Dreams, everyone has them. Some people have dreams of being a millionaire, and others have dreams of being their own boss. No matter what your dream is; do you have the courage to make it happen? That is the dilemma that faces the characters in the web series “Blue Collar Hustle.”
“Blue Collar Hustle” is a web series that follows the lives of six young African Americans who juggle maintaining their 9 to 5 while trying to make their real dreams come true. Recently, the creator of the series, Alonge Hawes, and his sister Shani Hawes, sat down with us to discuss all the details behind the “Blue Collar Hustle.”
Inspiration is the fuel to a person’s creativity. Alonge explains his inspiration that sparked the creation of the web series “Blue Collar Hustle.”
Alonge: “I was inspired to create ‘Blue Collar Hustle’ because I felt that I did not see a proper betrayal of any black millennials on major television. So instead of just talking about doing it, I decided that I wanted to do it myself. “
“‘Blue Collar Hustle’ follows the story of six (6) millennials living in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Four of whom are the main protagonist. Four young men who come together to try and create their own independent record company. They are doing this while juggling both careers, family, and the reality of being black men in modern day society.”
Making a web series is no easy task. There are several factors that you have to consider if you want your show to be one of the best. Hawes tells us why going the independent route with his series was so important.
Alonge: “Well, going the independent route means that you have creative control to tell the story how you see fit. So, I decided that if it was something that I wanted to chase, I wanted to make sure that I did it as realistic as possible. To do that I had to rely on my own experiences and the experiences around me. I didn’t need to be told by another entity about what was right and what was wrong or how the character should be feeling. I feel that I know how the character should feel because they are based on my actual life and the realities that I’ve made. I didn’t want anybody telling me that you should do this or you should do that. I wanted to make sure that this is how I see the African American experience in modern day society.”
When it comes to a web series casting is crucial. Finding the right person to make your characters come to life is vital. Hawes tells us what he looked for while casting for the series, and why his audience identifies with “Blue Collar Hustle” character, Anthony Lee the most.
Alonge: “Well, being around people who are talented all my life, I feel as if the ‘it factor’ really comes down to can you portray the character properly. What I did was …anyone who starred in the show, in some way shape, form, or fashion, represents that character in real life. When I chose the main characters, they were actually people that I’ve known in real life that I worked with or hung out with. When I knew I wanted to do it, I knew I wanted to have my sister Shani on board. So, I went to her with the concept and the character and asked her if she wanted to be a part of it. She graciously said yes. I wanted to show the viewers the reflection of real life as much as possible by choosing the people who inspired it.”
Who Can Relate?
Alonge: “Based on audience feedback, I would say the character people most relate to is the Anthony Lee character played by Howard Woodburn. He is like the everyman. A lot of the characters have lofty goals and ambitions, and he is always there to represent the down to Earth point of view. The audience really loves this character.”
As with any project you are going to have your fair share of bumps in the road. Hawes explains how he overcame obstacles while creating “Blue Collar Hustle.”
Alonge: “I would say the first trial and tribulation would be financing. No one is going to believe in you unless you can prove that you deserve to be believed in. So, I had to take a lot of the financial responsibilities on myself early on in production. When nobody knew who we were and no one really understood the concept of the show. They were going off of me saying ‘Hey, this is something that we are going to do.’ I had to take it seriously. I had to take money from my savings. Shani graciously participated in that as well. We came together, and we pulled the money that was necessary to get it off the ground to start with before we tried to go to any other entity or ask for financial help. We wanted to prove that it was something near and dear to us, enough to create it ourselves. The first thing that you have to show is a determination in the face of all adversity. Even if money got tight, we had to figure out a way to make it happen and keep the show going on. As we did that, more and more people realized that we were serious about this and they wanted to support us.“
Shani: “ When we had something to show people, we had a lot more people who saw it and really liked the project. They liked the direction it was going in, and they jumped on board. We had a lot of family and friends that helped us out financially as far as by giving what they could. Even if they couldn’t help us out financially, they would talk about the show, share the show, comment, and like. All of that helped. We have had a lot of support in that area, especially this time around with us doing season two.”
