We chatted with Dan Perlman co-creator and executive producer of the comedy Flatbush Misdemeanors. He divulged his thoughts on the character arcs that drive forward the plots this season, the show’s world-building and more.
Showtime’s Flatbush Misdemeanors is one of the funniest shows on television. Beyond it serving as comedic relief during the ongoing pandemic, it offers a realistic perspective of the Brooklyn neighborhood it’s named after. What also makes the show work are the fleshed-out characters who are sometimes awkward but always themselves.
Co-created by Dan Perlman and Kevin Iso, the comedy which was initially a web series centers around both of these characters figuring their lives out on the screen. Last season Dan (played by Perlman), a teacher is allowing Kevin (Iso) to sleep on his couch as he grapples with trying to make it as a broke painter. By happenstance, their lives become intertwined with a drug dealer Drew (Hassan Johnson). From there, a series of unfortunate events happen and viewers become privy to their world, Flatbush.
In season two which premiered in June, the best friends are still dealing with some of the issues they previously faced – Dan is still coping with being addicted to prescription drugs, while Kevin is still trying to make it as a creative. The dynamic between the two friends is tested as they don’t quite see eye to eye about Dan’s choices he makes at the beginning of the season to keep his job. Additionally, Kevin is transforming from a struggling artist since he is now a part of a prestigious art fellowship program in Manhattan. Zayna (Kristin Dodson) and Drew also return with their own problems. The dialogue this season is still filled with jokes, but there’s something serious in the air too.
Before season two wraps this weekend we spoke with Dan Perlman about Flatbush Misdemeanors, themes, the show’s world-building, characters, and more.
What were you not seeing on TV that encouraged you to create Flatbush Misdemeanors?
Dan Perlman: We definitely wanted to make something that felt grounded and lived in. I think something that was appealing to both of us [was that] we never wanted to just be Dan and Kevin and then everyone else is just kind of plot devices around us. We wanted all of the characters to feel three-dimensional and that you could kind of, that every character, the idea that every time you saw a character, you might learn something new about them.
Nobody [is] just there to exist purely for their relation to us, but they’re all characters with their own wants and needs. And the idea that there are characters that don’t even think about our characters that much, like Drew and Zayna have their own concerns and we bump them into each other, but they’re doing their own thing. So that was something that was really appealing to us, was to make a show about a community and about a neighborhood and to feel like you’re getting this kind of almost panoramic sense of an environment.
How do you accomplish the world-building in the show? It’s excellent.
On the crew, in front of and behind the camera, we had many people who were born and raised in Brooklyn who can give it that kind of real, sort of lived experience. I think we’ve really lucked out and we’ve surrounded ourselves with incredibly talented people and at least for me, it’s always [about] trusting the people around me to know the stuff that I don’t know. There’s no way I could know the live experience of a character like Zayna. So you just have to listen to the people who are here making the thing. So I feel really proud of that. I think everyone’s just kind of killed it.
Do you feel that there are lessons from season one that you brought with you to season two?
We were writing the first season with some of the cast in our heads. We knew Kareem [Green] was going to play Kareem. We knew the comedians we were going to slot in, we were writing the character of Drew without knowing it was going to be Hassan. And we were writing Zayna without knowing it was going to be Kristin. So even just knowing the voice of the characters and what they’re going to bring performance-wise, really helps with that aspect as well.
Can you break down Kevin’s direction this season?
I mean, we want to give the characters a chance to grow. And so I think there were a couple [of] things with that arc. It’s like, I mean, we had talked about from the beginning, the idea of Kevin trying to make himself, of Kevin the character trying to become successful. Success as an artist in, and especially as a Black artist in spaces that are generally white spaces. So it’s looking at that, as how Kevin sort of navigates that and then what that success even looks like.
Are we supposed to feel empathetic for Drew this season?
I think it’s kind of like what I was just saying about Kevin being more in the survival mode to now having a chance to showcase his talents and hone his abilities or whatever. For Drew, it’s kind of gone the other way where it’s like, he is a little more on top in the first season, and then this one he’s fighting a lot of different battles because he has so much at stake. He has his family and he has all these people he’s supposed to sort of, or has to provide for. But like all the characters, has a bit of a hole that he needs to dig out of. But I think with Drew it’s like, you have empathy for him.
I also have to mention how hilarious Kareem is. How did you create this character?
I adore Kareem, the character and the actor. So he’s played by Kareem Green who is a very, very funny comedian from Brooklyn and he’s been doing standup for years and that’s how we know him, from a standup scene. So when we made the web series, we had him play my stepdad just because it just felt like, I just like interacting with him. So it would just be fun to have that scene with him.
He really is invested in being a father figure to this adult man, but [is] fully directionless. So, that felt fun. And also to give a character like him who’s, he’s not in any kind of the drug world. He’s not in any kind of thing. His life is stable. He’s in a stable marriage that makes him really happy. He’s a small business owner. He’s got his life figured out. It’s only his weirdness, his eccentricities, but he’s having a good time. And so that’s such a fun character to write because like you said, a lot of the other characters are going through a lot of difficult shit, but it’s fun to have somebody in Kareem who’s just like, I’m good,
Thematically, what was the direction you were aiming for in season two? I feel like everyone is kind of evolving and they’re trying to be the best version of themselves with what they have.
Sometimes you might start with ideas for themes, but then ultimately it always feels kind of reverse engineered. But I do think yeah, to your point, the show it’s like jokes are funny because of the characters. You care about the characters and you live with them. So the more we’re focusing on them and those characters trying to grow, then we get better jokes out of it and then we get more interesting kinds of journeys for all of them. I think it’s always kind of thinking about what do the characters want? What is their intention? But then also what do they need to have [to] happen for their growth? Because sometimes, for us a lot of time, it’s not necessarily what we dream of doing, but what we need to have [to] happen for us to grow as people that is the more important shit.