Insecure alums Jean Elie and TV writer Mike Gauyo are calling on all Zoes with their new show, Send Help. Airing on ALLBLK, the co-creators’ Haitian culture is at the heart of the dramedy.
For the majority of first-generation Americans, chasing your dreams can feel like a battle in the ring. Mix that in with coping with tragedy and complicated relationships, and you have the premise of Send Help. Starring Elie as Fritz Jean-Baptiste, the series is about an actor living in LA, who finds himself out of a gig once his show gets canceled. All while dealing with the challenges that come with being unemployed in Hollywood, he also has the pressure of being the backbone of his Haitian family.
Inspired by his own come-up in the industry and people in his circle, Elie wanted to transform conversations around the shared experiences into powerful storytelling.
Fritz’s story hits real close to home for the actor, but the ability to represent for people who come from similar walks of life was always the bigger picture at hand.
“Definitely felt vulnerable, but also definitely felt supported because I had a partner like Mike Gauyo help me out throughout the typical scenes,” Elie shared recently with Shadow and Act. “Also, the people that we kept around.
He continued, “But also super excited to see how this show and story would resonate with other folks and people who have gone through similar situations, especially in the time that we’re in, where the pandemic and Black Lives Matter happened. A lot of people are missing relatives or family members that just kind of got plucked out of their lives and created this void or gap. Being able to speak on that and what that feels like, it’s been great.”
Before coming together for Send Help, Elie and Gauyo worked alongside one another on HBO’s Insecure. Building upon their working relationship, the two learned how to bounce off each other’s strengths to create an authentic story of Black people just existing and facing universal situations, which ultimately connects with their audience — similarly to their previous iconic show.
Tie that in with Haitian-American people specifically at the forefront of the show, Gauyo believes their show is one of the first to do so.
“I think for both Jean and I, we’ve never been in a showrunner position before,” Gauyo said. “Of course, we’ve seen it from great showrunners and we’ve had some great mentors, but it’s the first time that we stepped into the position ourselves and there was a learning curve. We really had to lean on each other in terms of what each of us were good at. So, I think something that was birthed out of this show between the two of us apart from other shows that we’ve worked on together is being able to lean on each other, but to have productive conversations on how to move forward on certain things. Our communication skills got much stronger.”
As the show features fellow 'Insecure' alums such as Courtney Taylor, who plays Fritz’s friend Nicole, the duo also had support from Issa Rae, Prentice Penny, and more throughout making their show.
“Through the whole process, we’ve gotten advice from Issa, Prentice, Deniese [Davis], and Amy [Aniobi],” Elie shared. “We got a lot of advice from those creators of that show and those producers because Mike and I were first-time showrunners. So, it was very important for us to reach back to the people that we saw do this before us.”
Gauyo added: “The thing that I’m getting to is, why would we not tap into that knowledge of them creating something so great? And of course, us wanting to mirror something great ourselves. It was only good for us to be able to reach out and get some advice of, ‘How have you done this?’ ‘How did you navigate these spaces before?’ So that we can avoid some of the pitfalls that they’ve fallen into. The thing is too, when you really look at it, the way Issa operates with Prentice is the way that Jean and I are operating with each other.”
Send Help premieres on August 11 on ALLBLK.
Watch the full interview below: