Interview: Michael Caurso & Katie Apicella – DeVanity Part 2

Part 2 of the interview with creator, writer and star of the smash-hit web series DeVanity, Michael Caruso and his co-star Katie Apicella, who plays the diabolical Portia on the show.

How long are the episodes?
Season 1 the episodes were 7-8 minutes, season 2 was 10-12 minutes, season 3 was 17-20 minutes, and season 4 early estimates are gonna come in a little under a half an hour.

As a writer how has that challenged you?
Not in terms of length, but in terms of depth. Season 1 had a youthful enthusiasm and season 2 was a burning desire to do better. Everyone told us to do short episodes at first, but then fans were mad that they episodes weren’t long enough! As the characters have become fleshed out and more three dimensional, their scenes have to grow as well.
I think people think soap is easy. Like if you put a bunch of beautiful people in a room together and they start having sex with each other, a soap opera can work. But that’s an insult to a soap fan’s intelligence.
When I write, I’m very affected by what’s going on in my life. The pressure of writing has grown. At first, Jason was the responsible one, Bianca was the coke-whore, we had an angry one and a slutty one – but now they’re all of those things because they aren’t caricatures anymore, they’re actual characters.

Do you write to their strengths as actors?
MC – No. I write for what the story dictates. If they’re not willing to explore different facets of their character or if they come to me and say ‘I just want to play the bitch’ I find that unacceptable because that’s not interesting. Some of the greatest soap actors seem way over the top, but then you see them in moments where you can tell they really do love their family, or their children, and you see them humanized – and that’s what burns inside of people. Fans might not relate to Jason because he’s a multimillionaire, but they can relate to him when he’s struggling with his sister who has a severe drug addiction, or when he misses his dead father.
The hermaphrodite reveal with Portia’s character – there was humor in the shock of it, but we wanted to still show that afterward her sister loved her no matter what. Portia’s evolution from season 3 to 4 is about controlling a family, and seeing what Katie’s doing with it is fantastic. I think you’re having the most fun this season.
KA – I am!

What is the schedule?
KA – weekends in the summer.
So everything is mapped out for the season?
MC – the whole schedule is done.
KA – it can be a span of a couple months…
MC – …we’re shooting 17 days total over 3 months to complete season 4.

Do you have a set schedule when it premieres each season?
MC – usually January but this season I think it’ll be in March.

And that’s all up to you?
MC – yeah. Web series’ are perfect if you’re a Type A control freak! We make sure everything is done before we premiere the first episode. Consistency is vital in a web series. That’s one of the reasons I think we’ve been so successful. We communicate with fans before, during, and after production. We love, cherish, appreciate, and acknowledge every one of our fans.
KA – but they’ve become friends too. We went to New York for the indie soap awards and they flew in to meet us.
MC – it’s surreal when you take a minute and step back. Imagine if all of this went away tomorrow. Think about what is a good problem to have is versus a bad one. Bad might be: my dog has the shits and pooped all over my house. Good problem: I’m exhausted because I’ve filmed all day and have to be back on set early tomorrow. That’s a gift. I’m having the time of my life.

Like if you put a bunch of beautiful people in a room together and they start having sex with each other, a soap opera can work. But that’s an insult to a soap fan’s intelligence.

And how do you get these guest stars?
I guess they like the script, from what I’ve been told.

How would you approach someone?
MC – I’d call their agent or manager and pitch the series and send an online press kit with the actors’ scene. If they like the scene they say yes or no. Sometimes it’s hard explaining what a web series is…
KA – I like your analogy about the Wild, Wild West. About how web series’ are the new TV when radio was the only thing that was entertaining people.
MC – yeah, it is and I guess we’d be the Rootin’ Tootin’ DeVanity Whorehouse.

Did you do a lot of outside casting or pull from your network?
MC – you have to be careful when you’re not paying actors. Like Katie said, it’s a smooth sailing ship and when you add on another person, you run the risk of being stuck on that ship with them, even if it’s not a great atmosphere. It takes a lot to get me to cast a stranger.

When you’re starting from scratch, people think it’s easy to just hire friends, but problems arise from that.
And we’ve had problems too. Sometimes it’s been our greatest strength, but other times it was our biggest weakness.

How much notice do you have about the script? Do you know what your character is doing all season?
KA – Uh-huh. We get the whole season 2 months in advance. And it’s like Christmas morning when we get the scripts.
MC – I think they’re a little scared too, as am I, because I want them to like their story lines.
KA – but you’re very fair. You ask us ahead of time. You’re very considerate as a writer and creator.
MC – I believe in taking risks but I also believe in respecting actors.

So how does it make you feel that you’ve built a great show that people love?
MC – it’s an empire, Kyle! (laughs)
But you’ve also cultivated a family too!
MC – It’s like they’re my kids, not in a condescending way. It’s a wonderful feeling when you feel like you’ve raised them right and can send them off to college. I want them to feel great about themselves and feel empowered. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility. But it’s like a modern fairy tale. And you can create your own happy ending if you work really hard at it.

On the same token, how has that helped you? It’s given you a great character to work on, but you’ve also met your good friends through the show.
KA – yeah. It’s created a whole world inside of a world. Coming from NY where I was so used to having a family to coming to L.A. where I didn’t – and then to dive right into this was probably the best thing I could have done. We’re not going anywhere. It’ more than just a show. It’s a family.
MC – there’s no ulterior motive when you’re not doing it for the money. You’re doing it because you love it. The friendships are so beyond the show.
KA – we are very lucky.

Kyle Langan is an actor, writer, host, model and all around entertainer. He’s a fun-loving goofball whom you can follow on twitter and check out his personal blog, From the Hamptons to Hollywood.

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