What really defines love? Is it merely a shared feeling between two people, or is it something that’s more transcendent than it appears to be on its surface? Two young women – Maggie (a.k.a. Magic, played by Julia Eringer), and Jamie (Shantell Yasmine Abeydeera) – attempt to find out in the 8 episode comedy series GIRLS LIKE MAGIC.
Currently streaming as a feature-length movie on Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu and Fandango Now, GIRLS LIKE MAGIC is created and written by Eringer, and is directed by EASTSIDERS co-star Kit Williamson (who also guest stars in the series as a veterinarian).
Having moved to the United States with her boyfriend, fast-rising Hollywood screenwriter Jacob (Dominic Adams, SIX, DEVIOUS MAIDS), Magic struggles to adjust to the unfamiliar setting of Los Angeles. Although Jacob goes out of his way to provide for his beau, Magic gradually finds herself boxed in by his controlling manner, and by his reluctance to let her find her own way in life.
However, Magic soon finds a new friend – and potential romance – in next door neighbor/aspiring singer Jamie. While her conservative mother and father are unaware of her sexuality, Jamie tries to recover from a disastrous breakup with her often cruel ex-girlfriend/constant drama queen Casey (Brea Grant, EASTSIDERS).
Once Jamie takes Magic under her wing, their bond grows into something much deeper than friendship. As they embrace their growing love for each other, Jamie helps Magic to become the woman that she always could be. When Jamie’s parents and Magic’s would-be fiancé suddenly discover why Jamie and Magic spend so much time together, they all must come to terms with the consequences of that new relationship.
Like her character in GIRLS LIKE MAGIC, Eringer herself initially experienced the growing pains of being a newcomer to the entertainment capitol of the world. That was, until one fateful night at one of the city’s most notorious hangouts. “The idea for the show came to me while I was out one night at the infamous Abbey nightclub in West Hollywood with one of my best friends, Shantell (Abeydeera), who plays Jamie. I had been trying to think of an idea for a web series after completing my first short film.”
On that night, Eringer would find the idea she’d been looking for by looking towards her thriving friendship with Abeydeera. Thus, GIRLS LIKE MAGIC was born. “I wrote a first draft fairly quickly and shared it with some friends,” Eringer recalls. The script would later get the attention of one of Eringer’s soon-to-be collaborators. “I was then introduced to Kit Williamson, who had gained some success and notoriety from his show EASTSIDERS. His insight influenced the following drafts.”
Williamson’s involvement in GIRLS LIKE MAGIC helped Eringer to better understand the needs of LGBTQ audiences, and the importance of telling their stories in an honest way. “…As an ally and an advocate for the community, I lent heavily on (Kit’s) knowledge of the community and aligned myself with him because of his eagerness to create LGBT content,” Eringer explains. “I was also really excited when EASTSIDERS producer, Inuka Bacote, a gay woman, signed off on the script, and on to the project.”
The inclusivity of the LGBTQ community, and in turn, its embrace of Eringer, greatly influenced GIRLS LIKE MAGIC’s creation.
“Most of the characters in the show were inspired by people that I know, have had relationships with or that I met that night at The Abbey,” explains Eringer. “There was something so touching to me about how I was met with open arms and how the community welcomes its allies and advocates. I was intrigued by the celebratory nature of the environment and the openness of the people I met. Everyone had a different story to tell.”
Eringer also found much in common with the title role she played in GIRLS LIKE MAGIC. “The character of Magic came quite naturally to me as there are a lot of elements to her that are similar to me – her curiosity and playful nature as well as her naiveté,” she responds. “I thought it would be fascinating to create a character who was discovering the LGBTQ community, and at the same time going through a self-discovery, becoming self-aware and beginning to realize her true self.”
Although Eringer fictionalized much of her real life experiences while writing GIRLS LIKE MAGIC, her memories of an incredibly uncomfortable encounter at The Abbey were recreated during a memorable scene in the series’ second episode. “Unbeknownst to me, I was hit on by three women at the same time, and Shantell had to claim me in order to rescue me. That was a pretty interesting moment, and (that moment) has made it into the show.”
Like her character, Eringer would discover much about herself during the time she spent with Abeydeera and others in the LGBTQ world. “I think a lot of artists go through a similar experience where they feel that they are different and don’t quite fit in; they have to go against the grain of society in order to live their life authentically,” she replies. “This is certainly something that I identify with, so it makes sense that I identified so greatly with the community.”
“She (Shantell) invited me to grow my awareness of what it’s like to be gay, which I happily obliged,” says Eringer. “The different stereotypes and cliques, the small dating pools. And crucially, that the difference between having sex with a man and a woman is just a feeling, and that feeling differs depending where you fall on the spectrum. On a deeper level, we discussed the internal struggles, prejudices and rejection from loved ones.”
Those talks would bring Eringer and Abeydeera closer together, and the potential for developing stories based on their friendship became evident as Eringer developed GIRLS LIKE MAGIC.
“Our relationship grew and deepened,” remembers Eringer. “At times, it was confusing, but first and foremost it’s a beautiful friendship full of love, admiration and respect. I wanted to be able to represent that relationship in a cinematic way, and to use our natural chemistry on screen to create something magical that transcended boundaries.”
