Over the last few years, Natasha Negovanlis and Annie Briggs have become near and dear to the LGBTQ fandom for their roles in the smash hit webseries/movie, Carmilla. The two castmates and dear friends have now teamed up to bring viewers a new comedy series (with it’s share of tender and hard hitting dramatic scenes) about two best friends, Claire and Ruby, who create a fake psychic website to try to drum up rent money. When Claire discovers she might actually be a powerful psychic, it makes a complicated scenario even more challenging, and hilarious. Natasha and Annie not only star in the series, but they are co-creators and writers as well along with Jason Packer. Bella Books sat down with Natasha and Annie to get more of their insights into the series and what it has been like creating something together.
Bella Books: You guys made a web series baby together, and now your baby is out there in the world. What has it been like for you for the past few days, watching all these responses roll in and seeing your creative work out there?
Natasha Negovanlis: It’s been wild!
Annie Briggs: I’ve only shat my pants a few times.
Natasha: Oh, that’s a good sign.
Annie: Like Natasha said, it’s been totally wild. These things are always a combination of great excitement and relief and nervousness—the whole bit.
Natasha: Because we had a pre-existing audience, we knew that we would have some viewership. We were very fortunate that we were going into this with an audience already, but what’s been really exciting to see is that there are a number of people in a different demographic who have been responding so positively to it. And it’s been really cool to have friends reach out to us personally, and to see how people are relating to it as well. Well, I keep joking that we wrote an absurdist show, and we keep marketing it as an absurdist comedy. But it’s quite funny to see people comment things like, “This scene was too real.”
Bella Books: How did the idea for CLAIREvoyant start in the first place, and how did you know – or did you – that the two of you would work so well together as creators?
Annie: Too much wine, Dana. No, no!
Natasha: Annie, don’t say these things.
Annie: Natasha, you talk to the seedlings of this.
Natasha: The creation of CLAIREvoyant was sort of a number of different things. The biggest thing was obviously our mutual fascination for psychics, the occult, and our interest in things like divination and tarot. Years ago, before I had ever met Annie, I had a character that I created, Vivienne, who we ended up using for the psychic. [It really began] just one day with an old roommate because I was down in the dumps. I had just been dumped and fired for my barista job. The only way I knew how to deal with that was to put on every piece of jewelry I owned and sit in my bathtub and call a psychic and make these little videos. But that was a very early, early seedling. And then one day Annie and I were hanging out and just chatting about different things, and I was talking about how I went to a nail salon. I was like, “It’s so interesting. What does she do outside of her work? What is her life like? Who are these people like?” We were just talking about it, and being a couple of silly gals that we are, we came up with these silly characters and we spent the rest of the evening as these characters. The next day Annie texted me and she was like, “I think we might be onto something.”
Annie: In terms of the development of the project, we spent quite a few years in development on this. I would say the process was organic in many aspects. The characters we created came out of ourselves, exaggerated aspects of ourselves and other people that we’ve known and lived with. Also, in terms of working together, I feel very fortunate that Natasha and I mind-melded a lot on this project. So, we were really on the same page for a lot of the creative decisions, which was great. It made working together very intuitive and incredibly collaborative. On the flip side of that, we spent a couple years working together on this. It’s not all roses all the time. There were certainly times that were tricky for us when we weren’t seeing eye to eye. That’s just part of the creative process. You don’t know really what you’re getting yourself into when you start out with these things. But I’m still so grateful that on the whole this thing just flew out of us in a really beautiful, collaborative way.
Natasha: Yeah, and I think in areas where we didn’t necessarily see eye to eye, our skillsets really complemented one another, and we had a lot of trust in each other’s abilities to take on certain areas. I think we just really complemented each other. It was also really nice to just become better friends and strengthen our bond as friends throughout this creative process because a lot of the times that we would meet up it was to work on this show and it really helped us get to know each other better. When we worked on Carmilla, our characters as Carmilla and Perry didn’t really interact with each other that much. We went for the entire first season not really knowing each other. We met on set, but we didn’t get to work together. It was really through different fan events and cast events that we bonded and found out that we had so much in common. I think it was the very first time we hung out alone, one on one, that we came up with the idea for the show, which I just realized in hindsight. It’s so funny!
