Recreational marijuana use is legal in only four states and Washington D.C. New York is not one of them, but that does not stop The Guy (played by Ben Sinclair) from pedaling his herbal wares all over New York City in the Vimeo web series “High Maintenance.” The fifth season of the series is available to stream as of Nov. 10.
Each episode of the series — created, written, edited and sometimes directed by Sinclair and his wife, Katja Blichfeld — follows The Guy as he delivers pot to a diverse array of clients. What begins as a show about a charming pot dealer quickly becomes a microcosm of the human condition, at least as it exists within the funny, crazy and sometimes heartbreaking lives of New York City stokers.
In an interview with WSN, Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld discussed how the series was a labor of love and an act of practicality.
“We had always wanted to work together, and we wanted to come up with something that we could tell in real time,” Sinclair said. “We also wanted to work within our constraints, which were that we didn’t have any money. But our constraints weren’t that bad because we had a wonderful pool of actors that Katja had to pull from being a casting director on ‘30 Rock.’”
However, it was not an easy decision for Sinclair and Blichfeld to commit to their new endeavor. Although their personal artistic goals were being fulfilled, the couple had no idea that the series would reach so many people.
“We thought maybe a few people would watch it and maybe we would get some more work in our respective professions,” Blichfeld said. “But what happened was really surprising to us. We just weren’t anticipating that there would be an audience watching.”
They attribute part of the success of the series to viewers engaging with situations and characters that feel authentic.
“We really like things to feel real. We like to go into spaces that are lived in by actual humans and not necessarily constructed by a crew,” Blichfeld said. “That’s due to a variety of reasons, mostly [ones related to] budget, but we like things to be real.”
Now that “High Maintenance” has become successful, Blichfeld and Sinclair have found themselves suddenly immersed in New York City pot culture and the conversation about marijuana legalization.
“We’re obviously pro-marijuana,” Blichfeld said. “Although we’re not pro-smoking. That’s actually something we’ve been talking a lot about lately, just the detriments of smoking and inhaling.”
Sinclair echoed that idea, adding that they are not against the consumption.
“We’re just trying to say that we’re not going to say that it’s good for you to be smoking pot, because smoking anything is not good,” Sinclair added. “Taking pot is not bad for you, though.”
Although they may have a strict set of values about smoking, the attitudes on set are far more laid back.
“It becomes this really cool give and take where it feels like everybody is working towards the same goal,” Sinclair said. “I hope to just enjoy this time being alive, and this show is how we’re doing it right now, and it’s unbelievable. I can’t believe we almost didn’t do it.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Nov. 13 print edition. Email Ife Olujobi at [email protected]