At first blush, Rachael Holder’s digital series I Love Bekka & Lucy is easy to align with another show about two female millennial best friends obsessed with each other to the exclusion of everybody else: Broad City. But please, Holder implores me, don’t. “I understand why everyone compares them — they have radical acceptance and they exist the way that every single great best-friendship does — but there’s a disconnect for me,” she says. She recently rewatched Broad City, and describes a moment from season three that sums up the difference for her.
“If Lucy and Bekka, two black girls, were to smoke a J with a pizza box on their lap in the middle of downtown Manhattan, I would have a responsibility — not just as an activist or whatever, but as a human person who is living in reality — to make the next episode about them being in jail,” Holder says. “They’re black. So you can’t pretend that just because they’re hippie-like and they’re quirky and they love each other that they’re white girls.”
Yet for the most part, I Love Bekka & Lucy is a standout because it focuses simply on the fun, freewheeling, semi-co-dependent friendship of two black women, without the emphasis being their race. (Though the show doesn’t ignore race, either.) Bekka (Jessica Parker Kennedy) and Lucy (Tanisha Long of High Maintenance), are best friends in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, who work at the same school, share a house, and are each the Gayle to the other’s Oprah. Their lives are perfectly intertwined — until Lucy’s boyfriend proposes and the dynamic changes. Think of it as a 2018 update of the 1996 movie Walking and Talking.
It’s a simple premise, but the show has resonated and built enough of a following that episode eight captured 1 million viewers — huge numbers for a show that only airs on Facebook and YouTube.
“I thought that we would get that many views on episode three because it starts with a masturbation scene,” jokes Holder. Instead, Holder thinks that what people really responded to was how the season’s central conflict between Bekka and Lucy finally came to a head.
It’s a testament to what makes this show so good and so different. Holder is telling the story of the alternative black girls she herself always identified with — “the girls who love Weezer and never saw themselves in Lisa Turtle or Dionne from Clueless or Lyn from Girlfriends” — and then portrays friendship in a way that avoids the usual bosom-buddy tropes. “Friendship is complicated. It has all the same weird complexities to it that love relationships have, but it’s easier to navigate in love: you can break up, you can get engaged, you can get married. Friendships don’t have that,” Holder says. Bekka & Lucy is exciting because it treats platonic relationships like romantic ones, taking seriously those moments of change.
“Generally when you’re sad at your best friend’s wedding, it’s not because you don’t have a man or you do have a man but you’re not married yet or whatever. That’s the easy way out. It’s mostly because your relationship is going to change with this person that was your person forever, that’s what I’m writing to.”
In addition to writing, Holder (a 33-year-old New York native) also directs, a role she was reluctant to take. “I was like, someone else has to be in charge. But I don’t know a lot of black female directors that work in comedy. So I just unconsciously thought like, Oh, I don’t belong there.”
Eventually she decided to try it — “I was bullied into it.” Turns out, “I’m incredibly good at it,” she says. “And I can say that because I have a little bit of Kanye West in me.”
More importantly, Holder is realizing why women make such good directors and why the industry so desperately needs more of them. “Directing, you have to have such empathy and such an ability to create a safe space for talent that it’s so strange to me that every director isn’t a woman. It’s so strange that the minority in the group is not men.” (Next month, Holder will direct episodes of Mara Brock Akil’s new show for OWN, Love Is ___.)
Until the second season starts filming, Holder wants to make sure the show finds the people she knows will love it; she’s out there handing out I Love Bekka & Lucy business cards on the subway. “I feel crazy because my Afro’s usually messy and I’m, like, dressed like a person who writes at home every day and I’m asking them to watch my show, randomly. But if one person, or five or ten alternative girls like me, that I found on the subway, watches it because I gave them a card, I’m happy.”
All of I Love Bekka & Lucy is available for streaming now on Facebook and YouTube.