Recently, someone directed me to a web series called “Awkward Embraces”. The show, created by Jessica Mills, wrapped up it’s first season a few months ago. You can watch the full 10 episode first season at the website, Awkward Embraces. The second season of the show is set to premiere February 18th. The show follows the dating experiences of a geek, Jessica, and her friends Candis and Lyndsey.
I was introduced to the show not too long ago myself and was pretty excited to be able to ask Jessica a few questions about the show, how much of her is in her character and her thoughts about being a nerd.
Cherith: To start, I have to admit that I’m curious about the term ‘Nerd’ in general. I have the Nerd vs. Geek discussion with my friends all the time, and I’m always curious when people brand themselves as one or the other (or both). I know you call yourself a Nerd, but do you also think you’re a Geek, or do you think there’s a distinction between the two? (For instance, I generally use the term Geek when referring to things in media/culture and the term Nerd when referring to academia.)
Jessica: I actually refer to myself as a geek the most often, but I think it’s all basically the same thing. I mean, there are little differences in the interpretations of the words, but I generally have tried to embrace all those words that used to be considered insulting for people who were outside the “norm”. I love being a geek, I think my nerdy moments can be hilarious, and there’s nothing wrong with being a little dorky sometimes.
I saw in one of the bonus clips you’ve done for the show (where you are reading awkward dating experience letters) that you mention that you’re bad at naming things which is why your show characters all have their own names. That made me curious about how much of yourself is actually in your character Jessica. Are you mostly the same person – just in awkward situations for the show? Or are there things that you’ve given her as a character that you don’t have/do?
My character is basically me, but exaggerated for comedic effect. I am very awkward, but I’m not THAT awkward. I actually have a filter when I’m in social situations that scare me, for the most part. But Jessica just sort of says whatever pops in her head when she’s nervous, which is way funnier. I’m also not quite as naive as she is in certain situations, but I definitely USED to be.
As a sort of sub-question to that one, as someone who has a lot of data analysis experience I was curious about the episode, “The Bulge” where Jessica rambles a bit about a way to come up with a measurement experiment. Do your own personal nerdy tendencies go that far? The same question applies for the Star Trek knowledge Jessica displays, is that your own knowledge, or do you have a big fan on the show’s cast/staff?
Ha. I’m wondering how honest I want to be here. So I was this guy I had a crush on was at my house once, and he went to the bathroom and it sounded like someone’s yard hose was on full blast. I’m not kidding. So I sat there thinking “What does that MEAN?!?” Then, years later, I was writing the Bulge episode and that incident popped in my head, so I had the character Jessica go into an in depth analysis of how it could be measured. I didn’t go that far in real life, but the entire idea of it did occur to me. The Star Trek knowledge is all mine. I’m a Trekkie from way back. I’m a nerd/geek to the core. I adore TNG, I’m obsessed with Doctor Who, I love any book with magic, dragons, and/or spaceships, etc… It goes on forever. ha ha If it’s geeky, I probably love it.
I think there’s a lot of Geeky and/or Nerdy people (both men and women) that can relate to the show’s characters experiences. Was there a specific experience in real life that triggered the idea for the show? Anyone that’s dated probably has at least ONE awkward experience, so how much of what we’ve seen from Jessica, Candis and Lyndsey’s experiences so far, are based in fact?
The fourth episode, the donut episode, was a particularly ridiculous incident in my real life. Again, we did exaggerate it…but not all that much. I had wanted to incorporate it into a romantic comedy or something at some point. Then I decided to make it a little 10 minute short. The characters are so fun, and there was SO MUCH more awkwardness to mine from my life that we made it a series. Most of the season 1 episodes are based on real events. There are a few episodes that grew out of something little, a quote or a small incident. The IT Guy episode is totally based off of this one day at work when a cute IT guy came in and all the girls at the front desk (I’m the only single one) were trying to convince me to flirt with him. I do not flirt well. At all. So I got to thinking about how the AE characters would react in that situation and it grew into two episodes. I’m so nerdy that instead of flirting with an actual guy, I wrote a script about a character named after me who flirts with a guy based on that guy.
I’ll admit when watching Season 1, especially with episodes where we see Jessica’s extreme Star Trek knowledge, I was reminded a lot of The Big Bang Theory on CBS (a show I love, and often use as torture for my super nerdy husband). What do you think of that show and how it portrays the sort of nerd relationship issues in comparison to what you’re doing with Awkward Embraces?
Honestly, I haven’t had a chance to watch Big Bang Theory. I’m very familiar with it and I’ve been meaning to Netflix it, but there are so many shows I need to watch! Our show has been called Sex and the City meets Big Bang Theory, and I’m so flattered by that comparison. I have no idea how ours is different or similar, but most of my friends are HUGE fans of that show. It really is criminal that I haven’t seen it yet. I’m embarrassed to admit it!
