It’s not too often that a good horror television series comes along ,and even less likely do you come across one starring minority characters. MisSpelled, a new web series from writer Lindsey McDowell, has officially filled that void. The series follows five enchanted young women who meet at a community college ;and together struggle to learn and control their newly discovered powers. McDowell, who also stars in the series, is completely knocking down the superficial standards projected by Hollywood ,for what it takes to play a witch on TV. Lindsey and cast of modern witches are blazing the trail for young girls of all shapes and backgrounds who one-day dream of using supernatural art for their own will on the big screen. I had the pleasure of having this candid conversation with Lindsey about her life & new series, which launched it’s first episode, #WitchBitch, on July 9th!
So I stalked your website a little bit and I saw that you really do it all. You write, you act, you sing. You’re truly incredible!
Thank you! You’re so sweet.
No problem! Were you professionally trained in all three, or did you kind of venture into them on your own?
I think I’ve always just done all three. I kind of got into them all at the same time. When I was a kid I used to write these really, really weird poems. I slowly started to get into after school activities, and I found acting. I’ve always just wanted to sing. So when I was 18, I went to Howard for a year, and I decided that I wanted to focus on acting primarily…
Wait, where’d you go?
Howard, in D.C.
That’s where I go!
You go to Howard right now?!
Oh my God that’s awesome. What year are you?
I’m going into my junior year.
Oh my goodness congratulations. How you liking it?
I love it.
Aww, that’s awesome.
Ok so as you were saying, you attended Howard for only a year…
Yeah I went to Howard for a year, and I just felt like everybody at Howard was extremely motivated to do what they came to Howard to do, and I didn’t feel that motivation. I wanted to go and do what I wanted to do, and that was acting.
So my sister, who is Howard alum, lives in L.A. and works at a production company that primarily does Lifetime movies. She was just like if you need to come here now, and that’s something you want to do, you’re still 18. You can move out here and sleep on my couch. So I slept on her couch for two and a half years, and it was awesome.
That’s awesome because I feel like a lot of college kids are in that same situation now. Wanting to do something and feeling like they have to stay in school to do it, so great for you.
If you had to select ONE medium ,(acting, singing, and writing), which one do you see yourself doing more of down the line in your career?
I see myself constantly battling between writing and acting. I definitely see it being a battle of the fittest between those two. It’s easier… I mean it’s hard to get any jobs in the entertainment industry, but it’s easier for someone to join a writing team. When it comes to acting there’s only one role that needs to be filled, but when it comes to writing you can be 1 of 12 on a writing staff.
No singing in your future?
You know, I really do not want to be Adele. Like I really don’t. It’s just too scary. My current boyfriend has actually been pushing me to get into the studio more… but I do like to sing. It’s really freeing, and it makes my soul feel good. I also play guitar and write songs, but I don’t want to be on stage telling people about my feelings. It’s easier to hide behind it as an actor.
I know you said your sister works in film. Is your whole family kind of into the music/entertainment industry?
Not in the least. Not at all. Not one iota. Like I know my mom and her sister used to be in chorus when they were in grade school back in the 1800s, but other than that, no. My dad is a chef, and my mom is as a programmer, and has worked in programming, and computers, and health insurance her whole entire life.
So she’s like what happened with my daughters?!
Exactly. Like I’m sure in her head she had this really nice vision of her daughters being these really smart doctors or lawyers who went to Hillman, but nope. Not quite.
I saw that you grew up in New York, How do you think growing up in New York influenced your work as an artist today?
Well I grew up in Port Chester, which is about 20 minutes away from the Bronx. So it’s not quite up-up state, like Buffalo or anything…
It’s like the suburbs?
Yeah exactly, and my mom had lived in the city her whole life. She actually worked in the World Trade Center. So I always had a good balance of me and my friends going to the city on weekends, and them coming back to suburbia. I feel like as an artist, it’s probably shaped me because I’ve been around a lot of different type of people my whole life, and I love hearing different stories culturally from them because we all have our own thing.
I remember when I first got to Howard, my friend Aneeke started having these really weird dreams, and so was I. So I talked to my mom and she told me about an old Southern folklore called being “hag-ridden,” which happens after you move to a new place and it causes weird dreams. So when I went back and talked to Anneke about it she told me that she was Muslim, and that her dad told her that it meant that a pin was riding you. So we all have our own beliefs.
