BY LIZA MITCHELL
An original webseries created by Jacksonville writer Laura Mauldin is cooking up some big laughs. “Lemoncurd” is a mockumentary that follows southern housewife Virginia Lemoncurd in her pursuit of her own daytime cooking show. Each episode involves Virginia Lemoncurd doing her best to share her favorite family recipes.
“So many people think that creating a show is easy. Virginia certainly does at first. Especially cooking shows, they just make everything look so idyllic and breezy,” says Mauldin. “When you actually dive into what it takes to create a show, even with our short episodes, you come across a mountain of issues and hurdles to jump. As we are experiencing these things in real life, our characters are as well. The message? This is all a lot harder than it looks.”
The pilot episode “Meatloaf” introduces audiences to the charmingly awkward Virginia, her husband Duke played by local stage veteran Josh Waller, and the family cat Beyonce who makes a less than enthusiastic cameo. “People like a cat, Duke. It’s homey,” Virginia says after Duke warns her to quit picking up Beyonce when she’s cooking.
Tired of filming and anxious to go “hunting,” Duke hires a camera crew to step in and take over the shoot. James F. Webb III is the camera man who captures more than he bargained for in the Lemoncurd household, with behind-the scenes moments that reveal storylines and secrets.
“I think Virginia’s character speaks to anybody who has ever wanted to break out of their shell but simply didn’t know how. Virginia is restless, bored, and lonely. She sees everyone else in her life pursuing hobbies and fulfilling dreams, yet she’s stuck in this domestic monotony. She sees the need for change in her life,” remarks Mauldin.
“I’m sure a lot of our audience have experienced those points in their own lives where they can identify with that feeling. I think people like Virginia because she’s such an underdog. It makes you wanna root for her. Virginia would like to believe that her target audience is anybody who wants to make good meatloaf. In reality, her target audience are people who are getting a real kick out of seeing her try so hard.”
Mauldin was inspired by her family and her own love of cooking and cooking shows when developing the prototype for Virginia Lemoncurd. “My grandma was a good southern cook, and so is my mom, so they are definitely inspirations because I grew up watching them prepare meals for our family. The actual idea for the character of Virginia came to me several years ago,” says Mauldin.
“At the time, I was living with a couple roommates, and I would often make dinner for all of us. I made this goofy Snapchat video where I pretended to be a bored, desperate housewife with lipstick on her teeth trying to get her uninterested husband’s attention by preparing a special meal. I saved the video and showed a few people and everybody seemed to think it was really funny. I eventually showed the video to Abigail Saenz, who is currently a producer for “Lemoncurd,” and she told me I needed to write the character into a script. That’s when I decided to write this webseries pilot.”
The concept initially caught the attention of a group of local filmmakers who approached Mauldin four years ago about turning the pilot script into a series. After a couple production meetings, the team relocated for work, and the project fell by the wayside. Saenz had a copy of the script and refused to let it die. She sent the script to local filmmaker Drew Brown, who contacted Mauldin the next day about reviving the project.
“When Drew contacted me after reading the pilot script, I felt like the project had been reinvigorated. We met to speak about the project at length, and he just felt like the right director, the right guy to put my characters on camera. He totally understood the humor, and we seemed to be on the exact same page when it came to our vision for the series. I was very familiar with Drew’s work and was completely flattered that he wanted to take on my project,” she says.
“Drew approaches everything with such passion and focus, and you absolutely see that in his work. He’s an actor, director, filmmaker–he does it all–so he’s fantastic at conducting what’s going on both in front of and behind the camera. He’s also kind, patient, professional, and just an all-around brilliant human, so its a dream and a pleasure to work with him,” says Mauldin.
Mauldin wrote the part of Duke specifically for Waller. His character was originally slated to appear in just two episodes, but she ended up writing him into nearly show after his performance in the pilot episode. “Josh has been there from the beginning. His performance is so nuanced and funny; I love watching him play that part,” she says, “All the actors in our series are people that I’ve either seen perform in local productions or have had the pleasure of sharing the stage with, so I’ve definitely tailored a lot of the characters to fit their individual talents. The talent that we have working both on and off camera is so stellar. I’m gobsmacked that they all wholeheartedly agreed to be a part of this.”
With a limited budget, “Lemoncurd” relies on the support of the creative community of local filmmakers and actors. Mauldin, Brown, and Saenz meet ahead of each episode to coordinate budget, props, wardrobe, script changes, and rehearsals. They set about buying, ordering, borrowing, or sending Mauldin’s mom out for last minute provisions. “I also try to keep budget in mind when I’m writing. There’s a reason that Virginia never makes filet mignon,” says Mauldin.
With the first two episodes under their belt, the team is hoping expand their reach with a six-episode series package to showcase at film festivals and other events. The team was recently Best Tech Crew, Writing, Actress, Acting Ensemble, Directing, Best Film, and the Audience Choice at the LOL JAX Film Festival held at Sun-Ray Cinema.
Utilizing a digital platform allows the team to create inexpensive content in snack-size portions to give audiences a taste of what they could accomplish given a bigger budget. A Go Fund Me campaign is raising funds to finish the first season with the hopes of a second season.
“Our stratosphere goals are that it gets the attention of some reputable streaming service and gets picked up for a series, but I think we mostly just want enough money to make a second season,” says Mauldin. “We’ve used these episodes so far to introduce all these characters and showcase their lives, and now we want a place for them to grow. I sincerely hope we get the chance to make that happen. “