I think what you’re doing with Awkward Embraces is unique because it’s so specifically dealing with the female side of nerdity and social situations. Do you think that there is a sort of double-standard in dating or social relationships where it’s more acceptable, or that it’s written off more often when guys are nerdy/geeky?
I think geek women as a consumer culture are very underestimated. We judge the norm by what we see in our pop culture, and generally it’s been an accepted romantic comedy formula for the bumbling, nerdy guy to get with the hot chick. Usually, if the nerdy girl gets with a guy she goes through some sort of lame makeover where they take off her glasses and she suddenly looks like a model. I don’t think it’s done consciously, but generally I feel that the female geek culture hasn’t had much of a voice in pop culture. People think geek women are a rare magical find, but that’s not actually true at all. A HUGE number of women are wonderfully geeky, but they haven’t really had much of a voice in the past. However, I do think that is starting to change. The internet has opened up a whole new world, and geek women are starting to realize how many other of us there are out there.
Since I write for GamingAngels, it’s only fair I ask about your video game knowledge. Do you play video games, or would you call yourself a ‘gamer’? If so, what game(s) would you consider your favorite, or what do you spend the most time playing?
I LOVE old school games. I quickly get addicted to Super Mario World, Mario Kart, Sonic the Hedgehog…etc. I honestly have a HUGE problem with FPS games. There’s a trigger, and a joystick, and 8 buttons and I have to hold up the gun, aim the gun, turn around…ACK! It’s too much! I can’t keep it all straight. Give me a left screen to right screen game any day! ha ha
Is there anything you have in store for Season Two of Awkward Embraces that you can share with us?
Lyndsey and Candis make it their life’s mission to find Jessica her perfect mate. The result is that they end up putting her in some really unfamiliar situations so we get to see Jessica handle these new, awkward situations. Candis is actually writing three scripts for us this season.
What do you think the most fun part of making Awkward Embraces has been for you so far?
That is a super hard question. I do love every part of the process. Honestly, through making Awkward Embraces I’ve discovered all these fantastic geek men and women who love the show. I’ve made some amazing geek IRL friends, and quite a few virtual ones. Over the year and a half of working on this show, I’ve really embraced my own geekness and felt a confidence in it that I’ve never had before. I was always so afraid of being singled out or made fun of, that I wasn’t always very open about it. But the fans of the show have given me so much confidence. I really feel like I’m not alone, and who cares if somebody makes fun of me for geeking out? I’m having fun. For the first time in my life I feel completely free to be myself, and that’s an incredible feeling.
For someone that’s never seen the show, but wants to give it a try, is there a specific episode (aside from the first one) that you’d recommend to hook them in?
Have there been any situations you’ve written for the show thus far that you had to cut because you thought people wouldn’t understand, or because they felt too awkward? Or alternatively, do you try and do things so that they play out in the most awkward way possible?
Oh, yes. I definitely make sure things are as awkward as possible. ha! I haven’t cut anything or dulled it down, though. Plus, when I write it, I know that the cast and their improv skills will really make those awkward silences, or side glances or whatever punch up the moment in the perfect way. I’ve got a fantastic group of actors taking these scenes and turning them into brilliant comedy.
Any recommendations for the geeky or nerdy people out there in the dating pool?
I’ve actually been out of the dating pool for quite a while! I’m still single, but I don’t get out much. I was never very good at dating. As far as my friends go, online dating seems to work? I hated it, but I have a lot of friends who found their perfect match online. There are even some dating sites specifically for geeks. Generally, though, if you want to date and find someone, you need to widen your social circle. Meet more people, make some new friends. Get involved in activities you like, and just go out and meet people. Which is exactly why I haven’t dated in forever. I’m a hermit. ha ha
Okay, last question. I know that as teenagers, a lot of us feel like we can’t always been open about our nerdy or geeky habits/loves. Was there a time that you felt you had to finally own up to yourself (and the people around you) about your nerdy nature, or do you feel like you’ve always been able to be open about it?
Oh, absolutely. Yes. I was bullied a lot as a kid and it made me incredibly introverted for a really long time. Even when I got older and developed more confidence, I never really had other geek friends. I remember meeting another girl who loved Star Trek TNG and being SO excited. Just over the moon, because I had never met another girl who liked it as much as me. So my geekiness has always just sort of been this thing that makes me weirder than other people, and not necessarily something I could share. But since Awkward Embraces has been out in the world, I’ve met SO MANY awesome geeks. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been able to engage in daily geek chats about all the stuff that I love. God bless the internet. I don’t feel like a weirdo anymore. It’s a great thing, and I feel like my life and how I view myself has been fundamentally changed, in a really great way.
I want to thank Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions. I know I’m ready for Season 2! I hope that the rest of you can check out Awkward Embraces and are prepared for the premiere Season 2 on the 18th of February.