‘Uneasy’ Shadows Two ‘Broke Brown Girls’
A comedic web series, ‘Uneasy’ was dreamed up by Oaklanders Samiat Salami and Vanessa Flores, who both star as some version of themselves in each episode.
Samiat Salami, left, and Vanessa Flores have some fun at Lake Merritt.
Photo by Jannah Manansala
The show is called Uneasy for good reason. Throughout the eight-episode series, audiences are exposed to the awkward interactions, raw moments of daily life, and downtrodden realities of two young women of color trying to survive as 20somethings in present-day Oakland.
We are made to feel uneasy watching the lives of Cat and Ade unfold against a backdrop of cultural dislocation, joblessness, and gentrification. Yet many of us may feel a sensation that, yes, we have lived or witnessed these same distorted realities of life in the Bay Area.
Uneasy was dreamed up by Samiat Salami and Vanessa Flores, who star as some version of themselves in each episode. Flores plays Cat, a Mexican American grappling to find her voice as a writer while navigating the complexities of her identity as a non-Spanish-speaking Latina. Salami stars as Ade, a Nigerian American and recent college graduate struggling to find work and fit in with black culture in America. Their characters are roommates, best friends, and self-proclaimed “broke brown girls” trying to navigate their identities and lives as cultural outsiders.
“We’re asking so many questions with this show,” explained Flores. “Admittedly, we’re not answering much.”
Indeed, the show’s creators aren’t afraid to put a harsh magnifying glass to characters on the screen, playing with stereotypes that are both extreme and very real, letting audiences draw their own conclusions about what’s happening beneath the surface of each interaction.
We see the techie gentrifier who wants to move to Oakland from San Francisco’s Mission District so he can leave behind the Latino-reminders of his ex-girlfriend. We squirm in awkwardness watching the Berkeley mom, trying to be politically correct all while fumbling in her own ignorance as she tries to connect with Ade and her Nigerian heritage. We meet Celeste, a queer black woman whose tough exterior masks the feelings of betrayal she feels from her past relationships, and Dulce, a Latina woman who bonds with Cat as her amiga in writing school until she learns that Cat can’t understand basic Spanish.
“There’s a part of me that’s always asking questions and wants to be anthropological and record what I see,” said Salami. “I’m trying to understand the complexities of what makes people the way they are, to have empathy for them.”
Viewers of Uneasy may nod in agreement at feeling familiar with the characters and their personalities on display. For Salami, who also produced and directed the series, there’s a strong desire to paint the lives of people of color in ways that are not always portrayed on screen.
“I want a black, brown, or African woman to watch this and say, ‘that is me and that is a moment of my life I’ve never seen represented before.’”
Oaklanders will recognize the many landmarks of the city and snapshot of life in The Town that the series portrays — from long lines at Bakesale Betty to picnics at Lake Merritt and shopping at Mandela Foods Cooperative in West Oakland. The show’s soundtrack is an intentionally curated sampling of songs from local artists such as Trey Coastal, Mlodic, and Salami Rose Joe Louis whose sounds and lyrics firmly situate the drama on screen as uniquely Bay Area.
“A lot of what we see here is so absurd. But you cannot make this shit up,” said Flores. We’ve been to cafes in San Francisco and elsewhere in the Bay Area where we hear these conversations. It’s really what people are talking like.”
For both Flores and Salami, who met while in school at the California College of Arts, creating the show was a way to find a sense of “agency in doing, creating, and making” while working their more monotonous jobs after graduating.
“Uneasy is made up of a lot of tiny moments of the characters’ lives, not glamorous in any way,” said Flores.
If the show’s February premiere at The New Parkway Theatre was any indication, local audiences are far from “uneasy” in finding those tiny moments of our own realities reflected on screen.
Watch the entire series of Uneasy and learn about the characters at UneasyTheShow.com.