You know Port Chester is a town that’s 80% Hispanic and Latina, and it’s kind of like a melting pot. The other 10% is white and the other 10% is black, so I was always around a whole bunch of different type of people who were Hispanic and Latino, but they all were so different, and they all had different cultures, and that was super interesting to me.
And there are no shows out displaying those different cultures.
Not at all, which makes me feel like representation in that sense is important. Because we all grew up watching Lizzie McGuire & Are You Afraid of the Dark, and we were like man it would be cool if someone looked like us. But despite that, we were never taken out of the experience just because everyone was white.
When we debuted the series at VidCon, which is like a YouTube conference in Anaheim, California, a lot of different people were there but the majority of girls who were there were white 15 or 16 year-olds. I was so nervous that they wouldn’t relate to the show because there were only Asian, Black, and Hispanic characters, but literally no white person said a single damn thing. They turned around and they were like, “Oh my God! When is this coming out? We have to see it!” That’s when I was like, “That’s it.” It doesn’t matter what you’re watching, as long as there are people in it who are human beings, someone will like it and will relate to it.
I think that was really important because living in L.A., you have the idea that Hollywood has to make these casts that are predominately white because it helps people relate, but I just feel like that’s wrong. I saw for myself, hundreds of girls who were white come in and be really into these characters. Skin tone didn’t come up at all. They were just like, “Oh my God, magic? Tell me more about this series.”
Speaking of the show, there’s never been a show quite like this. It’s horror, and there are women of color. How did this idea come about?
I honestly can’t lie. I did not start off trying to pitch this as an all “women of color” cast. I just cast three of my friends, and it wasn’t until I had to cast the last girl that I was like, “Oh my God! The rest of us aren’t white!” I started off casting all my friends from acting school, and people I wanted to work with. Then I was in the casting room with a couple of other people, and we were casting the role of Emma, played by Vyvy Nguyen who is amazing, and we were all chatting about who this next girl had to be. Me and a couple of other people in the room, who were minorities, were thinking that we had to have a white person in this group of witches or else no one was going to care about us. We never said it out loud, but we definitely felt like we needed to round it out a little .Then the one white person in the room, our director, who was also funding it, was like, “No. Fuck white people. They’re in everything. They’re in literally everything. You guys are going crazy about needing to see white people. No we don’t need to see white people. Let’s see Asian girls. I haven’t seen an Asian girl in anything. Let’s do that.” It was almost like we all just had this sigh of relief, because the one white person in the room was like I don’t want to see more white people. This is interesting. These girls’ stories are interesting.
You talked a little bit about casting and how open you guys were about it, but obviously that’s not how it is everywhere in Hollywood. Can you talk a little bit about typecasting in Hollywood, and what kind of things go on daily, and what needs to be done to fix the problem?
I think that honestly the problem is that people are scared to do something new. I think that there are a lot of old people with a lot of old money at these networks, and I’m not even saying that they’re all white. When you look at the people who are on these boards, it’s pretty diverse! I just feel like they have this model that works, and they don’t want to stir away from it.
There’s a formula?
Yeah, a formula that has worked for them, and they want to keep doing that and not go astray from it. I think that the answer is more shows having more people of color, and people from the LGBTQ community on them, to show that not only are our stories interesting, but they’re also important. In a sense they’re more interesting because they’re stories that you haven’t seen before. So I think that the answer is really showing the networks that just because you have three black people on your cast, that doesn’t necessarily make it a “black show,” and if it is a black show that’s not a bad thing either because we’re consumers too. It’s not going to fail your entire demographic, if anything it’s going to expand it.
People of all races will still be interested.
Exactly, and I think that’s what’s really cool about people coming along in this generation. When I was at VidCon, I got a chance to talk to a lot of the girls who were coming in, and I realized that this is a really beautiful socially aware generation, more so than I think we were. I think that that’s really awesome and beautiful. They want to be allies. I mean if you read the comment section about anything on the internet you would think that the world is just going to shit, but if you talk to the people who are actually fans and aren’t out with an agenda, they’re very supportive.
Has horror and witchcraft always been your thing, or is this a new venture for you?
Oh definitely not my thing. I’m terrified. I’m terrified of everything. This is definitely a new venture for me. I wanted to tell something masterful. I wanted to see if I could do it. I just ended up writing it, and asking Darryl, our director, to read it. He liked it and he wanted to make it his production company’s first project. So I was like OK let’s do this. It’s funny because any time I have to write anything scary, it’s definitely in the daytime. It can’t be at night because I’m just super scared of horror and stuff. I also have brought on my cousin, Ricky George, for episodes four, five and six He’s a horror writer, and he lives in Florida. I feel like he has very good insight on what the horror and sci-fi fans [want]. He’s great.