During the rewrites, Eringer would gradually transform how her bond with Abeydeera was reflected through their fictional personas in GIRLS LIKE MAGIC. “The relationship between the characters morphed and was heightened for dramatic effect,” she responds. “Essentially, the characters in the show are inspired by elements of us, but they aren’t really us anymore. There’s a lot of ‘us’ in them, especially as we are playing the parts, but they aren’t carbon copies by any stretch.”
Eringer points to how the journey of her character exhibits GIRLS LIKE MAGIC’s goal of authentically reflecting real life through “reel life”. “I think it’s always important to have a cast of individuals that represents the world we actually live in, so diversity was essential,” she says. “It was particularly integral to our story because Magic suddenly finds herself a fish out of water in the melting pot of Los Angeles. It is in being introduced to such a diverse world that Maggie is invited to discover and decide for herself where she feels at home.”
The casting portion of pre-production was one of the first steps in Eringer’s efforts to accurately mirror the diversity in 21st Century American society in GIRLS LIKE MAGIC. “To create that melting pot feel, we cast actors who had very specific and different viewpoints; backgrounds, history and heritage to represent the spectrum of race as well as sexuality.”
Assembling an equally diverse production corps was the next critical step in the process. “So much of the narrative in the current landscape is told from the straight, white, male viewpoint, but this story is about a different perspective, and I wanted that to be mirrored by our team,” adds Eringer, “Our cast and crew was made up of people who are Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Black, White, Arabic, Asian and more! This happened quite organically.”
Currently, GIRLS LIKE MAGIC is available to watch as a full-length feature film. The production approach that Eringer took to this project was structured exactly the same way. Despite the difficulties of assuming multiple roles behind the scenes, she was thrilled at how the final product came together during the 11 day shoot.
“We were shooting the vet scene (centered around Eringer, Adams and Williamson) and I just remember thinking – ‘it’s really happening. The story is coming to life.’ I was surrounded by some of my best friends and we were all pulling together to make something special. It was a great moment,” Eringer remembers.
On camera, GIRLS LIKE MAGIC realistically presents characters who span a wide range of nationalities, sexual orientations and social backgrounds. “In this particular piece of entertainment, you’ve got a gay person, next to a questioning person, next to a trans person, next to a Chinese person, next to a Sri Lankan person, next to a Persian person,” says Eringer. “Not only are they represented, but they’re the leads in the show. They are not the cab driver nor the 7/11 worker and they are certainly, never the butt of the joke.”
While Jamie and Magic are the focal points of GIRLS LIKE MAGIC, Eringer believes that all of the show’s characters represent the beauty and honesty of human imperfection. In her opinion, the most notable example of that representation takes place during a moment that reveals much about the series’ primary couple. In fact, the scene Eringer goes on to describe also says a lot about the way people really are – regardless of what sets them apart.
“I think what’s interesting about the show is that its characters are honest in their fallibility,” Eringer explains. “In one of my favorite scenes, Jamie asks ‘what does this even mean?’ To which Magic replies, ‘I don’t know. But I don’t care.’ To me, that celebrates fluidity because it admits that we don’t always have all the answers all the time, and (that) life can be a continued exploration as long as you are open to it. I think that’s special because it transcends labels and boundaries – the characters are ultimately moved by love.”
Though GIRLS LIKE MAGIC will win over fans of shows like EASTSIDERS, GIRLS and TRANSPARENT, Eringer feels that its greatest impact will be upon viewers who continue to fight for equality in an increasingly divided world.
“In some gender politics and literature studies, women are often referred to as ‘the other’ and ultimately this story is a celebration of all things ‘other’ – whether ‘other’ is female, gay, trans or ethnic minorities,” she adds. “I think those are the people who will enjoy this show.”
In a world that continues to suffer from prejudice and division, shows like GIRLS LIKE MAGIC are proof of how love can unite people from every background while shattering the boundaries that typically separate us. Like every other web series creator with aims of continuing their unique stories, Eringer seeks to accomplish the same goal should there be a second season of GIRLS LIKE MAGIC.
Her ultimate hopes for GIRLS LIKE MAGIC’s continued success, though, are more profound than anything having to do with filmmaking. “I want people to come out of the (show) feeling rejuvenated about love, and to feel that if you embrace it, it can help you overcome any obstacle,” Eringer says. “In my loftier moments, I might hope that the show will encourage some viewers to open their minds and release learned prejudices.”
Eringer and Abeydeera’s portrayals of GIRLS LIKE MAGIC’s protagonists are a huge part of that latter objective. “I want the words that define the characters to melt away and for the audience to feel two people who love each other no matter what size, shape, color or sexuality they are,” adds Eringer. “I hope people feel inspired by the very real yet complicated nature of this particular love.”
NOTE: Eringer says that GIRLS LIKE MAGIC is closed-captioned across all streaming platforms.
To watch GIRLS LIKE MAGIC in movie-length format, visit its Amazon Video page:
ON THE WEB: http://www.girlslikemagic.com/