- Netflix's newest sci-fi teen dramedy "I Am Not Okay With This" was co-created by playwright Christy Hall.
- Insider spoke with Hall about choosing to do a short-form series (which is just seven episodes, all around 20 minutes each).
- Hall also spoke to the 2020 trend of women superheroes, the state of streaming services today, and how the mythology connected to Sydney's character will be unpacked as the story continues.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Netflix's new show "I Am Not Okay With This" was co-created by Jonathan Entwhistle ("The End of the Fxxxing World") and playwright Christy Hall. The show follows a teenage heroine, Sydney "Syd" Novak, as she discovers her supernatural powers while trying to navigate the normal tumult of high school life.
"It's exciting that we have these stories about women to empower women, but having them actually written and created by women is just so wonderful," Hall told Insider over the phone ahead of the Netflix series debut.
Hall also spoke with Insider about the choice to format the series in such a brief structure (just seven episodes, each about 20 minutes long), the worry of streaming series cannibalizing each other, and teased the unfolding mythology around Syd's powers.
Keep reading for our full interview.
Kim Renfro: I would love to talk with you about the structure "I Am Not Okay With This," since it continues a trend of shorter drama episodes. What kinds of challenges come along with writing just seven short episodes for a season of TV?
Christy Hall: It's fun these days. With streaming, there's so much opportunity to play with form and structure. Before, half-hour [shows] had to very specifically be comedies. But now you have other shows that are darker in nature, or just totally not a comedy at all, that are playing in the 30-minute space. It's indicative of the fact that streaming has become a cool platform to try new things and to be not so strict to what is possible and what is not possible.
Specifically with "I Am Not Okay With This," I see it as more of a fun, brooding [show] that has dark comedic elements to it, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a comedy.
Hall [continued]: I would say just felt right for this space in terms of how it seems to be a format that did well for "The End of the Fxxxing World," Jonathan Entwhistle's other show. This show comes was inspired by another piece of [intellectual property] from Charles Forsman. It felt correct to stay in a world that the fans of "The End of the Fxxxing World" would trust and understand. It was a very organic decision, actually.
In that format, it starts to feel like a long movie in essence, especially when you know people are going to binge on it. We want people to binge on it — we're so excited and we want people to gobble it up — but the challenges in this format is to ever be reminded that it is still television and to hold true to an arc of a first season, which is different than the three-act structure of a feature screenplay.
Those were the things that we were very aware of and talked about a lot.
Renfro: Are you conscious of how there are so many options out there that people might be more likely to watch a show if it like only takes them two and a half hours to finish a season, versus a 10-hour format?
Hall: I loved working with Netflix, they're so great and they're uncontestedly the pioneers of this format, but there are so many other people now that are playing in this space, right? You've got Apple and Amazon and Hulu and it just goes on and on.
I love that there's so much opportunity to create right now, but across the board with everything streaming, yes, you do worry about whether we're all just creating really wonderful things that we're proud of that are ultimately just going to cannibalize each other.
Hall [continued]: But that said, I do think that shows can very organically find their audience. Before you would turn on the television and whatever was playing across maybe just a handful of channels, that's all you had access to. So if there was something playing that just wasn't your taste or wasn't appropriate for your age group or whatever it was, you didn't have a lot of options.
I'm aware that we have a lot of content out there in the world right now, but I'm also very aware that everyone's creating something very unique and different.
With "I Am Not Okay With This," I think it will very naturally find its audience. That's what's very exciting about streaming. If a 15-year-old maybe wants to see something with a little bit more edge, something just a bit more playful when it comes to the darker shades while still being fun and funny, they can.
The fact that you can get online and find whatever suits your taste is a very delicious, wonderful part of our modern era as well.
Renfro: Looking ahead at 2020, it feels like this happens to be a year with a lot of women-centric superhero stories coming out. "Wonder Woman: 1989," "Black Widow," and Disney's "Mulan" remake, and then Syd fits into that trend even though this is a very unconventional approach to a superhero story.
Hall: Yeah, I love that you drew that connection. It is exciting. It's so exciting that we're living in a time where, on the heels of the #MeToo movement and Time's Up, that there's a global conversation about women being re-examined in every industry. It's exciting that we have these stories about women to empower women, but having them actually written and created by women [laughing] is just so wonderful.
And I think you're right. We're about to really enjoy a lot of offerings when it comes to putting a female at the epicenter of a story where they have this super-human ability. Syd totally, absolutely folds into that trend.
I'm also excited because it is an origin story but, I hope, unlike one that people have ever seen. It's that question of what happens when something is happening inside of you that you don't understand. But Professor X or someone like Professor X, doesn't show up and doesn't have all the answers.
Hall [continued]: What I like about our show is that Syd is still a high school girl and this thing happening inside of her doesn't necessarily make her problems go away. If anything, it's actually complicating her life.
What I like about it, too, is we really were very aware of how can we make it feel as if Sydney's powers almost feel like a really exciting metaphor for what it just feels like to grow up.
I can speak for myself in junior high and high school, we're all wrestling with ourselves and we do have a lie in our heads saying that, "If people really knew the true me, I would ultimately be being deemed unlovable."
The awkwardness Sydney is experiencing of coming face to face with her own ability and own power, that's a real thing in our lives, and particularly for young women. Really taking time to understand the measure of our power and not being afraid of it. And then actually facing it and finding a way to befriend it and then wield it out in the world.
Renfro: One of the first theories Stanley mentions to Sydney about her powers is about Mayans and the sun god. Is that a hint to something in Sydney's future and her powers?
Hall [continued]: Respectfully, it's hard for me to answer that question because we want to unpack the mythology as the story continues. It's an excellent question, but I don't know how to answer it. There are all sorts of fun reveals along the way, and we've been very thoughtful about it.
I loved that whole sequence of the Mayan thing and then the comic books, with Stanley revisiting examples [of myths] that we've seen in our culture. It's back to the idea of like "If Professor X doesn't show up, what would normal humans do to try to figure it out?"
Renfro: When I interviewed Sophia Lillis [who stars as Sydney Novak] she said to this day she doesn't know what was actually in that bowl of "Liam's Loaded Lasagna." Do you have any idea what she was eating for that scene besides mystery macaroni?
Hall: That is hilarious. Our props department on this show was incredible. We just let them roll because they were on top of it and they were so thoughtful about the details. I have to give them a "woop woop" because I truthfully don't know what was in there either. And actually I don't know if we should ever know!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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