Annie: That’s really true. It was the first time that we just had a solo date.
Bella Books: Well, it’s so evident that the two of you are so simpatico in this. In every scene the two of you have such…it’s like, I don’t want to say machine because that makes it sound like it’s stiff, but you’re such a well-oiled machine together.
Annie: That’s great to hear. From an acting standpoint, it was an interesting experience coming in to play these roles. We didn’t, as you often do, we didn’t receive the scripts two weeks before filming or ten days before filming. We’ve been sitting with these characters for a couple years. So, by the time we rolled around onto set and actually got to play off each other they were integrated into us in a completely different kind of way.
Natasha: Yeah, in a way, we had almost been playing these characters when we would just hang out sometimes. Like we would morph into them. So, I think we really knew our characters, and we had that benefit as well. It was interesting though. I think we did discover a lot about each other on set just doing comedy, you know, learning how to work. Because we actually have quite different acting methods, I would say. I don’t know if you would say that, but we kind of do.
Annie: Oh, no. For sure.
Natasha: And learning how to balance that. But it still really translated so well because we have so much love and respect for each other. I’m glad that people find it funny.
Bella Books: I love a good, awkward queer. And, Natasha, Claire is gifted with an abundance of awkwardness. And you were talking about how people say, “Oh, man, I relate to that.” That is the thing I have heard more than anything. So many people really relate to Claire’s awkwardness around women. After playing somebody for so long who’s so steady and confident, what was it like to go in the complete opposite direction – so different from Carmilla? It seems like you’re having a blast.
Natasha: Oh, I’m having so much fun. People often ask, for both of us actually, if these characters are outside of our comfort zones. We have to say no. As actors you get cast as a number of characters; it’s our job to play different characters. My typecasting is very much a Carmilla type, but Claire is so much closer to me in real life. It’s funny because when we wrote these characters we wanted to create women that people could relate to, but I didn’t set out thinking that those moments would be the relatable moments. I didn’t think, like, “I’m going to write this really relatable character.” I thought that I’m a weirdo and now I’m just going to write this weirdo character. I just kind of put it out into the universe, so it means a lot when people say they relate to it.
For so long I’ve been really oversexualized in my roles, which I don’t mind. When I auditioned for Carmilla, people said, “Natasha could have chemistry with a rock.” That’s something I really leaned into for a large part of my twenties. In reality, I had a really awkward, hard time dating women, in particular. Men were easy. Men I knew how to figure out. I started dating men when I was super young, and I kind of knew how it all worked. But because there was almost something greater at stake for me, with women, I just had zero game.
Annie: I really loved finishing every day on set and pulling Nat aside and just beaming because I really think she totally shines in this role.
Natasha: I think that you shine in this role!
Bella Books: I was going to say that you both shine.
Annie: It was a real joy to see her play this character, and the whole time I was just grinning to myself being like, “Yep, yep. This is the good stuff.”
Natasha: I’m so shocked by that.
Bella Books: I’ve been seeing a lot of young Canadian actors, particularly those that are queer or queer allies, making their own art. What do you think that is, and is that something that’s just really embraced in Canada?
Annie: My hunch, or my initial reaction to that, would be that we have a great industry here in Canada, but it’s not the same as in the States.
Natasha: Yeah, yeah.
Annie: There’s sometimes a sense on our side of things that there’s not the kind of agency or heat oftentimes here. So, I think as an actor, especially when so much of your career, and the trajectory of how things are played out, is in the hands of other people, you can get bored very quickly. I just see a lot of people in Canada deciding to take matters into their own hands if other people aren’t going to be doing it around them. That’s how I feel personally.
