Q&A: The Inside Dope on High Maintenance

15 Sep 2016 - By TW Staff

Above: Ben Sinclair, Nina Rosenstein, Katja Blichfeld and Russell Gregory walked the "green carpet" at the High Maintenance premiere in New York City.

Riding a buzz of strong reviews, the HBO Original Series High Maintenance will make its television debut this Friday, September 16 at 11 p.m. ET. Based on an acclaimed Vimeo web series -- created by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair -- the show chronicles the comedy and pathos of New York City living through the brief encounters of "The Guy", an unnamed marijuana dealer (played by co-creator Sinclair) making deliveries to both high and low alike. 

The transition from online to HBO includes extended episode lengths and enhanced resources for production values. We spoke with Nina Rosenstein, Executive Vice President of HBO Programming, to discuss the network's approach to developing the series, and how the network felt a responsibility to stay true to a property that has already cultivated a devoted fanbase.

High Maintenance began as a Vimeo web series in 2012. How did it end up on HBO’s radar?

We had been fans of the web series when it first began as an independent self-released title. It migrated to Vimeo, and after that Ben and Katja were open to bringing it to an even bigger stage. 

What about the series makes it a good fit for HBO?

We like to talk about shows being “authentic”, “unique”, and High Maintenance is exactly that -- it’s a singular show with an original voice. It speaks about the universal idea that we’re all looking for relief and escape- what better way to explore than through a weed dealer. It’s also beautifully written and directed and the casting is pitch perfect.

What changes can fans expect as it moves from Vimeo to a network with the reputation and resources of HBO? Is the goal to maintain the spirit and tone viewers have come to expect, or to present it in a different way that will appeal more broadly to HBO viewers?

We gave the creators, Ben and Katja, a lot of creative freedom. We didn’t want to change the essence of the show, but rather give them the resources to take risks with the characters and storytelling, and that’s exactly what they did. It also allowed them to add some extra production value to the scenes and open up the storylines by taking them out of the limited locations that many of the earlier webisodes focused on. The essence of the show is the same.

Are you looking at similar web series that align with this thinking, or do you view High Maintenance as a one-off? 

We have a new series called Insecure, created by Issa Rae, another talented writer/performer. She found a lot of success with her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. There are so many places to find emerging talent, and the internet is another pool for us to find them.