05/26/2012 10:33 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

'East Willy B' Turns To KickStarter To Fund The First Community-Funded Latino Sitcom (VIDEO, EXCLUSIVE)

After airing a successful pilot season of their web series "East Willy B"—which takes a comedic look at the effects of gentrification in inner city neighborhoods—actress Julia Grob and writer-director Yamin Segal have big plans to release the show's first official season with an ambitious 12-episode order.

But before they can produce the new episodes (which they're hoping to premiere during Hispanic Heritage Month), the co-creators of the hit web series will have to raise $50,000, and they're hoping a new KickStarter campaign will help them reach that goal more quickly.

Julia and Yamin spoke to The Huffington Post about raising money for the series' first official season, the Latino celebs who have signed on to star on the popular web series, and why they hope to create the first community-funded Latino sitcom!

There's so much buzz surrounding your web series "East Willy B," but for those who aren't familiar with it, can you tell us what it's about?
GROB: We like to affectionately call it a Latino "Cheers" set in gentrified Brooklyn. It's an online series about a Puerto Rican sports bar owner, Willy Jr. (Flaco Navaja), who is working hard to keep his bar alive in the face of the hipster invasion of his neighborhood.

How did you come up with the idea for "East Willy B?"
GROB: My co-creator Yamin {Segal} and I have known each other since high school, and we sat down one day at a coffee shop because we wanted to work on a project together. We shared the feeling of a lack of content reflecting the new generation of Latinos. So instead of waiting around for someone else to do it, we were like, 'we can create a series that can speak directly to an audience that we know is out there,' and that's new generation, English-dominant Latinos, which now make up like 50 million for the Latino population.

Who do you play in "East Willy B?"
GROB: I play Ceci Rivera, a sassy bartneder who holds down the bar when Willy's still hung up on his love. She's a wise-cracking, no-nonsense kind of chick.


What Latino celebrities are involved with "East Willy B?"
GROB: We have a new cast member joining and that's Rick Gonzalez ("Old School," "Reaper"), who is everyone's favorite Brooklyn-ite! April Hernandez-Castillo has worked with us and Danny Hock, who's an amazing solo performer. It's something that people have gravitated towards for the love of the project and because they were getting roles on "East Willy B" that they could never play in TV and film.

You're currently in the process of raising money for "East Willy B." Can you tell us about that?

GROB: Yes! We're in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. We've been raising 50K in 50 days. We're over the 50 percent mark, but we have a week left to go and the campaign ends on June 1st. And we decided to do the Kickstarter campaign because we had a lot of meetings with different networks and executives and producers—and while we've made a lot of friends and fans and people who love the content—we haven't found someone who would fund it.

Why do you think that's been a challenge?
GROB: I think part of it is, the content is a little edgy. It's a Brooklyn based story, the heart of it is a Puerto Rican story, and it also has a socially conscious kind of content because it's a comedy about gentrification. I think between the content and having an all-Latino cast, people don't know how to monetize it and they get a little scared. And we really felt that the audience is out there, people want content like us—that's what we learned from our pilot season—and we're not going to wait around for anyone to tell us we can do it, if we can go out and raise the money ourselves.

What plans do you have for the show if you do manage to raise 50K?
SEGAL: What is up on the web right now is what we're calling a pilot season. What we're trying to do now is really expand the scope of the show. Right now episodes online are under three minutes long and what we're going to do now is to create six to nine minute long episodes, and we're going to create 12 of them. So you're looking at 90 minutes of content and that's huge. We're going to launch around mid-September.

Do you have a message you'd like to share with the series' fans?
GROB: The big message to the fans is to please support the Kickstarter campaign. What we're trying to do is create the first community-funded Latino sitcom. If you feel like you're not seeing media that represents you, you're not seeing TV shows that represent you—I think that's just more of a reason to support "East Willy B." Put $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 dollars down and say this is the type of content you want to see. And if you do that, and we reach 50K, we'll have really great programming coming to you soon!

Are you a fan of "Easy Willy B?" Let us know in the comments!


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