Queer writer Jasmine White launches ‘Hotline’ drama series on REVOLT TV
‘Hotline’ writer, producer, and creator, Jasmine White, sits down to discuss overcoming depression, REVOLT TV, and her new show ‘#Stressed’.
Storytelling is no easy feat– as we know. To have a complete story one must find an enticing beginning followed by a gripping middle and then somehow find the perfect way to bring it all together in the end. In any story, or in this case the writers underlying intent is to construct a story never told before.
Jasmine White vocalizes her desire to create content that is racially and gender inclusive while aiming to entertain her audience whether they are Black, Queer, or a mix of both. In her world being entertained, no matter the story, is the best form of mental healing.
With over 10 years of experience in the entertainment industry and a degree in Television, Radio and Film from Syracuse University. White is now an award-winning screenwriter who has shared her knowledge with impressive networks like Lifetime and The A&E Network.
Recently, White received the Creatives Rebuild New York (CRNY) grant that awarded her a stipend to write her newest series, #Stressed. The series will air on BronxNet, a public access cable network in the Bronx, NY.
Before receiving the CRNY grant, White and her village raised over $15,000 to support her first series ‘Hotline’. Indya Moore from FX’s ‘POSE’ ended up being one of the biggest donors to fund the production of her show ‘Hotline’ which helped sweeten the pot. The series stars Ianne Fields Stewart, Aaron Donahue, and Morticia Godiva. The drama series follows Hazel Clarke, a New York based attorney who finds herself overly involved at a suicide hotline and seemingly becomes a murder suspect after a series of unfortunate events.
With many shows to pitch and networks to seize, White is looking to tell stories that don’t fit that average Joe label. White is manifesting stories that she hopes influences viewers to see themselves in a world that refuses to acknowledge them.
Devon Townsend: I want to start off with getting a better understanding of a particular post that you shared with your Instagram followers during the COVID-19 pandemic. You expressed your hesitance about being a screenwriter and didn’t see yourself going down that path anymore. What made you hit that brink?
Jasmine White:Well, first of all, none of us had experienced a pandemic and I think being in that place of isolation and depression– I had been used to the hustle and bustle of being in the city everyday and being surrounded by other artists and being constantly fueled by other people. Then, all of a sudden, it was all on me to fuel myself. Nobody was checking on me. Nobody was pushing me to get the work done. I had to revisit why I fell in love with writing and what it did for me. One of the ways I journeyed back to screenwriting was actually through journaling and it made me fall back in love with writing and the written word and the release of it all. I then remembered “Oh my God!” there is a community of people waiting on me to release ‘Hotline’. There are a community of people waiting for me to express whatever God put on my heart and my mission and I’m here to follow through on it.
DT:That is what became evident and I feel like you know your purpose with your writing and the stories you are trying to tell with inclusivity and trying to have LGBTQ+ communities involved. How long were you sitting on the concept of ‘Hotline’? Was it something that came to you? How did it form in your mind?
JW:In my senior year in college back in 2015 that was when I started first talking about ‘Hotline’. I’ve always been interested in mental health, I think particularly because in black communities we don’t talk about mental health. I’ve been queer for a long ass time. I was making friends with trans people and nonbinary people and we never see, particularly black trans women in media. And if we do its about their suffering or their transition. But, I’m like, my friends want to laugh, they want something escapist and they want to see themselves as the hero. I think I even heard about Ava Gray who is a trans actress who wanted to play a character where she gets to be pregnant and I’m thinking like, why not? It’s acting, it’s pretend, it’s fun–who cares? In wanting to see that change and that representation in media I realized that I had to be the one to do it.
DT:Two minutes into watching ‘Hotline’ and it already has a Insecure-ish nuance about it just by it’s comedic spots during the duration of the show. Which makes sense because I read that Issa Rae is one of your inspirations. How are you navigating with having these people on your shoulders as your inspiration but also staying true to what is Jasmine White?
JW: I’m really grateful for Issa Rae because I recognize she created a lane that really didn’t exist so it makes the path a little bit easier for me and other content creators. But to backtrack after I graduated school I started working at Lifetime. While there I was [networking] with some of the executives and eventually one of the ladies there said, “Girl, why do you keep coming into my office?” and after expressing that I want to write for TV and learn how to do that. She told me I had to “Issa Rae” my way into the game and at that point I had $10,000 and in my mind I thought that I needed to move to [Los Angeles]. I thought if I moved to L.A. that it would solve everything. I weighed my options with moving to L.A. vs. $10K in New York and from there I had to take a chance on myself in New York with the connections that I had in hopes that it would turn into something more– produce “Hotline”, produce the series and start my work.
jasmine white, writer #stressed
DT: Congratulations on your $1.8M CRNY Grant which allows you to bring original content to BronxNet and with that being said what do you look to bring there? It’s not like you don’t have the material being that you have all of these journals that reflect your ideas.
JW: I finished the pilot of a series I’m working on called ‘#Stressed’, that’s what I’m looking to bring to BronxNet. [#Stressed] is about a dark-skin, plus-sized social media influencer who is being blackmailed from one of her followers, when they discover that she is scamming her followers. The series will touch on mental health and imposter syndrome. Some of the things I want to cover is that this character is sexy, I want her to have friends, I want her to be happy. She’s not a “woe is me” fat girl but she’s still dealing with her mental health and just trying to get her mind right because she’s the strong girl. I’m still gonna have her be the funny friend because I think when you’re dealing with mental health and talking to a black audience, I feel like we’re always laughing at our trauma. For better or for worse that’s how a lot of black people deal with trauma–we have to laugh to keep from crying. With this series, I really want to put the medicine in the candy because I think entertainment can be healing. I hope that when people watch ‘#Stressed’ that they feel #seen.
DT: You have inked a licensing deal with REVOLT TV for ‘Hotline’! That’s catastrophic! How does it feel?
JW:It was like GOD! I HEAR YOU. Yasss! (laughs). The fun thing about that was I actually applied to do a different competition for HBCU students. I applied even though I was not a student but I’m going to apply because I’m applying for everything. I’m trying to win. They, of course, denied me because I’m not a student. But, they came back and were like this wasn’t right for this program but we definitely want to be in partnership with ‘Hotline.’ So they sent a licensing agreement and we’ll be on air June 2023. It’ll be digital, linear, anywhere that REVOLT TV has access, ‘Hotline’ will be available and so I’m excited.As well as two Queer Festivals ‘Hotline’ is being considered for: OutFest Fusion LA and the Toronto Film Festival on February 10th and I’m hopeful for those as well.
DT: What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want YOUR story to tell?
JW:I would love to be known as the healing filmmaker. I feel like it would be life changing for me or I would feel I did a good job if someone says this thing saved my life or it touched me in someway. If I did that for one person I think I would feel like job well done.
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