Welcome to Part II of our interview with sisters Marian and Melissa Harkness, the creative minds behind the very funny new web series, IndigNation. In this final section of our exclusive interview, you'll find out what childhood was like for these creative siblings as well as interesting tidbits about making it in the competitive entertainment industry. P.S. You'll also learn what "guilty habit" these sisters have in common!
TheTalko (TT): Being sisters, what are some of the most difficult and most rewarding aspects of working together on a project like this?
Melissa Harkness (MEH): Well, we know each other really well so it’s always rewarding to see each other succeed and we always have fun when we’re together but the flip side to that is that you know the other person really well and when you’re mad at them, you know exactly how to push their buttons. I think it’s difficult just because…
Marian Harkness (MAH): ...you can hurt that person easily.
MAH: With the criticism, it can be the hardest part. With IndigNation, we had so many fights where I would say, ‘You can’t do that, it’s not funny’ and she would say ‘Yes, it is’ and we’d fight back and forth and we’d get to something probably better but the process can be painful sometimes because she’s really passionate and I can be passionate and going back and forth, sometimes you say hurtful things.
MEH: Marian has a very strong marketing background, her Masters is in advertising. She’s all about how do we condense it, how do we package it and make it marketable. And my background is….
MAH: Art. You want to make art.
MEH: Art! I want to make great art! Trying to marry the two can sometimes be difficult. One time that she says to me all the time is ‘you gotta get down with the people.’ She tries to pull me back down the earth. At the end of the day, when we both create something great together… our set days were a blast. We had a great time on set.
MAH: We really are best friends. That helps too. We both want to the same thing. We both care about the project equally. So it does make a difference when you’re with somebody that you know you can count on every step of the way.
MEH: Oh right. That’s huge. I never had to wonder ‘Oh, is Marian going to show up today?’ cause we were driving to set together and she was right there with me at 6:30 a.m. getting Starbucks for everybody. The dependability factor…
MAH: It’s huge in this industry.
TT: Are you two the only siblings in your family?
TT: When you were younger would you put on plays or anything similar to what you’re doing now?
MEH: There is a story about me that I used to run and up down the halls but I wanted to be all the parts so I don’t know if I gave Marian a chance. I did this play called The Museum Comedies and we added a part where Marian was someone in the audience who was very interactive and we were in that together.
MAH: We started in our early 20’s.
MEH: Our first web-series was years ago, it was born out of the fact that I wanted to be SAG-eligible. And Marian is SAG-eligible as well now because she was a part of that web-series.
MAH: Yes, I was the only person who would show up.
MEH: From that web-series, we realized that we liked making our own content.
TT: We understand that there are six episodes planned. Based on the success of IndigNation, do you have any plans to expand the series? Where would you love to see this project go?
MAH: We have definitely talked about a second season.
MEH: I would love to do a season two and I would love to make the episodes a little longer but Marian’s going to fight me on that.
MAH: I do not want them to be longer.
MEH: Yeah, I would love them to be ten minutes long. Dream of dreams, if it could follow the same trajectory as Workaholics or Awkward Black Girl/Insecure, that would be awesome. That’s the dream.
MAH: The thing is, when you start a new nation, there are so many topics to cover. It literally writes itself. We already have all of the episodes for the next season just because we have all of these ideas like what about health insurance?
MEH: What about currency?
MEH: I think we’re all in a place where the United States is not where we thought it would be but I also wanted to make a commentary on how hard it is to start a nation and to make things fair when you have these different personalities. Our first episode is called The Name because, what do you call a nation? They automatically get in a fight about it...
MAH: And they end up with a terrible name.
MEH: It’s because they try to compromise and make everybody’s idea a part of it. The bottom line is that when you try to please everybody, it’s bad. When you don’t please anybody, it’s bad. So it’s really tough and I don’t envy anybody who has that responsibility.
MAH: We’re still disheartened by what’s happening in the country but I think this was to show that running away isn’t necessarily the answer. It is very hard to start something new and sometimes people do the best they can. It’s just tough, there are so many cooks in the kitchen and there’s always unhappiness. You can’t please everyone. Another thing we’ve talked about is that we’d like to add diversity to the cast.
TT: Who is the target audience for IndigNation?
MAH: We’ve gone back and forth about it. I think it leans more towards people in their late 20’s and early 30’s. I think that older audiences could have fun with it but I think we’re hitting that 25 to 45 demographic because they are the ones who I felt were the most disgruntled by the presidency. We put in Melissa’s character to appeal to people who voted for Trump and are unhappy now. We’re trying to appeal to everyone and not just liberals.
MEH: And the art answer is that everyone will enjoy this show!
TT: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
MEH: We’ve started concepting on a play, it’s a working title, and we have another web-series, “Instabody” which is already written. It’s about Instagram fitness models and the workings of that.
MAH: And the juxtaposition of having someone who is Instagram fabulous or appears to be that way and in their real life is not. It’s that look behind the curtain of what we see on Instagram and social media is not the truth. It’s a comedy, a little bit dark in some ways but it’s supposed to be funny. When we were thinking about what to write, that’s something that really bothers us and probably bothers most women, thinking that people are so perfect and then meeting people are realizing they aren’t who they look like on their Instagram… just that thing that is seeping into our culture and negatively impacting everybody but mostly women because it sort of targets women.
MEH: And also just the idea of health and how we all have different ideas of health. Marian and I like diet soda and it’s supposed to be very bad for you and we’re well aware. So I’ll meet somebody on set and I’ll be drinking a diet Dr. Pepper and they’re smoking a cigarette and they’re like, ‘You know that stuff is really bad for you.’ Are you kidding me? Everybody has their notions of what’s healthy. Obviously, we fat shame and that’s really terrible…
MAH: Well, we don’t. Society does.
MEH: We don’t, no! I’m sorry. People fat shame and society fat shames and now it’s not even good enough to be thin. You can never be good enough so that’s what the new web-series is about.
TT: Finally, can you both please share your favorite book with our readers?
MEH: As cliche as it is, I really like The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve read it a few times. Fitzgerald is a master of prose, it’s really beautiful language. And I also think it’s indicative of one of the biggest problems that we have in society when it comes to rich versus poor. For whatever reason, when you have that much money and can get away with everything, the poor or less fortunate people are left to clean up the mess. I think that’s part of the problem in the United States today is that the wealthy don’t have consequences and the poor do have consequences so that’s just a very different experience.
MAH: I’m going to go with David and Goliath. Malcolm Gladwell wrote it and he’s kind of huge in advertising and marketing principles. The idea that underdogs can rise above. Our father was a minister so we grew up hearing stories like David and Goliath and Gladwell breaks the story down. I love the story of the underdog and so that really appeals to me. I think any artist like my sister, anyone fighting to create their own art is an underdog… and how to win when the environment is all trying to keep you down. And his book gives you strategies for that.
TT: Well, Marian and Melissa, thank you so much for your time. We’re excited about your web-series and we wish you a ton of success!
Both: Thank you so much!
Don't forget to watch this clever show. Each episode is just a few minutes long but it's so funny, you'll want to savor each second! Afterward, stop by IndigNation's Instagram or Twitter account and leave a quick message of support if you enjoyed this bite-sized comedy that packs a punch!