a vision, and it’s very strong. It’s literally five inclusive friends, which I’m really big on inclusion. That’s just the world personally I’ve seen growing up so I definitely want to have that representation reflected on the show. I think it’s really funny, dramatic and it’s just a bit of everything.
BNP: What made you set it in the pornography industry?
King: I like the notion of looking at the human being behind the camera. They’re not mannequins, they’re actually human beings. So I was curious to know what that juxtaposition would be if I were to showcase the porn industry. You’re seeing legitimate people going through their lives, and they’re not being the simple stereotypes that you might think.
BNP: You have the setting in the pornography industry, and you mentioned inclusion as one of the main aspects of this project. Did exploring sexuality and increasing inclusiveness dovetail for you?
King: I think they slightly dovetailed. I’m interested in the human being behind the sex, whether it’s sexuality or the porn industry or anything like that. Inclusion to me, it’s really representation. Literally what I’ve grown up with is something I personally have not seen reflected in a lot of TV shows and movies. Now we’re at an age where times are changing and I still haven’t seen a character that I, personally, can relate to. So inclusion is very important for this world and I made sure that the characters are specifically diverse for a very specific reason.
BNP: What is the type of character that you can relate to that you haven’t seen, and how do you think that the characters you’ve created will be able to relate to a broader audience?
King: I’m multi-ethnic, I’m also British-American. So that alone, I’ve never seen that. It’s a rarity to see characters that are quite strong, independent, but also quirky and they have their own identity that’s not tied to a man, that’s not tied to any sort of tragedy. They can just go out and do whatever it is that they want to do. Those kind of characters are so rare for me and if I do see them, then I’m not seeing them being played by an actor that may not look like me.
For the characters I’ve created, I was very, very meticulous about how best to cast these characters because I didn’t want anyone to fall into a stereotype. So for example, you have the lead character, Lin, or Linda; and she’s played by an amazing Vietnamese actress, Julie Tran. I really wanted that character to be Asian and the reason why is because that character talks a lot, and is a wise ass and very free-spirited. I think Hollywood would have pigeon-holed that character to be “Okay, you’re Black or you’re a Latina” because that’s what we’ve seen before, but I know that Blacks and Latinas are so much more than just that.
King: So I’ve looked at all of the characters and their personalities and I rearranged them. Jeanette is very privileged, and she’s going through life and she’s forced to sort of live among commoners, if you will. And so that role would never have been given to an African American woman because it just wouldn’t have happened, or even an Afro-Latina, which is what she is. I definitely made sure to look at these characters as human beings, and then try to make sure that I’m not casting them based on a stereotype. I’m going to flip it on its head.
BNP: Are there plans for a second season of F.M.L.?
King: Yes, so we’re wrapping up the latter bit of Season 1 now. That will be finished in May, so it probably will be released in June. Season 2 we’re going to get started in the latter bit of this year.
BNP: Thank you so much for talking with Black Nerd Problems.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.