Drugs. Alcohol. Sabotage. Backstabbing. Inappropriate relationships. It’s exactly the type of drama you’d expect from a daytime television show. Except in this case, the show is on YouTube, the resident Queen Bee is a 14-year-old girl, and her kingdom is a private school.
The show? “In Our Lifetime” — a 30-minute drama produced right here in Atlanta.
“There are all these dramas that are teen-based … but not any that are soap operas,” said Tari K. Robinson, CEO and president of T&T Management and Production. To fill that void, she created “In Our Lifetime” — a soap opera aimed at teens and tweens. “It’s like a ‘Young & the Restless,’ but for kids.”
The teen soap premiered May 7 at Venture Cinema 12 in Duluth. The main cast consists of 12 young people ranging from 10 to 15 years old from across metro Atlanta. Robinson plans to resume rehearsals this summer and shoot four to six more episodes, which will be released in late September. The pilot is available now on YouTube.
The source of much of the drama is the burgeoning rivalry between popular clique leader Taylor, and new girl Amaya, played by Kylissa Katalinich and Sofy Barahona, respectively.
The 10-year-old Barahona plays the part of a new student whose mere presence seems to upset the school’s ecosystem.
“There’s a lot of drama in this, and a lot of hair flipping, which is really fun,” Barahona said. “It’s actually a really fun character to play.”
The Cobb County resident, whose 13-year-old brother plays a class clown on the show, has been acting for more than half her life — six years. She’s currently home schooled to better accommodate her acting career.
Her on-screen rival, 14-year-old Katalinich, agreed that playing someone different from herself was fun.
“I’ve never thought of myself as like, super crazy popular in school, so it’s crazy to think it’s like completely opposite. It’s really fun to play the mean girl,” said the Alpharetta teen, who attends Taylor Road Middle School.
She added, “We’ve only known each other for a few months (so) it’s crazy to think we’ve become such good friends.”
Although the conniving Taylor is so different from Katalinich’s real-life persona, she nails the role of hair-flipping high school diva perfectly.
“You just kind of have to get into it,” she said. “You let all of the anger you keep inside out.”
It’s impressive that Robinson is able to capture the ins and outs of high school drama, something both the kids — and their parents — mentioned.
“This is life. These are issues that are happening in real life,” said Sofy’s mother, Carmen Barahona.
Those issues range from drinking, drugs, relationships and a secret (yet undetermined) relationship between one of the kids and a teacher. And that’s just the first episode. Robinson teases that upcoming episodes will have even more drama, more excitement.
“Out of all the projects (I’ve done), this one is so exciting,” she said.
Robinson caught the writing bug at 10 years old, creating scripts for church plays. Since then, she’s created, written, directed — and in this case, financed — numerous projects.
Robinson says she draws inspiration from family members, including her 19-year-old son.
“Ever since I was 12 years old, I wanted to create a teen soap opera. That has always been my ultimate dream. Since I know a lot of teenagers and I’m familiar with their teen angst, I thought it would be perfect to craft a show tailored to a teen audience. It’s easy for me to draw inspiration from kids because I’m really a big kid at heart.”
The idea for “In Our Lifetime” actually goes back to 1999, she said, and now seemed the right time to create something of a reboot. Of course, Robinson said, she’s careful to ensure the material is still suitable for her young cast and audience.
“We’re really careful about how edgy we can be,” she said. But that doesn’t mean she has plans to tone down the drama.
“These subsequent episodes will have epic drama!” she said.
The boys in the cast aren’t immune. Twelve-year-old Joseph Matthews plays the role of Cody Morgan, a self-proclaimed nerd whose smarts just may be his way into the high school elite.
“I hope to bring like a different type of nerd,” said Matthews, who attends the Lovett School in Fulton County. “Kinda chill, you know. Have a sense of fashion. Plus, I want the nerd to be funny.”
His mother, Vera, said watching the transition from rehearsals to the big screen was exciting.
“It was really interesting to see it all come together. When we saw it on screen, it was surreal.”
The teens and their parents seem to agree that Robinson has made the experience even more than an outlet for the kids’ creative talents, but has also made it somewhat like a family.
“They care so much about these kids,” said Carmen Barahona, referring to Robinson and the rest of the team. “She calls them their ‘babies.’”
Robinson’s plan, she said, is to try to drum up enough interest so that a bigger studio will take on the project, allowing them to make the jump from YouTube to cable TV. That’s something her young cast also hopes for.
“Nickelodeon needs to see this!” said Barahona.
And Robinson’s goal is to make sure they do.
“I want this to happen,” Robinson said. “I’m convinced this will happen.”
In the meantime, we just can’t wait to find out what happens next.