Filming for season two has wrapped, and it is set to premiere in the fall of this year. Hawes explains what fans can expect from season 2.
Alonge: “Fans can expect to go deeper into the lives of the character. As far as exploring their backgrounds and knowing what really makes them tick. Also, I feel like the audience can expect to see the journey into the music industry, and everything it takes to make it as an independent artist. At the end of season 1, they actually made their goal of putting out the album. But what happens after that? You don’t just shoot to fame and fortune. It doesn’t work like that? There is a lot of grind that comes with trying to work an independent album.”
Shani: “We really wanted to show that struggle, because you do have a lot of artists that you feel have just popped up out of nowhere. A lot of people will think they just got instant fame, but no they have been working and hustling and doing this for years before they finally got put on. We definitely wanted to show that. Show that no one is an overnight success. That doesn’t happen. Everybody hustles, and everybody grinds. It’s not something that happens overnight. Everybody says, ‘Oh I want to do music.’ Everybody says, ‘Oh, I want to act’ or ‘I want to be an artist,’ but everybody is not going to make it. Everybody doesn’t have that hustle to keep going to realize their dream. People care a lot about the characters, and we see what they say they want in season 1. Season 2 is more of getting deeper into do you really want this? Is this really your dream? Is this really your passion? Are you really going to work for it?”
The Hawes duo explains to our readers who they consider to have influenced their careers, and what advice they would give to someone wanting to follow in their footsteps.
Alonge: “ I would say for me, as a creator and a writer, it’s a combination of Spike Lee and Donald Glover. Spike Lee was really the first artist that I saw as far as acting, directing, producing, and writing his films. I grew up watching ‘Do The Right Thing,’ ‘School Daze,’ ‘Malcolm X,’ and ‘Mo Better Blues’ just admiring the artistry. The bravery that it took to get those stories out, and everything he had to go through to get those stories out. Even after he was successful, he still had to fight. He had passion. He really has a modern day independent way of putting out films. I don’t think he gets the credit that he deserves. As far as Donald Glover, I think he is probably one of the most talented individuals in Hollywood today period. As far as a producer, actor, writer, everything he does you can tell he puts his heart and soul into. Just combining those two visionaries for me is a goal that I set for myself in my work.”
Shani: “Definitely Donald Glover but I’m also super in love with Issa Rae. Everything that she has done. All of the hard work that she has put in, and the fact that she really came from the bottom. Now she has her own show on HBO. That’s amazing! That’s absolutely amazing! She shows black people in a different kind of light. She shows that we don’t always have to be just one thing. That black people are a multitude of things that there is no just one stereotypical way of being black. I really love that! “
Alonge: “The best advice that I have been given was from my father. He told me don’t give up keep going. He said no matter what anybody has to say about it, negative, positive, whatever…if you believe in this, believe in yourself and keep at it. No matter how successful or unsuccessful you are in the beginning, it will all pay off in the end. That is probably the best advice I have gotten from anyone. As far as advice I would give to others, honestly speaking you have to have a passion to the point of obsession. Live it, breathe it, make it a fundamental part of you, because there will be times that you are not going to get that phone call that you were looking for. You’re not going to get that funding that you thought you deserved. You’re not going to get that look that you thought you deserved. It’s just not going to happen. Sometimes you are going to be sitting down looking at a computer until 2 o’clock in the morning working on a script, and you’re going to ask yourself is it worth it. If you don’t believe one hundred percent that it is worth it, then no one else is going to believe in you. So you have to believe in yourself before anything.”
Shani: “ The only thing that I would add as far as advice is that you are going to hear a lot of no. Especially when you first start out. You’re going to hear a lot of no’s; even from your close family and friends. People who you think would be there to support you. I see this meme on the internet all the time. It says if you really want to know who your friends are, start a business. It’s kind of like that. You’re going to hear a lot of no and get a lot of rejection, but you have to keep going. If it is something that you want, and that you are passionate about keep going. Don’t listen to anything anyone else has to say. Keep doing whatever it is you want to do because all you need is one yes. You’re going to get a hundred no’s, but all you’re really going to need is one yes. When you get that one yes, it is going to change everything.”
By Ronda Brooks