How The 'High Maintenance' Stories Connect Reveals So Much, According To The Stars
The tagline for HBO's latest acquisition, a continuation of the acclaimed web series High Maintenance, reads "a city of strangers with one connection." In the literal sense, that connection is the series protagonist — the guy who sells weed to the other characters. But High Maintenance on HBO is about connecting, and the different ways in which characters seek or forge connection is what makes the show special and engaging. In an interview with Bustle on the NYC premiere red carpet, the stars explain what that concept means to the series and their character.
"I think it's really true that in New York it's easier to connect with a stranger sometimes than someone you know really well," says Michael Cyril Creighton, who plays Patrick. "I think [High Maintenance] shows that really beautifully." His character, an agoraphobic craftsman with some very specific interests, is only interacting with The Guy as a means of making a personal connection. The product is barely even secondary to him.
As you (spoilers) learn in the second episode of the HBO season, The Guy works on a referral system. In order to purchase weed from him, you have to be recommended by his established clients. Because that system is in place, the seemingly disparate characters are connected in a kind of web. If you pay close attention and dig into the web series, you can kind of track who knows who and how all of these people came to know The Guy. "You either have it or you really don't," says Greta Lee, who plays Heidi, a character inspired by dating app culture.
"Connection is one of my favorite things," says Yael Stone, who plays Beth, and also stars in Orange Is The New Black — another show that deals with interconnectivity, though in a different way. "I think the way [High Maintenance] prioritizes being a human is so beautiful. The show not only normalizes pot smoking, but many other potential stigmas such as cross dressing/gender binaries, asexuality, polyamory, and many other topics that aren't often seen on screen. "It's not hard hitting current events," says Stone, "it's about small moments in big lives and how small moments can illuminate."
"We in this city are all connected," says Heléne Yorke, who plays Lainey in the HBO premiere episode. "It's like Six Degrees of the F Train." Her character is entangled in a co-dependent relationship, which twists this concept on its head in yet another way. "[Max] is shut off from society because he's so nervous to be in the world," says Max Jenkins, who plays Lainey's counterpart, "and his only outlet is this girl who he grabs onto. This episode is about how he kind of finds a window out of it... and it's ultimately a really tragic story of how he fails to get out."
Finally, for married creators Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld, connection is by definition what they're all about. "Katja and I are connected by [the fact that] we write and produce the show together," says Sinclair, officially setting my #RelationshipGoals for 2017. "We do everything together. So it's all about making a connection with somebody." Blichfeld got into writing, producing (and acting) in High Maintenance from the world of casting. Connecting others is part of her origin story. "I like to put the pieces together," she says. "I really like talent and making sure that the right talent gets with the right projects."
Whether we're reaching for connection, abusing our connections, or just making a chance encounter that leads to something deeper, High Maintenance has hit upon a theme that seems incredibly fitting for its many human stories. "So much difference can exist in such a small space" notes Yorke, "so many walks of so many people can exist on a tiny island." The new season on HBO takes what the original web series had and runs with it even further.
Images: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO; Giphy (3)