The Story Behind Amazon’s L.A. Centric “Fairfax” That’s Streaming Now

An LAMag conversation with the creators of the new animated comedy series, which voice stars Billy Porter, Kiersey Clemons, and more

Like many young adults growing up in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, L.A. natives and longtime friends Teddy Riley, Matthew Hausfater, and Aaron Buchsbaum found themselves spending a lot of their free time hanging out near the Fairfax District.

The once quiet Jewish neighborhood, which was home to mostly mom-and-pop Jewish bakeries and eateries including the 24/7 hotspot Canter’s Deli, had exploded into what is now known as a streetwear mecca after the famed New York-based retailer Supreme opened a store in the area in 2004. It became the go-to place where Riley, Hausfater, and Buchsbaum—who all work in the entertainment industry now—could simultaneously purchase their bar mitzvah tallit as well as their first box logo t-shirts.

The popular shopping district is the backdrop for the trio’s latest animated comedy series, Fairfax, which premiered on Oct. 29 via Amazon Prime Video. The first season of the show follows the journey of four middle schoolers Dale (Skyler Gisondo), Derica (Kiersey Clemons), Benny (Peter S. Kim), and Truman (Jaboukie Young-White) who obsess over every drop from their favorite, fictional brand Latrine—a nod to Supreme—and their never-ending quest to be considered cool in their social circles and online.

“We know the world and felt like immediately it was like this crayon box full of colors that nobody had really used yet whether it was a show about L.A.,” Riley said. “Whether it was a show about youth culture or streetwear influencer culture, it was just something that we hadn’t seen yet.” (The artist Somehoodlum designed the characters for the series and serves as a consulting producer alongside the pop/internet culture clothing and media brand Pizzaslime.)

The show, which also voice stars Billy Porter, Pamela Aldon, Yvette Nicole Brown, and John Leguizamo has already been given the green light for a second season. You can watch the first season now via Amazon Prime Video.

We briefly caught up with the creators of Fairfax to talk about why they thought the iconic shopping district deserved a show and how the area has evolved over the years. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you think that now was the right time to make a show about Fairfax?

Hausfater: At the time when we were creating Fairfax, it was really when we saw Supreme go from skateboard company to Jerry Bruckheimer wearing Supreme Louis Vuitton sweatshirts. And they are now sort of in on their own joke selling bricks, and it became this moment of like they’re in on the joke and there is something inherently funny about this. But what really made it work for us—and my hats are off to Aaron and Teddy when they realized like—it’s a lot bigger than streetwear. We like to think that Fairfax is Springfield in that it is all encompassing of what it means to be a kid in 2021 where you have meme and influencer culture at your fingertips.

You’re seeing what everybody is doing all of the time. Things like FOMO are something that you really have to deal with. And you know, Fairfax to us can be anything from Esports, to health conscious food stores like Erewhon to a company like Latrine that is selling T-shirts with Dr. Phil on them, where the kids are chasing them even though they have no idea [who] Dr. Phil is because they want to get clout on the internet. Which is something that we didn’t have to deal with growing up. We just had to deal with getting clout in our junior high school cafeteria. But that’s what made it interesting to us is that so much has changed where you are now a 12-year-old who has to know who you are and define yourself when we all know that is not something that happens for a long time. And it’s, you know, still evolving as I sit here as a 36-year-old.

Riley: There was a transition right around the time we were developing the show where it felt like it was going from subculture to just culture. Like Barney’s started carrying streetwear. People that weren’t huge streetwear heads were starting to collect Jordans. You know, it just became really topical to us in a way that we felt, ‘Okay, there’s a larger audience that can connect to this show, not just people who are kind of obsessed with the subculture of it.’

Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios

I feel like each of the characters on the show is someone that you could actually bump into on Fairfax. But being that you are all longtime friends, I’m curious if there’s a character on the show that you feel most connected to?

Riley: I connect most to Dale and Truman. I think there’s like a newness of again—I totally looked to my best friends to tell me what was cool to burn a t-shirt that was no longer cool. And I think I see a lot of myself in Truman as this kind of hopeless romantic who is trying to make good art, but at the end of the day is making an untitled shit project.

