Though such a recent innovation, social media is an important and dominating tool to the world we live in. From Instagram selfies to tweets about the weather, it goes without saying that much of our social life is spent in the virtual world. But what does this say about us as a society? Is social media a fantastic convenience or an infantilizing ball & chain? “IRL (In Real Life): the Series” is about the intersection of social media culture with contemporary society. In the history of civilization, no technology has existed previously that has allowed us to accomplish so much – while simultaneously exacerbating the effects of alienation, loneliness and abundance. With all that in mind, I had the fortune to sit down with one of the leading actors of IRL the Series, Tony Babcock, in order to discover a little more about the upcoming show.
What is IRL the Series about and what inspired its conception?
IRL the Series is about the intersection of social media with modern society and how it impacts modern society. It looks at the many ways social media brings us together and in the same vein how it tears us apart. It was originally inspired by show creator (and showrunner) Bobby Del Rio who wanted to get a group of actors together to make their own work. In this industry work can sometimes be very slow or too far and few between. He thought it would be a good idea to explore this topic in an organic and unique way which showcases an accurate and honest representation of women, multiculturalism and LGBTQ culture.
How did you get involved in the project?
I run an acting studio in Cabbagetown in Toronto (previously located on Queen St West) so I knew Bobby throughout the years as well as a few others who are involved in the project. They approached me with the series and needed a space in which they could create it. I welcomed them and was thrilled to help in any way possible. So they allowed me to play a part in the project and I attended many rehearsals for months before becoming an integral part of IRL the Series.
What are your thoughts on social media?
I have two very opposing thoughts. In some ways my whole life is based on social media. My business is run online and I probably spend much of my time connected to the internet, so it is integral to my life. However, at the same time it is de-socialising and tearing us apart a little bit. The acting coach side of me says it destroys the intimacy and community we used to have since so many of us now hide behind our computer screen. Everyone is now an avatar and is the best version of themselves on their tinder profile so it makes life rather sanitized and a little bit artificial I find. Those are my opposing views and I haven’t settled on one yet.
Since the series is in pre-production, could you talk about the challenges preparing for/creating the series?
As I mentioned the format is very unique. We rehearsed for four months and we did it via improv, focusing on hot topics that were in the vein of social media. From there we would develop long form style scenes where we would build our characters and situations to uncover and explore the ‘high drama’ of the stories – things would get quite heated. Bobby is a great director and he pushed us to find the conflict in the scenes and this led to work that was sometimes uncomfortable but for really good reasons since what we realized is that social media suddenly becomes the catalyst for demons we hide under the surface. We had fun rehearsing but some days were so exhausting and draining. That said, the series is a mix of comedy and drama. Some episodes are exclusively comedic and some are quite dramatic.
Most important question, when can we expect IRL the Series on our TV screens?
IRL the Series has been officially picked up by Bell Media's Fibe TV 1. We received a one season deal and we start shooting march 2016 so we’ll be in production for 6 months. We are hoping to be live this fall (2016) but I’m sure there will be lots of things put out before then.
While we can expect more from IRL the Series later, are you working on any other projects at the moment?
Yeah I’m working on my second short film entitled “Face Down”. It goes into production in march, within my acting studio Improv Your Acting: Studio for the Performing Arts, I’m running masterclasses that actually culminate in short films so within my classes were creating content, which is a lot of fun and I absolutely love it.
Thank you Tony! Any final thoughts?
In the vein of self creation, live your dream and make your own work and believe in yourself. I think its more important now than ever to get great stories out there for people to grow and learn from.