- Jean Elie, who played Issa Rae’s younger brother Ahmal in HBO’s “Insecure,” debuts a new series “Send Help” on AMC Networks’ streaming platform AllBlk.
- The actor and producer co-created the show with writer Mike Gauyo.
- The show follows the challenges of a first-generation Haitian American trying to make a career in Hollywood.
“Send Help” follows Fritz Jean-Baptiste (Elie), a first-generation Haitian American man struggling with the challenges of “making it” in Hollywood while coming to terms with a recent family tragedy. The series follows him trying to navigate dreams of stardom while carrying the weight of his family on his shoulders.
The process of taking “Send Help” from idea to screen took nearly four years, the first half of which was spent with no money. The whole filming process was documented on Instagram.
Elie, perhaps best known for playing Issa Rae’s younger brother Ahmal Dee on “Insecure,” brings his own lived experience as a Haitian American actor to “Send Help.” With co-creator Gauyo, Elie turns the show into a love letter to his homeland.
“Send Help” premieres Thursday, August 11, on AMC Networks’ streaming platform AllBlk.
Insider spoke with Jean Elie about his experience as lead actor, co-creator, and co-showrunner of “Send Help.” The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
“Send Help” deals with topics like imposter syndrome and grief. What inspired you and your team to touch on these themes through the perspective of someone who’s Haitian American?
It’s because it’s not really talked about like that. I’ve gone through it, Mike’s gone through it, and you’ve gone through it, you know what I’m saying? So it only makes sense to speak about what you know, and what you’ve experienced, and being able to bring that story to light is an honor, especially feeling like it’s first of its kind.
Universally, people go through doubt and people go through the pressures of trying to be there for themselves, but also be there for everybody else as well. That’s a lot of the things [main character] Fritz is dealing with, dealing with that impostor syndrome and self-doubt. He’s dealing with the responsibility of being there for everybody else when he really needed somebody else to be there for him.
How else are we going to see his character evolve throughout the season?
We’re going to see the unraveling of this person in the next couple of episodes. The linchpin, the thing that kept him afloat and everything at bay, is now gone. So how does he continue moving forward?
A lot of Black men mostly don’t necessarily talk about their issues. So we got to try to find a way to get him to a place where he can talk about what’s going on, and what’s happening on the inside.
We’re seeing some familiar faces from “Insecure” and other shows as well. We’re also seeing some mentees from the Black Boy Writes Mentorship. How did you know who you wanted to work with?
The immigrant aspect of the story was very important to us. So we’re trying to hire people who kind of have that story to them or understand the story so they can understand the gravity of what we’re trying to say. We needed to bring in people from our culture and any culture behind in front of the camera.
The show follows Fritz trying to make it in Hollywood. What lessons have you learned from moving to LA and trying to make it yourself?
I’ve learned that no one’s gonna save you. You have to invest in yourself. I learned that if you want something, you have to do the legwork yourself and have this ‘no, quit attitude.’ Also, don’t sweat the small stuff because a lot of the small things you don’t get open the door for something bigger to come your way. Then patience, my least favorite thing. Patience with yourself, as well as with your work and your growth.
I love seeing the representation of Haitian moms on screen. What does your mom think of the show?
My mom is actually in the show.
She’s not in the pilot, but she makes appearances in two episodes. It was my mom and my aunt, as well as Mike’s mom. It was very important for me to have her experience what it is that I do. Whenever there’s a low in my career, she’s literally trying to get me to have another job. But after being on set, now she goes home and tells people, “Oh, pitit mwen ap travay di wi, y gen anpil li ap fè wi.” and “Oh, wap travay twòp wi pitit gason!” (“Oh, my son is working so hard! He’s doing way too much,” and “Oh, you are working way too much, son!”) So, before I was doing nothing, now it’s like, I work too hard, I need to relax.
What do you hope people get out of watching “Send Help”?
I hope that people who watch get a sense that being creative isn’t easy and also learn that the Haitian experience is not monolithic. No two experiences are the same. And I hope we get to see a softer side of guys who are just trying to figure it out and that guys learn that it’s okay to speak up and say what it is that’s bothering them versus just eating it. It doesn’t make you soft to express what the hell’s going on. Some people actually want to help, you know?
“Send Help” comes out Thursday, August 11, 2022, on AllBlk.