Reviews & Dunn - First and foremost congrats on your pilot Looking For Me. What was the inspiration behind the pilot?
Asha Flowers - I thought it could be funny to write about someone who is expected to have it ‘all together’ but does not. The main character in this pilot, Lisa, is a woman who essentially wants to help, even when she’s not feeling her best. A great writer who mentored me for a while during the pandemic suggested that when I write, I should find something in my characters that I can relate to. I relate to both characters in the pilot. One who walks through life pretending; puts on a good face despite hardship. Lisa tries to pour from an empty cup, which of course creates all sorts of problems. Lisa’s client, Cynthia, is someone who people-pleases to keep the peace. Someone who so desires to be accepted, and so fears being rejected, that she finds herself saying “yes” to things she does not want. I also very much wanted to write a piece about what happens when a people-pleaser takes the first step in finally saying “no”.
Reviews & Dunn - You received your Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies from Loyola Marymount. How did you end up working in the film industry?
Asha Flowers - I actually started in the film production major. Many if not most of the other students in my classes were upper-class, white, and well connected. They came with their own equipment and job prospects already lined up. It was difficult to make friends and find people who wanted to work with me. I had no experience, no equipment, and I guess seemingly nothing to offer.
Not fitting in is what drove me to seek another major. Looking back I sometimes wonder if I should have toughed it out, but at the time I just wanted to feel good in my classes. I had been taking Women’s Studies courses since my Freshman year as a required cultural studies elective, and I enjoyed and looked forward to every single class. I wasn’t thinking about what I would do with the degree when I graduated, only how I felt. I loved my instructors, I loved my classmates, the material was challenging but I loved that too. I felt accepted and I was learning about things that had always interested me. There was an emphasis on gender studies of course, but also on culture, social justice, history, media, and sociology.
Someone had told me that I didn’t have to go to film school to be a filmmaker, so I decided to major in women’s studies and minor in screenwriting and film studies.
When I graduated, without a job lined up, I was encouraged to reach out to LMU film school alumni. The first person I reached out to was producer, Effie Brown, who not only responded, but invited me to interview for a position as an office PA on an HBO film she was producing called the Leisure Class. This was my first job in the industry and it showed me that like Effie, I could one day create the type of environment I wanted to work in. One that was diverse and included some of the most talented and hardworking folks in the industry. Many of them women and people of color, leading and creating opportunities for people like me to come behind them. It is the most inspiring project I’ve been on so far.
Reviews & Dunn - What was your experience working on Family Guy?
Asha Flowers - Family Guy was the first television show I worked on. I was hired as a production assistant and although it was undoubtedly the hardest job I’d had, it also taught me the most. I saw there a bit of what I had seen at LMU. For almost a year after I’d been working there, people were still asking me how I got in. “Where did you come from?” they asked. I got that a lot. Only after working there for some time, did I realize why. The people who got jobs like mine were the kids I’d met in film school, and it was that way all the way up the ladder. This time, I didn’t run. I toughed it out. I tried to prove my worth, which did not work. I had still not learned how to operate in, and how to exit, spaces where I was undervalued.
I did however form some great relationships. One of the artists I met at Family Guy co-stars in the Looking for Me pilot, Kristina Bustamante. Despite the writers room being all white males, many of them agreed to read my work, give me notes. While I was there, one writer mentored me, and when I left so did another. The artists and the editors took me under their wings and welcomed me into their offices. Family Guy inspired me to try my hand at comedic writing, and come to find out, I loved it. Working on the show was challenging, but it helped me to figure out what I wanted to do, which was write and direct comedy. I was supported by many, to go ahead and do it, and the biggest lesson I learned was that I need not wait for anyone’s approval.
Reviews & Dunn - You also had a chance to work on Snowfall. During your time there, did you ever have a chance to meet the late great John Singleton?
Asha Flowers - Yes and no. Mr. Singleton passed away my very first day in the office. I did meet him though. I was good friends with his daughter, whom I went to school with at LMU. The late ‘great’ John Singleton is right. He had such expansive vision, and he is one of my favorite writer/directors. I admired the way that he spoke as if anything was possible. How he grounded himself in his community. Made room for others who look like us. Told our stories honestly. You could feel in his work the way that he loved us. These are the things I remember about him.
Reviews & Dunn - Ava DuVernay reaches out to you and wants to expand your first short ‘Til Death’ until a full length film. She gives you full say in the casting, who would you cast as Curtis and Denise?
Asha Flowers - Initially when I wrote the short, I was in love with the idea of a Baby Boy reunion. Taraji and Tyrese opposite each other is one of my favorite casting choices ever, and the idea of them coming back together in this context had me salivating. I’m also a big Jamie Foxx fan, so he was at the top of my list as well. The two actors casted by Leah Daniels Butler, Tamala Jones and Sherman Augustus, were ultimately I think the best possible choices for these roles. They both embodied the characters in ways that felt so natural and so right. This is when I really learned that the actor is an artist just as I am an artist. The moment they stepped on set, they were Curtis and Denise, brought to life. Characters I thought I knew, but with their talents, really became whole and full characters who I could feel and truly experience.
Reviews & Dunn - What do you hope that viewers take away from Looking For Me?
Asha Flowers - I hope viewers understand the messages behind the comedy. I wanted to convey the high price of pretending to be someone other than who you are, and what can happen when you drop the mask.
Reviews & Dunn - Have you already mapped out a season long arc for Looking For Me ?
Asha Flowers - I have! During the pandemic, I got together with some good friends (Junita Middleton, Marisol Rimero, and Patrick Pierre) and started a writers room. Together, the four of us wrote 9 episodes, a full season of this short series. In the series we see Lisa struggle to understand that she is harbouring her own pain, which is hurting her work. When she is able to come to terms with this, her business finally begins to grow. Our secondary character, Cynthia, eventually learns to stand in her truth, and that includes coming to terms with her sexuality.
Reviews & Dunn - Is there anything you would like to add and where can fans find you on social media?
Asha Flowers - I would like to thank you for highlighting my film. I hope it speaks to people and shows how, inevitably, pain comes through the cracks of a mask, of a facade. No matter how hard one tries to hide or push through it. During the pandemic I have tried to cut down on my social media use. I find that it’s helped to keep me calmer. On the rare occasion I do post, I do it at @allherfavorties on Instagram.