On April 6, 2018, Netflix cancelled “Everything Sucks!,” a coming-of-age comedy-drama that revolves around a group of teenagers in high school while they learn to deal with problems such as growing up, exploring their sexualities and dealing with mental health. Web editor, Adrian Maldonado, interviewed one of the creators, Ben York Jones, to discuss details about the show that the audience might not be aware of.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, including where you come from and how you got into writing for TV and film?
A: I went to film school and mostly focused on directing. But pretty soon after, amidst abject failure as I tried to get my footing in the film industry, I realized that writing was the facet of filmmaking that I could sustainably practice every day, so I leaned more toward it. I ended up writing a few feature films, some of which were made into low-budget indie movies and got into big film festivals, and that was the start. My work in TV came from a desire to expand out of the indie film world, and to have a little more control over what I was writing.
Q: How did the idea of “Everything Sucks!” come about?
A: Mike Mohan, who I co-created the show with (he also directed most of the episodes), knew that we wanted to tell a coming-of-age story. Since we both went to high school during some portion of the late 90s, we figured we’d set it then. We also knew we wanted it to be a tender show. We wanted it to be about kids expressing their feelings and discovering who they are, and we wanted to extend that to the parents. In a way, we wanted it to be a coming-of-age story for the parents, as well as the kids.
Q: What inspired you to make “Everything Sucks?”
A: There are a lot of movies and TV shows that influenced us. Shows like “Freaks & Geeks,” “My So-Called Life” and “The Wonder Years.” But there is this one movie that perhaps influenced us more than anything else, called “Show Me Love.” It’s a Swedish film from 1996, which is when our show is set. If you can find a copy, you’ll see what I mean.
Q: Since the show is set in the 90s and contains a lesbian character and a minority, did you do any research to get the stories of the characters right?
A: One of the more enlightening things for us was the day we had a representative from Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) speak to our writer’s room. We needed someone to help us understand how we could be as authentic as possible in the telling of Kate’s story. As for Luke, we really relied on Jahi Di’Allo Winston and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako (who played Luke and his mom, Sherry) to help us make things feel right. They were incredibly influential in how we ended up portraying their relationship.
Q: The show has a lot of kids, can you tell me what the casting process was like?
A: For two months straight all I did was watch audition tapes for two hours a night. Our casting director Amey Rene found amazingly talented kids all around the country, and even outside of the country. Peyton Kennedy, who plays Kate, is from Canada, and hers was actually the very first tape I watched.
Q: From all the characters in “Everything Sucks!,” who is your favorite character and who do you resonate with the most?
A: I love all the characters, and truly, I connect with them all on some level. But if I were hard pressed, I’m probably most like Tyler, or at least, I’m what he would have become if we were able to have more seasons of the show.
Q: What made you choose the exact music and pop culture references throughout the show?
A: Usually, it was driven by story or theme. We tried to make a lot of it feel incidental, and in some cases it was just the right mood. Our music supervisor Tiffany Anders was really good at helping find the right fit for a scene, but a lot was also written into the script, such as “Pink Triangle” and “Ordinary World” and, of course, the “Oasis” tracks.
Q: What does the show represent to you?
A: I’ll let the show speak for itself. But for me personally, it represents one of the greatest summers of my life. We shot it outside of Portland in the summer of 2017, and I felt like I was back in high school. All of our collaborators and the kids and their parents were so incredible. When I think of the show, the first thing I think of is the magical time we had making it with a bunch of very special people.
Q: When creating this show, what did you want your audience to take away from it?
A: We wanted this show to feel like home, like a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. We wanted to communicate to our audience that everyone’s going through their own struggles, some bigger than others, but that it’s all relative. We hoped the show would foster and promote understanding of that observation.
Q: Are you open to the idea of another network picking up this show?
A: I think it’s safe to say the window has closed. It was a beautiful thing, and it was very sad to not get to do another season, but we’ve all moved on. We’ll always have Paris.
Q: What are some tips you would give to students who are interested in creating content?
A: Write from your gut and your heart and get into the mix. Make what you can with what you have, and be kind and thoughtful while you do it. It will be exhausting, but if it is your passion, it will be worth it. Create and submit to notable film festivals and screenwriting contests, and get feedback. Apply to programs, like the Sundance Labs, or others like it. This is a volume business, but quality will rise to the top, so try and manage both while remaining tactful, persistent and patient.
Q: Do you have any words for fans that are disappointed that the show did not get renewed?
A: Banana slug.
Even though the show has officially come to an end, “Everything Sucks!” is still available to stream on Netflix. With 10 heartfelt, yet hilarious episodes, “Everything Sucks!” will continue to live on in the fans’ hearts.