In 2016 we got Moonlight, probably the first honest portrayal of Miami on the big screen. Now we’ve got Grown, a coming-of-age comedy series written, acted, and produced by locals Joshua Jean-Baptiste and Edson Jean that perfectly captures the millennial, hyphenated experience of so many Miamians. Remezcla says that if you loved Atlanta and Insecure, you’ll love Grown, and you can catch it tomorrow night at Tower Theater (and pretty much any time you want at complex.com)
Here’s how they describe it:
After the death of his mother, Josh, a digitally dependent Haitian-American, is forced to live with his promiscuous and problematic cousin, Wes, a struggling actor who scrambles to make a living. He pulls Josh into a series of misadventures consisting of women, self-discovery, and social media relevance. This is a story of two fatherless men blindly leading each other to discover what it means to grow up– all under the backdrop of Miami’s vibrant, lesser known communities.
We chatted with Josh – who, full disclosure, is a member of our volunteer street team – about the journey from scribbling down inspo from bad dates to streaming his series with Complex, a big media company.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you end up writing Grown?
Edson and I met when I first got to college (at New World School of the Arts), and I moved in with him my sophomore year and we just clicked. When it came time to going out on dates and stuff, he would give me advice. I would come back with these crazy stories, and he suggested I start writing them down. Slowly by slowly I started writing a pilot. It moved away from being about dating and stuff like that to self identity and Haitian-American culture and what that means for us and raising yourself without a father. It started one place and got into something a lot deeper.
Tell us about yours and Edson’s friendship.
I’m very blessed to have someone I can connect with on the friendship level and a professional level. We kind of get each other because we had a similar upbringing. I was surprised how many things about the Haitian-American culture that we shared. We have spells of inspiration. In the middle of the night I’ll knock on his door like, “Yo, I have an idea.”
Have you seen any other portrayals out there of the young Haitian-American experience?
I have not seen many and if I have, in my eyes it’s not been accurately portrayed. That’s been the biggest flag we’ve been waving is representation of the Haitian-American culture and the Latin culture and on top of all that, the proper representation of Miami. Ballers is cool and all, but I don’t live on a yacht. That’s been our biggest thing: properly repping the city and the fruit it bears.
On the show, you’re a nerdy guy who can barely talk to girls. How accurate is this in real life? What about Edson, who’s a total ladies man?
[Laughs] I’ll say that these characters are inspired off of our past growth, some things are really exaggerated. As we were writing the show … we were writing it from the perspective of ourselves, but we had to kind of dig into why we are doing these things. It was a bit therapeutic. There was a point where we were looking at our own actions, asking why, and making our characters reflect that.
What are some totally Miami things and places we’ll relate to when we watch the show?
I would say the complete immersion in language – we don’t have subtitles and that is something that’s reflected on this city… someone will speak in Spanish and expect you to speak in Spanish or speak to you in Creole and expect you to speak in Creole. It’s that melting pot that we got a chance to accurately reflect on the show. We have Cubans playing Cubans, Venezuelans playing Venezuelans. The culture and color palette of Miami is something we’re really proud of [representing].
If you had to choose three spots to hit up on your perfect Saturday night, what would they be?
I would say Villain Theater for some improv, then I would go to Purdy Lounge, and then I would go to The Corner for a drink and end up talking about politics with some homeless guy until 8 o’clock in the morning. … That’s my favorite bar in the city.
What’s your favorite Haitian food item? And where’s the best spot in the city to get it?
I recently became a plant based eater, so I’m going to give two answers. Vegan-wise, Naomi’s has good options. But there’s a spot in Little Haiti named Piman Bouk. Before I became a plant eater, man, they have a tasso, it’s a deep-fried goat. That shit is POPPING.
Name a couple organizations leveling up our creative scene, especially our theater and drama scene.
Villain Theater definitely, I love their work, they’re on the come-up. Juggerknot Theater Company is bumping it up, Miami Motel Stories was awesome. That’s next-level stuff there.
It’s 10 years from today. Are you still living in Miami?
Miami will always be my home base, I’ll say that. If people pay me to leave, that’s one thing, but I’ll always come back.
Got you hooked? Catch a special screening of Grown at Tower Theater tomorrow night with the Miami Film Festival at 6:30 p.m. Details here.