“This industry is filled with nepotism, and it’s filled with writing that isn’t inclusive to begin with. … we wanted a voice from all walks of life,” Ava Maria Safai, an acting UBC BFA graduate, said in an interview with The Ubyssian about his new show, I killed Maddie Forbes .
Safai is the lead actor, director, showrunner, head writer, executive producer, songwriter and casting director of his passion project – the TV show I killed Maddie Forbes, which will be released in January 2023.
The show is a dark comedy set in a high school in 1999 that chronicles the chronological order of events leading up to the death of fictional “it girl” Maddie Forbes.
Safai, who has been writing since she was 10 and grew up on shows like A tree hill and Pretty little Liars, always wanted to do a teen drama.
Beyond your typical drama, Safai has prioritized cast and concept diversity in I killed Maddie Forbes. To aim for authentic portrayal, she tried an unconventional tactic: most actors wrote their own roles.
“I always test writers who act,” said Safai, who had every audition to kick off the casting. a character they wanted to play. She said it allowed them to more authentically portray their characters and build a more natural chemistry.
She credits her co-writer and the series’ second lead, Syd Castle, as behind most of the humor in the script.
Safai compared her own character Maddie to the mean girl archetype Regina George and pointed out that unlike the one-dimensional Middle Eastern characters she is used to seeing on screen, Maddie is layered and her portrayal goes beyond mere token representation.
While Safai likes to don different hats on set, she finds the role of producer — calling the shots on set — the most challenging, in part because of the gender roles that often infiltrate workplace culture.
“My biggest challenge was realizing how undervalued women in film are,” Safai said. She expressed how much easier it is for men to be taken seriously in the entertainment industry and how difficult it is for women to avoid the labels of being ‘spirited’ or ‘mean’. to do the same job. Yet, over time and conversation, she became the leader and her crew came to respect her and her authority on set.
I killed Maddie Forbes is produced by the Harlequin Theater Society, a non-profit production company that Safai started with his partner in 2020. While they were initially a theater company, they branched out into film and now television during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seven-episode series, shot in a month, is funded by the cast’s friends and family, grants from the North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission (NDRC) and Safai and those of Harlequin. The whole team (Safai included) gave their time for the show, without remuneration.
While many would find it overwhelming to take on the amount of responsibility Safai has, she loves the creative control her various roles have given her. “It’s overwhelming if you don’t have the right team around you. You need the right support,” she said.
Part of Who Killed Maddie Forbes was filmed in the offices of Ubyssey. The Ubyssey received no financial compensation, and the cast of the TV show had no involvement in the pitching, writing, or editing of this article.