This decade is a smoldering skillet of possibilities, challenges, diverging and converging ideas and, sometimes, utter uncertainty and chaos. For anyone traveling a path at this point in history, a serious sense of humor, backbone and unbridled hope are required.
A new series, “Intersection” — created, produced and set in Atlanta — captures the times definitively, and snagged a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for outstanding actress in a short form series for Atlanta-based lead actor Jacinte Blankenship. The awards ceremony was presented at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles last weekend. An edited presentation of the two-night Creative Arts Emmys will air on Saturday at 8 p.m. on FXX. It will also be available for streaming on Hulu Sept. 11-27.
Credit: Courtesy of Meg Messmer
Credit: Courtesy of Meg Messmer
At its core, “Intersection” is about the gentrification of a downtown neighborhood and what that’s truly like from all the angles and perspectives of the people living and working there. Its promo cutline: “The more we get together the happier we’ll be?”
The series was launched on YouTube in April with an initial run of six episodes (find it at megmessmer.com/intersection). In addition to the Emmy nomination, the “Intersection” co-creators have scored another valuable boost: a deal with WABE-TV to broadcast the first season of the series. The producers plan a second season that expands the scope of the show into systemic racism and the deeper ramifications of gentrification.
Showrunner Meg Messmer thinks the timing of the message has landed with viewers. “I did not know that ‘Intersection’ would gain this type of traction, but I hoped it would,” says Messmer, who also served as a writer, producer and actress on “Intersection.” “I am a big believer that if you make something that’s high quality, that you’re passionate about, and that you work your butt off and put good intentions out into the world, good things will happen.”
The Emmy nomination, though, was admittedly a stunning surprise. “We made it a goal to make this series ‘Emmy-worthy,’ and guess what? I hope the traction keeps going and going,” Messmer says.
The real reward for Messmer has been the positive reception of “Intersection,” and the viewer introspection it has engendered. “I want the ‘Intersection’ series to spark a conversation between two communities that are very much polarized right now,” she says. “My Black friends were texting me and saying, ‘It’s really good. I’m proud of you,’ and my white friends were saying, ‘I’m like so and so (character), and this feels really real.’”
Credit: Fulani Jabri
Credit: Fulani Jabri
One of Messmer’s co-creators on the project is Atlanta-based actress, writer, co-producer and licensed real estate agent Muretta Moss. “I originally met Meg in Los Angeles when we were both studying and performing improv,” Moss says. “She is a great collaborator and friend. When Meg moved to Atlanta we reconnected and I helped her purchase an investment property to flip. We were looking in up-and-coming areas and it sparked a lot of dialogue on our tour of homes.”
It wasn’t until the pair connected with Jennica Hill that the idea of turning their conversation topic into a series was born. Hill would become a producer, writer and actress on the series.
“Meg and Jennica [and I] connected and discussed the potential series,” says Moss. “And we officially began a deeper dive into the project.” The friends and collaborators spent substantial hours talking to the community and researching gentrification, to the point that Moss says it felt as though they’d always been working on the project in one form or another.
Atlanta-based actress Karen Ceesay (”The Walking Dead,” “Stranger Things”) also jumped in on development as a writer and co-producer. Blankenship, as well, joined the team as a writer and co-producer.
Moss’ involvement, like the other series creators, turned into a role in the ensemble cast as Mary Margaret, a local white real estate agent who’s capitalizing on the neighborhood to propel herself into the position of No. 1 agent in the area. “When we started, we described Mary Margaret as a dolphin masked as a shark, but she surely is a shark masked as a dolphin,” says Moss.
For Messmer’s part, her character in the series materialized into the role of Louie, a young, white, married homebuyer and house-flipper. And Hill plays a white area resident, Emory.
Blankenship plays the role of Jenaya, a Black single mother who lives in the neighborhood and is experiencing its changes and the effects of gentrification firsthand.
Messmer — who served as the real-life catalyst for the series — is currently focusing her filmmaking efforts on other hard-hitting initiatives and messages.
“I’m producing a film in Serbia right now that is part of a female-led, female-driven film slate,” she says. “The company’s mission is to invest and cultivate a collective of promising new filmmakers with films directed and produced by women and centered on female protagonists. I’m not sure when exactly I’m back in Atlanta. My life has been a little unpredictable and I’ve been having fun taking the ride.”
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