Every generation has a unique way of discerning the differences among people. Religion, race, place of origin, these are met with a reaction which is largely reflective of the era one lives in as well as their own background. When these differences are spoken openly without thought, it can be…uncomfortable and yes…even humorous. When Norman Lear created “All in the Family” he had every intention of pointing out the ignorance and social foibles of Archie Bunker, regardless of the fact that they were often not intended with malice. The Ryan Turner Productions series “Fresh Off the Plane” has a similar thread but with a very modern approach. An ensemble cast portrays people from various locations around the planet who live together in Los Angeles. In a very timely discussion, we see the misconceptions and presumptions that all people share about each other. It’s ironic that one of the things that we all have in common is our natural tendency to stereotype each other. There is no harsh intent on the part of this production as even the most volatile moments are delivered with wit and levity. As Brianna, the former child star, Alexandra Harris delivers many laughs and must be commended for being the cast member who takes the biggest poke at herself as a professional actress.
Harris knows a bit about being someone from a different land. A Canadian currently residing in Los Angeles, she also had a very successful film career in the UK (starring in lauded films like Missed Connections and The Last Man) before attaining notoriety in Hollywood. With parents from Argentina and the UK, global sensibilities are part of her DNA. She credits her decision to pursue acting as something that results in continual change and growth in all aspects of her life. While having portrayed numerous dramatic characters, her affinity for comedy is evident in roles such as Brianna in “Fresh Off the Plane.” The series uses comedy to examine the cultural differences of co-inhabitants of an apartment in Los Angeles. The current worldwide discussion of immigration lends even greater relevance to this subject matter. “Fresh Off the Plane” refuses to deliver this dialogue with a serious tone. The production is based around five main characters: Brianna (a former child actress from Canada), Jake (an American wannabe actor), Nikolai (a couch surfing rapper from Russia), Caleb (a romance novelist from Australia), and
Lillian from the UK.
Brianna (played by Harris) hasn't worked as an actor since she was a toddler but has moved to LA to pursue her dream. The core of this character is a grown woman who is fighting reality. While she’s extremely optimistic, she’s also about to crack. One might describe Brianna as the type of person who continually causes you to question if you find her endearing or off putting, often with moments of both. The character is a perfect vehicle to portray the misconceptions we have about ourselves and others. In one scene, Brianna attempts to get to know her neighbor (Larry) better, and invites him in for Kool-Aid. Larry is unsure if she’s being racist in assuming that because he’s black he would like Kool-Aid or if it was just coincidence that she chose that drink to make to welcome him. Alexandra and the cast are particularly adept at concealing the motivations of their characters which makes the storylines uncomfortable…and highly amusing. For example, Nikolai’s (the Russian) is trying his best to assimilate to American culture but his English isn’t great and his accent is strong. He explains his love of rap to Larry, but his accent makes it sound like he’s saying he loves to “rape.” These different scenarios of people trying to reach out and connect with each other while being incredibly awkward that are the heart of “Fresh Off the Plane.” You will likely wince and laugh embarrassingly loud when viewing “Fresh Off the Plane” as you discover there is a little bit of The Office’s Michael Scott in all of us.
Describing her role, Harris notes, “With Brianna, it was so important to keep her positive. As a comedian, I like to give my characters a bit of a bite and I was tempted to do that with Brianna. However, it really didn’t work because she really was just a positive, nice person in this very strange world. Everyone else was quite serious and the comedy came from her trying to stay positive when being faced with that. If she responded too negatively to their rebuffs, it stopped being funny, because it meant they won. The goal was, and the humor came from, how much can we could shut her down and still have her smiling.”
Director/Producer of “Fresh off The Plane”, Ryan Turner, communicates, “In comedy, timing is everything, and that just comes naturally to Alexandra. It was so fun to make this series with her, and that’s not something that you can say about every working situation.” Sasha Feldman (Nikolai, whose credits include “Ray Donavan”, “Hawaii Five-O” and Angelo on “Sun Records”) declares, “Alexandra was so professional and really set the tone. I remember learning a lot from her and she became a good friend, which is what you always hope will happen on a shoot”
“Fresh Off the Plane” is a part of the new template for delivering productions to the public via streaming format rather than typical networks. The huge accolades and critical acclaim of these types of productions has seen an immense increase as they offer both the artist and the viewer greater freedom and a less homogenized approach. Harris confirms that as an artist this is a characteristic which is highly appealing to herself and many of her peers. She remarks, “A streaming format allows you to really play with the rules of storytelling in a different way. You can format a show so that it’s like a longer movie. It doesn’t have to stick to a regular sitcom format largely because viewers are able to watch episodes back to back. Of course, episodes still need structure and an arch but writers can be much more experimental and given a chance to really invest in character development.” When you feel ready to laugh at yourself and everyone else in the world, take the time to check out “Fresh Off the Plane.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AceQrqxFuuA