EXCLUSIVE: Benjamin Charles Watson Talks The L.A. Complex
There is a slight hint of irony at the heart of The L.A. Complex, a show which centers on the lives of several young people who live in the same Los Angeles apartment complex, trying to make it in all facets of the entertainment industry. The irony is that the show debuted in Canada and stars Canadian actors, one of whom is Benjamin Charles Watson. He plays Tariq Muhammad, an aspiring rapper who works as an assistant at a major record label, fetching coffee and dry cleaning to pay his dues before receiving that all important "big break."
I recently had the chance to speak with Benjamin Charles Watson about The L.A. Complex, which premieres on The CW Network Tuesday, April 24 at 9 PM ET. Here's what he had to say.
I watched the pilot, and I enjoyed how this building is host to people in every aspect of the entertainment business, movies, TV, music, stand-up comedy. As an actor trying to get into this business yourself, did any of these stories in The L.A. Complex resonate with you on a personal level?
Benjamin Charles Watson: Yeah, I would say Connor's (Jonathan Patrick Moore) story is what really touched me, to be honest. I basically was working nights and eating really crappy food, and then all of the sudden, 'Hey, you're the lead in a TV show.' That story really connected with me, on a personal level, to be honest.
I actually live in Hollywood myself, and my place isn't all too different from The Lux. We have agents and all sorts of people in this building. I believe you live in Vancouver now, but have you had an experience like that living in L.A. before?
Benjamin Charles Watson: No, because I actually had the benefit of having friends who lived down there, so I was just couch surfing. A lot of couch surfing, and a lot of just trying to not get in people's way. I just had the opportunity to go to a couple of auditions, just trying to understand what the monster of L.A. really is, and trying to find out all the stuff that's happening. I stayed at Highland Gardens, which is kind of what our show is based off of, the real place. I had the opportunity to stay there, and it's hilarious because it's almost exactly like the TV show. The first night I got there, there were people by the pool and they were having a little party. It's people from all walks and corners of life, so yeah, just for one night, I had the opportunity to experience that.
The biggest difference between The Lux and my place is no one uses the pool, because I don't think it's cleaned very much.
Benjamin Charles Watson: (Laughs) That's hilarious.
It's there, but nobody ever uses it. It's kind of funny. So, Tariq is this gofer/assistant to this big time music producer. They mention Drake in the pilot, but do we ever see any actual musicians guest star as themselves in other episodes?
Benjamin Charles Watson: At this point, there aren't really any guest stars, because it's just really focusing on our struggles and our characters and figuring out what's happening with us. As far as I know, nothing is going to be happening with guest stars. I think if the show becomes successful, we might see some pop-ups there, but right now, no.
We get a hint of where he's heading in the pilot. Is there an arc for advancement for him? I believe it's a six-episode first season, so do we see him as this lowly gofer for most of the season?
Benjamin Charles Watson: Oh, no no no. In episode one, you see Tariq as this lone gofer, and after episode two, things really heat up and it's a huge arc for Tariq. It's intense, and for an American audience, it's going to be very interesting. I'm dying for people to see this.
There is also a lot of hooking up in the pilot. Does Tariq get any romantic attachments this season, or is he too focused on his job?
Benjamin Charles Watson: (Laughs) I'll say this. You can be focused as much as you can, when it comes to your job, but if you don't have someone to share it with, it gets pretty lonely. It would suck if Tariq didn't have anybody to share it with, but let's just say Tariq gets a little loving. He gets a little something something.
You said earlier that the building was kind of inspired by Highland Gardens, so can you talk a bit about where you actually did shoot this?
Benjamin Charles Watson: We shot in Toronto, a majority of it. That set you see, that apartment complex, they actually built that complex, with full rooms and the pool is built in too, so it's a completely functional, two-story apartment. It was unique shooting there, because you really felt you were in L.A. It was brilliant. We also shot in L.A. They wanted to give you the feel of L.A., and I think they accomplished that, but it was primarily shot in Toronto.
So were the L.A. shoots mostly exterior shots? There's a scene in the beginning where Abby's (Cassie Steele) car breaks down. Was that stuff shot in L.A.?
Benjamin Charles Watson: Yeah. It's mostly all exterior shots. Later on, there is a comedy club scene, and that was shot in L.A. too. It's a mixture, but mostly exterior shots were in L.A.
Can you talk a bit about the casting process? The show revolves around this bond everyone has by living there. Did you have a lot of time to hang out with the cast before shooting started?
Benjamin Charles Watson: I went out for the project in March, when I was in Toronto, then I went back to Vancouver and I didn't hear anything about this project until July. I found out that the project still hadn't been cast yet. They passed on me, because it was a really bad audition. I didn't find out until July that they still hadn't found Tariq yet. I did what I do best, I don't tell people what I'm doing, and I went and did the audition. I didn't tell my managers, and I sent it directly to the producers and the L.A. casting director. Within a week, I got the role, and everyone else was cast way before. Between the week I got cast, we had a week and a half, maybe two weeks, before we went into production. I was the last one cast. A majority of my scenes are with Cassie Steele and an unknown source, which I can't tell you about yet. With the unknown source, I didn't want to know the person until we were actually on set, to create a close dynamic, and it resonated on screen and worked beautifully. A lot of my scenes were also with Cassie Steele, who plays Abby, my best friend. Meeting her and working with her, we just clicked automatically. She is basically a girl version of me, and it's just awesome to have that kind of connection. We hit it off right off the bat. All the other cast mates were just amazing. I'm very happy with that aspect.
I know the first season is six episodes, and it's debuting on the CW now. I did see on the official Canadian website, that it's coming back in the spring. Is that an extension of the first season, or a second season?
Benjamin Charles Watson: Basically what happened was we only shot six episodes for the first season, and if we come back, we're basically going to go a full season. I'm not sure what's happening with that right now. I can't say for sure that we have a second season. Everything is always up in the air, so I'm just praying and keeping my fingers crossed. That's about all I know. We're going to just jump into a second season, and hopefully it will be a full season run.
Is there anything you've been working on since the show wrapped? Do you have any movies or anything else lined up?
Benjamin Charles Watson: Basically, what I've been doing now is working on my own projects. I have two film scripts I'm working on right now, and they are stories that are very close to me and curious about telling to the world, and also, it's about creating jobs for my friends. A lot of my friends are amazing actors, and they're all working too, but they all have a role in my movie. It's like, 'This is you at this point in my life, and this is you at this point in my life.' That's what I'm working on right now.
Just to wrap up, what would you like to say to anyone who's curious about The L.A. Complex about why they should check it out on The CW?
Benjamin Charles Watson: They should absolutely watch the show, because this show is going to take you on an intense ride. It's nothing that's ever been on TV before. It gets crazy!
Great. That's my time. Thanks so much. It was great talking to you.
Benjamin Charles Watson: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure.
You can watch Benjamin Charles Watson as Tariq Muhammad on The L.A. Complex, which premieres Tuesday, April 24 at 9 PM ET on The CW Network.