What’s up, TV-loving bees, how are you doing this fine day/evening/whatever time you’re reading this? It’s no secret by now that we at The Honey POP love to discover new TV shows. So you can imagine our excitement when we found out about Served.
Served has as its central characters the workers of a fancy eatery in Los Angeles who, due to spending so many hours together, start acting almost like a family. The Pilot opens with Eddie, a Latino man who’s on his way to his first day as a server in the aforementioned eatery. That is until he gets there and finds out someone else filled the position (a white girl named Vic Marie.) Eddie is understandably upset, but it doesn’t look like the boss really cares all that much. But hey, at least he still gets a job there, but it’s as a buser, not a server.
Within the first ten minutes, we get a clear picture of what kind of environment these characters exist in. They all work hard jobs and answer to a man who isn’t capable of remembering his own employees’ names and is also quite prejudiced against 90% of his staff. One of the things this pilot does best is using the “show, don’t tell” method. No one tells Eddie straight away, “the boss doesn’t like Latinos, so you’re never going to be a server.” Instead, we see the boss completely forget he hired Eddie just days before and the other buser, Carlos, tell Eddie that he’s “never gonna make it onto the floor” if Vic is there.
It’s fascinating to see how many personalities coexist in the mini-universe that is the restaurant. From struggling artists who dream of making it in Hollywood to managers who take way more crap from their boss than they should, everyone has a story, and we cannot wait to find out more about them. And one of the many things the pilot does well is get us hungry for more about these characters. Will Eddie make it as a server? Do we find out more about Vic Marie leaving home? Will Rhys reunite with his precious umbrella? Those are all questions we are starving to know the answers to.
But our favorite part of the pilot (which might possibly be our favorite part of the show) is the way not everything is what it seems at first. It’s easy to look at Vic Marie at first and be angry at her for taking Eddie’s place; but at the end of the pilot, we see there’s more to her than that. Carlos at first looks closed off and angry, but throughout the episode, we learn he’s actually not that bad, he just doesn’t like his boss. And there’s no doubt in our minds that this will happen to most of the characters. We’re especially curious about what’s up with Ava and Rhys 👀.
The writer of Served, Alex Hanno, who has also worked in the restaurant industry in LA, has said he’s not afraid to pull back the curtain and show the ugly side of the industry. And we are living for it! We want the whole season to go, please! Unfortunately, that’s not possible yet. What is possible, however, is sitting down and enjoying our interview with Alex Hanno, Derrick Cruz, and Luca Malacrino, three of the minds behind Served.
1.) Alex, you worked in the restaurant industry for a while. Did any of your own stories make it into the script for Served?
Oh, absolutely! Almost everything in Served was inspired by things that happened to me or my coworkers in the restaurant world, and that was intentional. I really wanted to pull from true-to-life experiences in order to make the show as relatable and authentic as possible for audiences, many of whom either have or still do work in restaurants. Of course, as a writer I always take a bit of artistic liberty to make sure the most interesting version ends up on screen. There’s a bit in the pilot where Rhys complains about his Davek umbrella being stolen by a coworker, for example, and in real life, I was working at a gastro pub in Boston where the servers constantly stole each other’s umbrellas whenever it rained leading to a pretty comical revolving door of umbrellas in my apartment! In Served, we ultimately planted that little seed to use as a plot point for further episodes, (spoiler alert there).
2.) We’re living in a post-pandemic world now. And we’ve seen many members of the service industry quitting even after restaurants were allowed to work normally again. Are we going to see that reality reflected in Served?
Served was created before the pandemic hit, so the pilot doesn’t necessarily reflect that aspect of the industry today. But, the goal with this show is and always has been to present the most authentic take on the restaurant world that audiences have ever seen. Thus, we absolutely plan on showing this turbulence in future seasons and hopefully highlighting not just that this is happening, but also why it’s happening and how the industry can evolve to stop it.
3.) You’ve stated before that there’s a clear racial divide in the restaurant industry that’s reflected in Served. Do you think things have changed in recent years? If so, how?
