Abby Phon thinks primetime is ready to "go green"
We have seen our fair share of crime dramas, medical dramas and political dramas. Is it time for a new genre? Abby Phon, Executive Producer and star of Life Without Green, is on a mission to bring environmental issues to primetime.
Life Without Green is a drama about a young Jewish woman's struggle to keep her unraveling life together after her fiance vanishes in a haze of suspicion. The series is set in Boston against the backdrop of environmental politics. Rachel Singer, the protagonist, is an environmental idealist and the new Director of the Office for Economic and Environmental Issues at City Hall.She is also a young Jewish woman with something to prove.
Abby Phon, a graduate of the New York University Tish School of the Arts, explained, “The point of Rachel Singer is that she is a young, up-and comer. A lot of people at City Hall don’t think she can hack it because she’s so young and doesn’t have as much experience but she’s there to prove them all wrong. She has the great dream of making Boston go completely green and she’s dedicated to that.”
Jewishness features prominently in Life Without Green. Rachel's Jewish identity is visible, and develops throughout the series. Abby Phon spent some time living in Newton, MA, a Boston suburb with a thriving Jewish community. She brings her experience with Boston Jewish life to the character of Rachel Singer. Abby Phon recognizes the fact that Jewish women are not always visible on primetime tv: "For whatever reason, Jewish female protagonists aren’t readily available on TV and [creator/writer Adam Roberts] thought, why not? Why can’t we have a show about someone who’s Jewish where it’s a main part of their life, and actually see that in the show?" The protagonist's fiance, Benjamin "Benji" Green, comes from a Jewish Latino background, which adds another element of Jewishness to the show.
Life without Green will appeal to Jews, certainly, but it also features a variety of cultures and faiths with a racially diverse cast making it "for everyone, about everyone." Plus, Abby added, "We're all going through the environmental issue at the moment and we can all relate to that."
The environmental backdrop in Life Without Green is what sets it apart. Part of the show's appeal is its use of humor to address the day-to-day challenges of "going green." For example, in a scene cut from the pilot, Rachel Singer's staff is setting up for a press conference. One of the characters is using environmentally friendly duct tape to hang a banner, which promptly falls because the tape isn't strong enough to hold it. Abby Phon is proud of the fact that the show specifically addresses how a major metropolitan city balances environmental innovation with economic growth. "There’s currently no tv show talking about these issues and in such a compelling way."
Abby Phon fell in love with the script after she signed on to play the lead. As a life-long environmentalist, she found the story compelling and timely, and thought this was something that should be on network tv for everyone to see and enjoy. That is how she came to be Executive Producer in her first producing role. She and Adam Roberts created the production company Aces Deuce and are now shopping the pilot to major TV networks and trying to generate buzz through grassroots support.
A 15 minute short of the pilot episode will be screened this weekend at the Boston International Film Festival on Saturday at 4 pm. This is not a bad start for Life Without Green, which Phon lovingly calls "the little production that could, and will."