James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti are asking fans for their help. Their financial help, that is, so they can complete their new TV show, Everyone is Doing Great, a dry comedy about struggling actors coming of age.
The One Tree Hill alums have made the pilot episode, which they wrote, produced and act in, and are now raising money via an Indiegogo campaign to finish the first season. The show follows Seth Steward (Colletti) and Jeremy Davis (Lafferty) five years after their hit television vampire drama, Eternal has ended. They struggle in Hollywood to reclaim their previous level of success and relevance while awkwardly navigating life and love.
The real-life friends and one-time roommates talked to PEOPLE at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, last month about the risks and rewards of making an independent television series, how their friendship is holding up and how they might need a little bit of help from their OTH cast members.
“Setting out on this journey was risky for us because there are a lot of things and chances we’re taking with these characters,” admitted Lafferty, who also directs the show. “These characters are the perfect storm of bad behavior.”
Everyone is Doing Great may be based around fictional characters, but there must be a lot of post-OTH anecdotes for them to tap into? (The much-loved CW show wrapped in 2012 after nine years on the air.)
“You write what you know, right?” Lafferty said,. “We obviously drew a lot from our own experiences and circumstances. We do want to make it very clear that these characters are works of fiction, but at the same time … I think Jeremy speaks to that part of myself coming out of One Tree Hill who recognized pretty quickly that it was going to be harder than I thought it would be. I was always prepared to do a lot more work, and I knew that I’d wind up creating my own stuff, and that it would be a tough road, but auditioning again was a shock, and I hadn’t really prepared myself for that too much.”
Colletti also found himself drawing from real-life material when his character is told to do a love scene for a casting agent … with an inanimate object. “In the audition scene in the pilot episode, my character gets thrown for a loop,“ Colletti said. “And I’ve been in those situations where my awareness goes so high I can read people … and I wanted to bring that in to my character because as he’s really pushing hard to break away the mold of being looked at as that guy from the vampire drama Eternal. … He wants people to realize that he has something more to offer as an actor so he over-exerts himself, and that is something that I can relate to.”
Colletti was worried about the friendship holding up once they started writing the show together, “because you could feel like you’re on the same page with someone and go into a project and then Cruella de Vil comes out and they are some sort of a nightmare, “ he said.
Luckily, even though they had their creative disagreements at times, they found out that their friendship could handle the collaboration: “We thankfully found out really quickly that not only do we enjoy each other’s company as friends, but we’re going to be able to work together in a healthy way because some of the most important moments come when we do disagree, we do butt heads, and what happens from there. And so far it’s been okay. But talk to me in a year.”
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Both Lafferty and Colletti are quick to acknowledge the guidance on this project from filmmakers Eshom Nelms and Ian Nelms, who serve as executive producers and who previously directed Lafferty in three feature films, including Small Town Crime — but the actors also have a wish list of previous colleagues they’d like to call on.
“I always said, coming out of OTH, I always wanted to do a comedy with Robert Buckley,“ Colletti said. “He is one of funniest people I have ever met and I’ve had the joy of being his roommate at certain times in our life, in Wilmington and in Los Angeles, so I always said, I want to do a comedy and I want to do it with Robert Buckley … because his comedy is through the roof, and we want to give him an opportunity to come in and raise our game.”
One of the benefits of contributing to their Indiegogo campaign and a way for Lafferty and Colletti to acknowledge and honor their OTH fans through this new project is with the Live Watch experiences being offered. Both Colletti and Lafferty give their commentary during a OTH episode, and fans can join in the fun and watch along. They recently announced they are doing the next OTH Live Watch with cast members Bethany Joy Lenz and Lee Norris.
Lafferty and Colletti will be screening their Everyone is Doing Great pilot episode at the upcoming New York Television Festival from July 14 – 19, and they really want people to be able to see their show.
“This is our baby, and we feel like we’ve got lightning in a bottle and we’ve created this really specific little world that we want to protect, and the best way to do that is through the Indiegogo campaign,” said Lafferty.
Colletti excitedly agreed: “What we have written is so fresh and so fun, I’m like a kid in a candy store … there’s some really fun stuff and the journey is going to be awesome.”