Years ago when you first moved to LA, did you ever imagine that you’d be playing a witch?
I’d hoped. I think I’ve always kind of hoped that someday I would. It’s funny because all of us (the cast) were talking on set and we all said that we’ve always wanted to play a witch. Absolutely! I think that if you are a female growing up in the time of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, you have always wanted to play a witch. I remember when I sent Gabby (plays Nina), who’s one of my best friends out here in L.A., the theme music to the show. She just started dying! She was like, “I’ve always wanted to play a witch! This is so great!” So we were all super excited at the opportunity to play a witch. The show is one of those shows that are a little difficult to categorize.
The show is definitely dramatic and horror-filled, but there’s still a comedic element to it. Is that something done on purpose, and will you be looking to continue that? Where do you see that going in the future?
I really wanted to tell a story that was kind of in the vein of Pretty Little Liars, Supernatural, and Vampire Diaries. If you watch those shows there are certain moments when one of the characters will say something sarcastic, and I wanted to play with that element. That comedy can be introduced, and not take away from the seriousness of what’s happening, and I hoped that we strike the right cord. It definitely is challenging.
We’re currently in post for episode two and we wrote in like three jokes for 10 pages of content, and it just got too funny. So yeah we had to cut out a lot of the comedy, and hopefully we’ll have out-take footage so you guys can see it because it is funny. It does work, but it just doesn’t work for the seriousness.
So what would you say was the light bulb moment for MisSpelled? Was it something that you saw that made you say, “I want to write this”?
It was definitely after American Horror Story Coven had ended, and everyone felt however they were going to feel about that ending, and I really just wanted to write something for me and my friends from acting school that I haven’t been able to hang out with in a while. So I started writing for me and Carina [Perez] (plays Stella), and in my head I just had witches, and witchcraft, and magic. Then I started researching a lot, and I realized that this could actually be really good, and it doesn’t just have to be me and Carina. It can be me, and all my friends that I’ve wanted to work with.
You grew up in New York. You live in L.A. Which one do you like more?
New York. I just feel like New York doesn’t really offer me the same opportunities that L.A. does, and that’s why I’m here. When I moved here I was definitely hoping that I would like L.A., and then when I quickly realized that I didn’t really love L.A., I was like I need to get back to New York!
It’s a love and hate relationship with L.A. It just doesn’t seem as fun as New York was. It just doesn’t. It has nothing to do with the fact that my family is in New York and my best friends are in New York. It’s all about the nightlife. I’m a huge clubber back home, and in L.A. people are like, “Lindsey you club? What? That’s ridiculous.” I love to go out and have fun with my friends in New York, and here if you tell people you like to go club they literally assume you do coke!
What’s your favorite kind of music?
Anything except for Polka. I can’t do Polka music, it just sounds so dumb. But I honestly do listen to every type of music. It just depends on my mood. If I’m cleaning the house, I’m probably on the Taylor Swift station because I’m also obsessed with Taylor Swift. I’m definitely on the Waka Flocka station. I listen to a lot of everything. Shout out to my hometown, I love Waka Flocka!
What kind of reception has the show gotten thus far?
I know that there’s just been one episode but what have you heard?
Honestly, anyone who watches it, either fantasy just isn’t their thing, or they love it and they want to see more. I’m really happy with the reception. The day we released our promo episode I was like, “I’m totally find with 250 views from like my friends on Facebook.” I was completely OK with that, and then the trailer for some reason has just been taking off, and still counting. I don’t know how a trailer for anything has over 30,000 views. I really don’t, but I’m really happy with the reception of the show, and I’m really excited that people already have their favorite witches and are reblogging their favorite pictures on Tumblr. I think that that’s really nice and beautiful. I also love when people talk about the representation in ethnicities as well as body sizes. I think that that’s really important. And I also love when people don’t mention it, and they just like the show.
You think that because you’re big, or that you’re black, or that you’re Hispanic that this is going to be a bad thing, and it’s going to distract, but it honestly doesn’t.
What is your dream for the show?
My absolute dream for the show would be to get crowd funded through either Kickstarter or Indiegogo because we have filmed three episodes, but we don’t have any more funds to continue with episodes four, five, and six, although I’m certainly writing them now. So my overall goal would be to get funded so that we can make the end of the season, and to be able to say, as an artist, that I made something from start to finish.
To cast more spells view the Misspelled Webseries here :