MTV’s ‘Status Updates’ Cast on Acting in a Transmedia Show & Social Media’s Impact on Their Relationships [INTERVIEW]


When it comes to dating, the world of social media can act more as an enemy than a friend. We obsess about our ex-partners’ Facebooks, worry about what our profile pictures convey and make a grand show out of declaring our relationship statuses. And with humor and relatability, the new MTV transmedia show “Status Updates” captures just these moments.

Throughout the first season of “Status Updates,” the viewer is asked: In a world where connecting is so easy, why is everything always so complicated? Written and directed by Brigitte Dale, “Status Updates” follows the lives of five 20-something year-old friends trying to navigate the world of relationships in an age of over sharing. The group is made up of one couple who has been together forever, one set of best friends that fill the show with their sexual tension and one single girl looking for love online. The lineup of actors playing those characters include some of the biggest names in the social media space: Taryn Southern, Luke Barats, Vivian Bang, David Barton Harris and Rawn Erickson.

Filmed over a year ago in collaboration with MTV, “Status Updates” has recently been released onto Hulu Plus. NMR caught up with the show’s stars David Barton Harris and Luke Barats who shared with us their experiences filming for a transmedia show and the most embarrassing social media-related moments that have happened to them so far (hint: They involve sex toys and Facebook miscasts).

The full video interview is below:

Luke Barats: I’m Luke Barats; I play Scott on the show. It was a bunch of fun. We shot it a while ago, we shot it a year ago around this time of year, and yeah it was a bunch of fun, got to meet a bunch of YouTuber comedy people through it and stuff.

David Harris: And I am David Harris; I play Paul in the show, and yeah it was a really fun opportunity to make a web series in a way that was kind of easy to shoot and easy to create, and everyone was part of the creative process I guess.

How did you guys originally find out about the show?

Luke: Well in my case, Brigitte Dale, who wrote and directed the series and also played Maggie the main character, and she and I were both YouTubers from a YouTube show a few years back, and so we just sort of met on a video shoot or two sort of for YouTuber people and sort of got to know each other that way.

David: I am an improv teacher and I actually had her in class many years ago, and that’s where we met, so that’s where Brigitte and I met, and I guess she knew that I had a presence on Twitter and so she got me involved as sort of another social media guru.

Luke: A lot of people involved in the series are YouTubers, Twitter people, very involved in social media themselves because that is sort of what the show is about. It’s about these five 20-somethings in Los Angeles sort of making a go of it tweeting each other, Facebooking each other, texting each other all the livelong day, and that’s sort of what the show revolves around.

I’ve watched a little bit of the show, and I know it’s about how social media complicates relationships. What thoughts do you guys have about that?

David: It’s interesting how social media kind of makes everything, can make everything so public, so I’ve noticed that choices you may make or things you may want to keep between someone that you’re dating or seeing in a romantic way suddenly become so public and available for everybody.

Luke: And also I think one of the things that Brigitte really explored in the series is how it’s just nonstop — there really are no business hours for interacting with friends anymore ‘cause you have a phone on your hip all day that you have no excuse to not pick up anytime of the day actually.

In your personal lives, how has social media complicated your personal relationships?

David: Well okay yeah, I think that it used to be that you could have more time in between kind of reaching out to people, and now you’re expected to be on call all the time if you’re in a relationship, even kind of the beginning of a relationship. I feel like kind of you’re always expected to respond to the latest Instagram post or like something on Facebook or something like that. For me personally, it’s made it a lot more work to date. It’s like a lot more maintenance of things.

Luke: Definitely, and this interview itself is sort of an example. I’m trying to think — I don’t want to go into it too much because here we are on social media, it just kind of gets seen by the whole world so I just might kind of take a pass [laughs].

You’re passing the question?

Luke: Is that legal, can we pass on questions?

I am going to let you do it but this is the only one though. You have to answer every other question after this. What moments in the show struck a chord with each of you that made you realize how addicted we are to our electronic devices?

David: Yeah, I just went camping. There is a part in the arc of the season when most of the cast goes camping just for a weekend, and everybody, but especially my character, freaks out about not being able to be in touch digitally. And yeah I just experienced this this Easter weekend camping and kind of making the choice to turn the phone off. And then turning it on and finding like a world’s worth of updates and the anxiety of that when you’re supposed to just be relaxing and having a good vacation.

