Edson Jean and Joshua Jean-Baptiste are determined to become big fish in Miami’s growing entertainment-industry pond. The New World School of the Arts alums opted not to move to Los Angeles or New York after college like so many of their friends and, instead, chose to stick it out in Miami. It appears the move, or lack thereof, might pay off.
Jean and Jean-Baptiste landed a production deal and a $25,000 prize when their pitch video, #Josh, won Project Greenlight’s digital series contest in 2016. The Miami-based dramedy has since been turned into an eight-episode web series called Grown, which premieres today on Complex’s website.
Grown is based on Jean’s and Jean-Baptiste’s lives as Haitian-American 20-somethings trying to figure out how to be men without father figures. Jean is a confident ladies' man in real life, and Jean-Baptiste, by his own account, is not. Their personalities are reflected in their characters.
“I knew I didn’t want to leave Miami,” says Jean, who has appeared in South Florida productions such as Ballers, Moonlight, and Bloodline. “Miami is this wild West — this creative hub for artists who want to create their own stuff. And the competition isn’t too oversaturated.”
Jean-Baptiste believes they couldn't have told the story of Grown properly if they had left town and filmed the series elsewhere. He and Jean became friends and then roommates in Miami and used much of what they’ve experienced here — from dating to Haitian-American culture — as inspiration.
Scenes from the show were filmed in Little Haiti, Wynwood, Hialeah, Miami Shores, and downtown Miami, among other places.
“When you leave the city, you leave the authenticity of the story,” says Jean-Baptiste, who recalls being told he was naive for staying in Miami. “Why go to L.A. to make something about Miami? I think the issue is that people don’t necessarily want to take the time to figure out how to make it in the city. We ask people for stuff and develop partnerships. People see we’re serious and admire that we want to make stuff here.”
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Having Adaptive Studios — the L.A.-based company behind the most recent incarnation of Project Greenlight — in their corner on Grown also helps. Adaptive handles distribution and budgets while Jean and Jean-Baptiste focus on the creative side. Jean-Baptiste credits Adaptive with taking a mostly hands-off approach to the creative process.
Grown has its quirks, such as the onscreen motion graphics that convey text messages and social media posts. But Jean-Baptiste says the series isn't as "kooky" as it was originally supposed to be. There was a shift in tone to make it less niche and more relatable — not that that's a bad thing.
“The comedy is more true-to-life. We’re not playing for jokes,” Jean-Baptiste says. “I remember coming back home from a date gone wrong, and Edson would laugh at me for 20 minutes. This is more of that true-to-life ridiculousness.”
Grown is now streaming via complex.com/video/grown-show.