“Up until a couple seconds before I started asking questions, I thought ‘Rory Uphold’ was a guy.”
That’s how I began my interview with the definitely female creator and writer/director of “Only in HelLA,” a wickedly sharp little dagger of a comedic web series that Rory describes as a “love/hate letter to her city.”
I think a lot of other people would put their names on that letter too.
When I first caught wind of the series, I thought the title was “Only in Hella” and I was like, “How quaint, a tribute to Northern California.” But this series is all about the impossible lifestyle and Tinseltown veneer of SoCal and all its trendy, solipsistic hipster denizens.
Launched to some impressive numbers, “Only in HelLA” just deposited its third episode on YouTube like it was an enema bulb during “Fashion Week” (de rigueur, natch). So who then better for us to talk to right now than the bold and acerbic talent with a sort of reverse “A Boy Named Sue” thing going on.
Give us some insight into your parents naming you Rory, how it played into your personality and if it has helped or hindered you in life.
Rory Uphold: Haha, that’s awesome. I get that a lot. I was actually put in the guys’ health class in 7th grade. Didn’t last long though. My parents didn’t know if I’d be a boy or a girl, so they chose a name and stuck with it. And I’ve noticed now, when I write female characters, I tend to give them boy/girl names. I also have a little girl rescue puppy named Benson Olivia Hedges.
What was the catalyst for “Only in HelLA” going from a series of presumably real-life instances to a YouTube channel? Was there one final incident that made you go, “This needs to be a show!”?
I have those moments ALL the time. You see people talking to themselves all the time in L.A. and I never know if they’re crazy or if they’re actors rehearsing their lines. The real catalyst was time. I finished a short film and then went to work on Hell-A. It’s a boring answer but it’s true.
You’re afraid of balloons? What the hell’s that about, and how terrified are you? Would you pop a child’s balloon? Or is it the “pop” that you’re afraid of?
It’s the anticipation of the pop … it could happen at any minute. And at this point, it’s just so bad that I can’t be anywhere near balloons because I’ll have a panic attack. Oy, I’m really outing myself as a full-blown weirdo.
If you did a companion show about another city and their seeming idiosyncrasies (based on an outsider’s perspective and what you’ve experienced of said city so far), what would the city be and what would the first episode be about?
How do you know I’m not already working on that? I actually am — who knows if it will end up coming out or not.
The first episode of this show hit pretty hard in success terms — what do you think made it resonate with people? And are all the views based in L.A.?
No, we have views from all over the world. A lot from Europe actually. It’s a simple joke with a pretty drastic reversal told in 30 seconds, and I think if you can make someone laugh in 30 seconds, they’re more apt to share it. I also think it’s a little more universal than some of my other videos; you don’t really need to know much about L.A. to understand why it’s funny. Then there’s the comparison aspect, which led to a whole conversation about weight, body type and beauty, which was unexpected and unintended, but welcomed. I think the latter really contributed to the virality of the video.