Luke: Actually that exact same thing happened this weekend; I went camping as well, and I ran out of battery because I had the GPS on like five minutes into and coming home I had between texts and missed calls and emails, I had like a hundred things to catch up on late Sunday evening. It all just caught up on me.

Neat. You guys seem to really enjoy camping.

David: Yeah, we should say it was our honeymoon; we should go ahead and admit that [laughs].

You guys can come out and say that you were camping together — not that many people go camping. In what ways was it filming something exclusively for Hulu Plus? Was it different at all? Have there been benefits to it or disadvantages?

Luke: Well I’m kind of curious to see how the release goes because I’ve never been a part of anything that’s been on Hulu Plus before. It’s all been YouTube for me, and there is just so many comments, so much immediate feedback on YouTube stuff whereas having it beyond something more long form on Hulu Plus just doesn’t have that immediate feedback so that is something different for me certainly.

David: Yeah, and I thought having the freedom to shoot episodes of varying length and not really having any standards to go by with that — I guess I shouldn’t speak for everyone; perhaps Brigitte did have things she needed to adhere to — but I liked how one episode could be 10 minutes and the next one could be 5 depending on what they are about and what they need to cover. I liked that freedom.

What did you guys relate to about your characters you were playing?

Luke: My character Scott he’s a pretty passive dude, pretty quiet, and that’s how I am and stuff, so I was able to kind of channel the sort of nervous energies that guide my life and just sort of enhance those.

David: Yeah a lot of the circumstances to Paul’s life were similar to mine especially at the time of shooting, and generally when I have a role I try to find something in it that makes it easy to play, as in something that I would bring to it that’s about me, that I would play it, so I just took my own flaws like my own neediness and dependency towards other people, especially my emotional dependency towards people, and I really just exaggerated those to an even higher degree than they already are built naturally into my personality.

I think my favorite scene is when Paul is in a van and they are in an alley and Paul’s friend is yelling, “There is a sexual encounter 25 feet from here!”

Luke: I’m pretty sure that scene was the one that directly relates to David’s life.

David: I’m a big ol’ sex hound.

You’re always traveling down alleys in L.A. What projects are you guys working on now?

Luke: Well I write for a Cartoon Network show, so I’m just writing, writing, writing and pumping out YouTube videos on my channel Barats and Bereta like always, just doing it.

David: I am a UCB, Upright Citizens Brigade, performer so I perform weekly there with that theatre, and I also go on tour so we’re starting up some spring tours where I’ll be doing some tours. I’m writing my first romantic comedy with a writing partner of mine.

Luke: Based on his back alley experiences.

David: Yes, the gritty underworld of Craigslist sex.

That is beautiful. A family-friendly film that will be coming out next year. That’s wonderful. Is there any talk about doing a second season for “Status Updates”?

Luke: You probably have to talk with MTV to Brigitte about that because it hasn’t trickled down to us. We’re kind of the last to find out about these kinds of things.

David: It’s certainly written as if that could be done. There were some open-ended questions at the end of the first season for those diehard fans that are really going to want a second season.

When I was talking to Brigitte she was talking a lot about how this was a transmedia show and there were a lot of ways of interacting with the audience. What are some ways cast members have been able to interact with fans?

David: Twitter, Facebook, basically all the methods that the characters interact within the show which acts doubly for us that they are also methods for us to talk about and communicate about the show in real life.

What has been your guys’ most embarrassing social media moment?

Luke: I think mine came shortly after Facebook sort of put their search bar up near the top. I think I wanted to check out someone’s page that I went to highschool with and instead I put it as my status so I think I wrote just some girl’s name just as a status. This is her name, so I learned my lesson quickly and haven’t done it since [laughs].

I am sure she was very flattered.

Luke: Or creeped out.

It could go either way very quickly.

David: I’d say for me that you just have to be careful when you’re taking a photograph that you are aware of the background, like what’s in the background of the photograph, because even though the subject may be fine and benign, there may be images in the background of things that should be put away and not be left out.

Do you want to get a little more specific?

David: Yeah, I’m talking sex toys here, Carly! [group laughs] Did you hear that? I don’t know if you did or not.

No, I definitely did. I think that is a good lesson that will come to kids, families.

David: Yeah, just be careful.

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