The path towards personal independence is a scary and unfamiliar one for anyone who’s had to “start over” in life, but as the title character in the new comedy series Searching For Sylvie learns, starting over has as many possibilities as it does problems. Hailing from Jason Cicci and John Cramer’s indie web series production company Make Your Show Productions, Searching For Sylvie debuted its first season on June 1st on YouTube.
Written and created by Cicci and directed by Cramer, Searching For Sylvie stars Susan Jeffries (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Broad City) as the former New York high society fixture Sylvie Graham.
With no money and no job, Sylvie turns to some of the only people who’ve had her back from the beginning: her lawyer, Arthur (Steven Hauck), who strives to get Sylvie’s life back on track while being secretly attracted to his formerly upper class client, and her brother-in-law Cash (played by Cramer), a man who spends as much time working with grass (he’s a professional landscaper) as he does “relaxing” with it.
Once Sylvie comes to live with Cash and his son/her nephew Emory (played by Cramer’s real life son Henry), finding and maintaining a new career is only one of her duties. As Sylvie attempts to heal the rift between herself and her half-sister Lee (Phoebe Jonas), she becomes a grandmother-like presence for the precocious yet wise Emory.
Having entered the working world, Sylvie catches the eye – and heart – of her boss, Davis Allen (David Lavine), while also hitting it off with wine connoisseur John (Jeff Applegate).
As the first season of Searching For Sylvie unfolds, its protagonist finds herself getting acquainted with her new life – but will the old one tempt her again? That question, and many others, will be answered if (and when) the series returns for a second season.
Both friends of Jeffries, Cicci and Cramer originally had other plans for the veteran actor before Searching For Sylvie was first developed.
Once Jeffries showed up to audition for an unrelated production, though, the two creators had something greater in mind for her. “When we called her in to audition for another project, (we) posed the idea of her starring in her own series. From there, we had a series of meetings to discuss what sort of show would really show off Susan’s talent. After a short time, we came back with the idea for Sylvie.”
Having proved her comedic talents to audiences through decades of memorable performances on TV, film and stage, Jeffries enthusiastically transformed into the fun-loving yet un-apologetically sincere character she plays in Searching For Sylvie. Cicci’s authentic scripting of its protagonist, and the shared goals that Cicci and Cramer had for the role, made the series an irresistible opportunity for Jeffries.
“Jason wrote the script and when I read it the character was instantly clear to me in the script and the story he wrote,” remembers Jeffries. “I fell in love with Sylvie. Jason wrote her as a person who lives in the moment and operates within her philosophy of making the best of things no matter what happens to her.”
Forced to fend for herself after years of being cared for by others, Sylvie (as portrayed by Jeffries) shows audiences a common part of life for older people – including herself – in Searching For Sylvie. “The situation Sylvie finds herself in is not unusual for women of her generation. It was easy for me to relate to it,” Jeffries says.
What wasn’t easy for the actor, at first, was getting used to portraying a woman in that situation. “The challenge (in playing Sylvie) was the size of the role,” responds Jeffries. “I dealt with that by concentrating on what was going on at every moment.”
Compared to other characters Jeffries has played, Sylvie always speaks her mind – even if what she says is too close for one’s comfort.
“When Sylvie talks (and she talks a lot) it is ‘stream of consciousness’. I have never played a character who does that,” Jeffries adds. “Sometimes what she says is funny simply because there is no filter. She doesn’t exactly think things through. She is very literal. She doesn’t know that she is funny while she is being candid.”
Making Searching For Sylvie different from most of Jeffries’ previous projects is the prominent role she plays behind the camera as one of the show’s executive producers. Working closely with Cicci and Cramer during all phases of Sylvie‘s production, Jeffries also understood the limitations – both in budget and personnel – that accompany a project made for online viewers.
“Web series is also a new medium for me, (and it’s) different from other types of filmmaking in that there are fewer people on the set accomplishing all of the work,” she notes.
Despite what Sylvie‘s shoot lacked in resource quantity, the quality of its production resources and the professionalism shared by Sylvie‘s cast and crew in filming its first season made up the difference.
“John and Jason are artistic, intelligent and organized,” explains Jeffries. “They assembled a crew that was focused and professional. The filmmaking process is streamlined in a web series. John and Jason were completely prepared each and every day we were shooting. We worked quickly. There was no time wasted. I was very impressed with their efficiency without sacrificing the care needed to get things right.”
Such quality, responds Cicci and Cramer, is representative of Make Your Show Productions’ creative mission. “All of our projects are made with and for our clients. Our goal is always to make the actors we work with feel comfortable as we know they are experiencing something new, mainly becoming producers. By keeping them abreast of each step that we take to create a show, our mission to offer them more than an acting opportunity comes to life. Every step of the way, Susan was consulted about characters, storylines, casting and more.”
While Searching For Sylvie shows that adjusting to a new kind of life is hard for even the most experienced among us, Cicci, Cramer and Jeffries agree that viewers young and old will find something in common with the series’ namesake: a woman who, like every one of us, is trying to smooth over life’s rough patches while finding joy in the positive.
“During this time of so much upheaval and uncertainty, I especially think that the sentiment of Searching for Sylvie is a universal one,” Cicci says. “Watching a character transform from one existence to another is particularly fitting right now. I think anyone and everyone would enjoy the ride of our show.”
“This is a character-driven show, a slice of life,” adds Cramer. “You’re not going to find any murder, mayhem, or mystery here. Just about anybody will like this show, but especially people who are interested in real, grown-up people trying to wrestle the Rubik’s Cube of life while maintaining their sense of humor.”
While definitely relatable to viewers from across the demographic range, Searching For Sylvie is made even more genuine by its representation of older people in today’s society. “I certainly think that Sylvie’s age makes the show stand out from most of the content out there at the moment,” Cicci remarks. “But beyond that, I would have to say that Susan’s sweetly comic yet soulful performance makes the show special. It’s in the moments when I get lost in her characterization that I truly feel we accomplished what we set out to do.”
“I’d agree with Susan that what makes this show stand out is that the issue of Sylvie’s age isn’t really an issue for the other characters,” Cramer replies. “It’s no secret that protagonists of Sylvie’s age, especially women, are rare. Sylvie is busy doing what all of us are doing, regardless of age – trying to learn, grow, build relationships, and figure out how we contribute to our community.”
Jeffries agrees, and like Cicci and Cramer, she hopes that Searching For Sylvie will prove to viewers that the so-called “twilight” of our lives may be the most prosperous. “One of my most important goals is that Searching for Sylvie helps people of all ages recognize that older people are not finished with life,” says Jeffries. “They, in fact, have hopes for their future, and like everyone, they have dreams of something very special yet to happen.”
(NOTE: Cicci and Cramer say that closed-captioning and subtitling of Searching For Sylvie will be made available, budget permitting.)
ON THE WEB: https://www.searchingforsylvie.tv/