Psychiatric therapy is meant to help people try to cope with life’s most overwhelming problems. After such time spent on the therapist’s couch, the post-mortem chats that patients have with their friends and family can be rather interesting. When those same trusted confidants attend therapy themselves, the conversations afterward are sometimes just as revealing.
The same applies to two friends – Sam (Bri Castellini) and Pat (Chris Cherry) – in the new comedy series SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED. Written and created by Castellini, the series will premiere on Seeka TV today (December 4th), with new episodes debuting each Monday.
One month after the conclusion of its 9 episode inaugural season, all episodes will stream on Youtube and Facebook. Links to each site, and to the show’s season 1 trailer, can be found at the end of this article.
SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED’s characters and humor are heavily inspired by the real life friendship of Castellini and Cherry. “Chris and I have a very particular friendship dynamic that is rooted in a mutual respect but that manifests as constant bickering and insults,” says Castellini. “I’ve always been a writer that enjoys writing arguments, so that was an easy format to fall into.”
Although Castellini and Cherry’s personas are comically reinterpreted in SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED, the entertaining banter between their characters matches that of their real life repartee.
“They’re exaggerations of us as individuals, but their dynamic is pretty spot on in terms of how Chris and I actually interact,” explains Castellini. “Sam, my character, is a bi-romantic, asexual woman who’s a little mean and a lot narcissistic, which only somewhat reflects my actual personality traits.”
Pat, on the other hand, doesn’t share the same qualities as the actor who plays him – at least not on the page. “…While Pat speaks with Chris’s voice, he’s definitely not Chris,” Castellini says. “I also did have a bit of trouble because I tend to write characters who ramble and speak in really long, wordy sentences, and that’s not Chris at all. He actually rewrote some of the lines because he (correctly) made the point that he didn’t talk like that, and neither should Pat.”
As therapy became a significant part of Castellini and Cherry’s lives, their regular post-session conversations were equally integral to the comedy of SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED. “I was also inspired (to create the series) by the few weeks this year where Chris and I both were in therapy, and we’d come home from our individual sessions to then talk over those sessions with each other,” Castellini adds.
Funny yet relatable, SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED’s greatest ambition is to destigmatize a part of life that has commonly been portrayed in a negative way through film and TV.
“Therapy is weird. It should be considered normal, not a ‘last resort’ like most shows and movies consider it,” Castellini replies. “So, I wanted to write something about two people that argue a lot but ultimately are very close friends who are also both open to talking about therapy and their experiences with it, and that became SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED.”
“One of the things that bugs me about therapy in fiction is that most of the time it’s used as a plot device; a crutch for helping along character development,” adds Cherry. “Few things that are about therapy are actually about the process of it, whereas SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED is all about the process and the awkward nature of it.”
Better yet, every episode of SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED is viewer-friendly. “The episodes are mostly self-contained and short, which makes them very shareable,” Cherry says, noting that the series’ biggest selling point is its realistic depiction of people in therapy. “I like the idea that someone sees an episode and thinks, ‘yes, I’ve had this feeling before,’ and then shows it to someone else and says: ‘see, this is what I’m talking about.”
While the amount of therapy stories Castellini and Cherry have could easily make it difficult to put together a series concept inspired by such material, it actually took a surprisingly short time for Castellini to achieve that goal. “The show was developed in about two days, which is also the time it took to write the script,” Castellini says.
With their producing and writing experience honed on shows like BRAINS, RELATIVITY and STRAY, Castellini and Cherry efficiently ramped up the script-to-episode process during production of SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED. When Cherry first received Castellini’s initial teleplays for the series, the familiarity he felt with its content was as strong as the quality of each script.
“Bri had the idea for it (the show), wrote a couple of episodes and sent (them) to me with the description ‘you’ll know exactly what this is,’ which was true,” remembers Cherry. “By the time I could read the first few, she had written a few more, and they were all great. Of all the stuff we’ve done so far, this was the script that changed the least from first draft to shooting script. Bri pretty much nailed it out of the gate.”
Castellini and Cherry also nailed one of the toughest parts of making a web series: casting actors. Luckily, the strengths of Castellini’s script helped make the process a real no-brainer.
“There was a brief moment when we considered not casting ourselves in the lead roles, but then we sat down and read the script out loud together and realized that that was ridiculous. No one tells me to f*ck off like Bri does,” Cherry humorously exclaims.
While pre-production of SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED moved quickly, filming of the series came together even faster. “Once I wrote the full season, I sent it to Chris immediately, who really liked the idea, and by the next week we’d gotten all our team members on board and had a shoot date about a month away,” says Castellini. “It was this crazy whirlwind of a process, and we filmed the project in two and a half days.”
Working on BRAINS and RELATIVITY helped give Castellini and Cherry the experience – and confidence – to take on the production demands of their new series. Like the shoot for RELATIVITY, filming SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED was itself economical.
“I think we (Castellini and Cherry) took the most from our time on RELATIVITY, where we also had exactly 6 team members in one room who made the entire show,” recalls Castellini. “We also planned pretty well in advance for that show, so that there were no surprises on the shoot day.”
Despite not acting in a series since BRAINS, SAM AND PAT’s director, Andrew Williams, helped Castellini to successfully readjust to working on-camera. “(He) has this amazing ability to transform a poop joke into a genuine moment of friendship, and I think I resisted that sometimes in BRAINS because I’d never really acted before, certainly never with a script I’d written myself,” says Castellini. “This time, I tried to more gracefully give Andrew the reins, because he freaking knows his stuff and I trust him with the material entirely.”
Producing BRAINS also demonstrated the importance of uniting separate talents together to create entertaining art on SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED.
“From BRAINS, we learned how to work as a team,” responds Castellini. “We did that show for over a year, so we learned a lot about our strengths and weaknesses, and played to those as much as possible. We split up responsibilities, listened to each other, and didn’t procrastinate.”
Like Castellini and Cherry, we’ve all had times where life can be too much to handle. In those times, finding an experienced counselor to talk to about life’s problems can be a smart decision. Laughing about those issues can be equally helpful, and that’s where SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED comes in.
“…Depression and anxiety are normal, and going to therapy for them is a no-brainer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about your situation,” says Castellini. “Humor is a powerful tool, and it takes power from things that might have previously had too much of a negative hold over your day to day life. I just hope people like (the show). I hope they laugh, and feel a little less alone.”
“I do think it (SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED)’s definitely a show that you’ll get a lot out of if you’ve been involved in therapy,” replies Cherry, “I think it’s a show that therapists would probably love just as much as people who are in therapy, (along with) people who like comic oddness.”
(NOTE: Castellini says that SAM AND PAT ARE DEPRESSED is not currently closed-captioned, but that she and Cherry hope to soon apply that feature to each episode.)