Buchsbaum: Yeah, I think we all can agree with that in that the filmmaker side is prevalent in all of us. And [Riley] touched on the hopeless romantic aspect of it, where its just like you grow up thinking like, wow, the way Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fell in love in that movie is how I’m supposed to fall in love [laughs] and you quickly realize that like that’s not exactly how it has to work, and that’s okay. And then from the streetwear perspective, Dale, I think always kind of encompassed this feeling that I think we’ve all had at different times where it’s just like, the world of Fairfax and streetwear can be intimidating. And to walk into a Supreme store and see, like 15 things on the wall and that’s it can be jarring. So I think it was important for us to kind of portray through the eyes of Dale, this feeling of like, ‘What is this?’ and being a little afraid of it, and that’s okay. I feel like it’s baked into what streetwear is.

Hausfater: I honestly connect the most with Derica for two reasons. One, I love that she has this rebellious and crazy sort of stylistic attitude. I love her outfits. And I love that she is constantly trying to do the right thing like with a whale in the river. But she’s also noticing, like, if I put this on Instagram, I’m going to get a lot of clout for it. You know and it’s sort of like, I want to do the good things, like I want to help out and be a good Samaritan but like, I also know if I take a picture of me working [and] doing cleanup on the side of the freeway today a lot of people are going to think I’m a great person. And I’m going to get a lot of clout for that. And I think it’s a super funny dichotomy of like wanting to do the right thing, but also wanting to get credit for doing the right thing that sort of draws me to her in a fun way.

Going back to what you mentioned about the world of Fairfax being intimidating at times, I remember a time when store owners didn’t talk to you if you didn’t fit their ideal image of what was deemed cool. It’s obviously evolved and now you’re likely to see more “soccer moms” on Fairfax. What are some of the changes you’ve noticed over the years since you were young?

Hausfater: Our dedication page on our script said ‘Dedicated to all the moms who are waiting in line with their kids at Supreme’ when it was just a script, because we realized so instantly, like it has completely evolved. [Laughs]

Riley: That intimidation factor always seems ever present and hilarious to us. There’s a line early in the first episode, where the security guard outside of Latrine tells the line ‘We’re out of larges so don’t fucking ask.’ That felt like it encapsulated the behavior of the employees in a great way where it was like, ‘I’m sorry to make you go out of your way to help me buy something. Ummm…’. [Laughs] It’s just a really funny dynamic. Where it’s like I don’t want you to change at all, but it’s hilarious to me that we are such an inconvenience to you as a retail employee.

Buchsbaum: And maybe it’s more of a testament to who we are than to what in the block is like, but like, I still walk into those stores and I start sweating and I look around and I just don’t want to piss anybody off.

Riley: It always felt like it’d be walking into an art gallery where you’re like, you’re not allowed to touch stuff. There’s a few things on the wall that you just kind of can’t afford, but you can appreciate and you leave feeling like man, I really want that someday.

Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Amazon Studios

The cast of the show is super star-studded. You have Billy Porter, Kiersey Clemons, Pamela Aldon, and so many other big Hollywood names. What was it like having them be a part of this project?

Buchsbaum: It was the coolest thing in the world and we’re so honored that they connected with the scripts and wanted to work on our show. Like we truly were just checking off our bucket list of the people we love most in Hollywood. … Because of COVID, it was all over Zoom. We shipped a box, a little tiny hut to their homes. They had to stick their heads in. There was a little camera and a little mic and they recorded. And to their credit, they just hit home run after home run after home run in such strange, obscure conditions.

Riley: One thing that we also want to share is how grateful we were for all of those actors to take a chance on a season one of a show that isn’t IP based. I think for actors it’s a lot safer and easier to be like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do a guest star on The Simpsons or season five of a show’ because that show already has an audience. [It] already has, you know, a world unto itself that you know, you’re walking into. With our show, they didn’t know what they were walking into. They didn’t know what their characters even looked like when they were first recording and so the trust that they placed in us is something that we never wanted to take for granted, and we’re so glad that they were game to kind of create this world with us.

Hausfater: Every day was like winning the lottery. We would get a call from a casting director like ‘Billy Porter is in’ and we would like scream!

Riley: We straight up like in the pilot when we first wrote Hiroki Hassan, it said ‘Think Billy Porter.’ Like talk about “The Secret.” I haven’t believed in “The Secret” until we did that and it just manifested into existence.

The show has already been given the green light for a second season. How does it feel to know that you know, already, you can start working on the next one?

Riley: Knowing that there was a season two also gave us the confidence and the reassurance to take our time getting it right in season one and building it the right way. Season ones are tricky. You know, there’s a lot to do. There’s a lot to introduce people to and knowing that we were going to have a season two, frankly gave us the confidence to take bigger swings in season one and establish a world quicker than maybe we would have if we didn’t know that there was a second season coming.

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