Natasha: Yeah, I think Annie said it so beautifully. Echoing what she said, I’m obviously such a supporter of the Canadian industry, but it is very different and there is a lack of roles and work. Canadians are less likely to take a chance on a new face. There’s also just less money here, so I think people are, as Annie said, taking matters into their own hands and creating the content they want to create. On the flip side, I do know that Canada provides a lot more government and financial support for digital than in the States. And I do know that there are a lot of grants and small independent production funds and opportunities. So, we’re really lucky in Canada in that regard. Because our film and TV industries are not quite as strong as America’s, I think the digital side has really seen that and ran with it.
Annie: And as new creators and people starting out on the other side of the camera in development, it feels like a more accessible way to cut your teeth.
Natasha: That being said, I think it’s important to note that we’re really grateful for the opportunity that the IPF provided for us as well. They’re such a great production fund for new creators and we wouldn’t be able to make the show without them.
Annie: Hear, hear!
Bella Books: Tell us a little bit more about Nico and Xavier. We haven’t seen a lot of them yet, but from what we have seen they are as charming as all get out.
Annie: You will see more of them, Dana. You will!
Bella Books: I had a feeling we would.
Natasha: What can we say?
Bella Books: Or, you know what, you can talk about the actors, Sabryn Rock and Jsin Sasha. That would be great, too. They are also as charming as all get out.
Annie: They certainly are. And I will say that both Sabryn and Jsin just rose to the occasion so beautifully. Shooting in digital is a super expedited schedule, and there’s a lot of material to cover. Again, we’re working in comedy with coverage. We were going really fast. It can be difficult for people if they haven’t worked in that way before, but they were fantastic to work with—so giving and funny.
Natasha: They were so lovely, and without giving away too much, we do put them in some pretty ridiculous scenarios. So, they were real troopers. Real good sports. What’s exciting also is seeing how people are pleased with the way we cast. But when we auditioned them, they were truly the best people for the roles. What can we say about them though? I’d say Xavier is a very sensitive, poetic, artistic soul, and Nico is a really no bullshit kind of gal.
Bella Books: There are so many killer lines in the series. I was laughing so hard. I’m still dying over the Mary Floppins part. Do each of you have a favorite line or favorite little scene you wrote?
Natasha: Actually, the scene where we do talk about our vaginas is one of my favorite scenes because it’s such a real moment. You have the characters close together. You have them bonding, and they’re just having this very matter-of-fact conversation. And when you actually look at the text, they’re saying some pretty ridiculous things. That’s also one of my favorite scenes because there are lines in that scene that all three writers wrote. It was such a collaborative scene.
Bella Books: Alright, I’ve got one more question for you. Natasha, what is something you admire about Annie? And, Annie, same question for you.
Both: Oh my godddd. What? Oh no.
Annie: Well, I could wax on…
Natasha: …About me…
Annie: About this lady’s complexity as a human being in myriad of wonderful virtues, but one of the first things that comes to mind, which I continually feel so fortunate to experience from Natasha and saw so much during the creative process in shooting this series, is that Natasha is such a huge champion and supporter of women in the industry. She really does a lot for other ladies, throwing support and shedding light on their other work. This can be a really cutthroat business, where there’s this horrible mentality of scarcity floating around. Natasha does her best and damnedest to combat that. It’s really beautiful to see, and it’s really inspiring.
Natasha: Oh my god! That’s really nice. Well, how do I follow that? I think one of my favorite things about Annie is how open-minded she is and how non-judgmental she is. Like, I sometimes have the tendency to be a little hot tempered. Wisdom just oozes out of you all the time, and you just have such a sense of maturity.
Annie: You know, in university my roommates used to call me Grandmother Willow. And, I was, like, 19 at the time.
Natasha: Absolutely, though! I think your ability to be calm and patient and grounded and rational during situations is so inspiring and really helpful when you’re working with someone as a co-creator but then also as a friend. You always give sage advice, but you’re never judgmental when you’re giving it, and that’s what I really like.