The restaurant industry is always changing, that’s sort of the nature of it. With the pandemic, we saw takeout surge and even as we’ve come back to eating in person, table service looks completely different, often more “counter” focused than “table” focused. However, when it comes to the racial component of things I will say this, and mind you, I can only truly speak about my own experiences: to succeed as a small business owner in America today, especially in a city like Los Angeles, you need an incredible amount of capital to start things up, weather the initial lull as your business gains traction, and ultimately to navigate the politics and taxes imposed by local and federal government. On top of all this, restaurant margins have and likely always will be razor thin. All of that is to say; there’s an immense barrier to entry when it comes to starting up a restaurant and there isn’t much in the way of support for minority or economically disadvantaged owners who venture to give it a go. I haven’t seen anything of late that actually incentivizes folks (minority or otherwise) to start a restaurant. Until this changes and we see truly diverse ownership at the top of the industry food chain, holding positions of power and helping to alter certain industry norms and stereotypes, I don’t think there will be a radical change on this front.
4.) You also chose Los Angeles as the setting for Served. Was there a specific reason for that? What’s so special about the restaurant scene in LA that made you say “this is where my show needs to be set”?
Well, we knew we wanted there to be an element of the entertainment business woven into the story because those two industries (film and service) are so intrinsically linked. Half the actors, writers, directors, and general artists out there either have or still do work at a restaurant to help pay the bills while their art takes off because the hours are flexible and the pay is relatively decent. Not to mention, the whole Served team is made up of filmmakers who’ve spent time working at restaurants, so it only felt right to reflect this level of honesty all around. Hence, why Rhys is an actor and Alan is a stand-up comic. In order to do all that though, it meant setting the show either in New York or Los Angeles, and as an artist living in Los Angeles, the latter won out!
1.) Derrick, you also worked in the food service industry, so we have to ask, did any of your own stories make it into the script for Served?
There aren’t any specific stories of mine in the pilot, but my experience in restaurants certainly helped me shape the direction of the episode and sprinkle a few details in there. I wanted the audience to feel like a staff member on a busy Saturday night. To get the experience of working in a restaurant and really immerse them in it with all these pieces moving around like a stage show with no cuts or edits. So that’s what we did. We shot the opening of the restaurant in one long 15-minute shot. And I think we nailed it.
2.) What inspired you to help create Served?
The material is always the first thing. Good material should always excite and inspire you and get you motivated to direct. And Served was definitely one of those pieces that got me standing up and pacing around my apartment, just envisioning how things should look and feel to the audience. So yeah, the material. And also the opportunity to create something with someone I grew up with and trusted in Alex. That right there felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and definitely something I didn’t want to waste.
3.) What did you find was your biggest challenge in directing the show?
Working with a true ensemble. Until then, I had worked with decent sized casts but only with a few actors at a time in any given scene. And right off the bat, in the pilot, we’ve got dozens of people flying around the restaurant who need to be blocked and coordinated and needed notes on their performances, and the list goes on. And we haven’t even brought the camera out yet, which adds an entirely new dimension to the space and the work. So yeah, it was a challenge. But an absolute blast at the same time.
4.) What message do you hope the audience takes away from the series?
That restaurant employees aren’t just the people there to serve you. That they are complicated individuals like anyone else, and they deserve your respect and empathy.
1.) Luca, on top of being a producer you are also part of the cast as Rhys Cunningham. What is it like being on both sides of a production like this?
It’s so exciting to be able to work with a team from an initial idea all the way through to us talking about it now. Thinking of characters, development, branding, and all the other layers at the creative stage… then one by one, to see them come alive, and everyone do their part with the same amount of passion and energy? Now that’s something special. It allowed me to step into the show and breathe life into my character with an even deeper insight, which also helped me assist with one of the longest one-takes I’ve ever seen. It was an experience that made it clear: this was always the path for me. It shaped my journey as an actor, so really I feel like I should say thank you to Served.
2.) Like many of the characters in the show, you’ve also left home to go to LA. Was your experience similar to any of the characters’?
My experience was VERY similar to Rhys’s. I was pretty much born into hospitality, as my dad owned and still owns the oldest Italian restaurant in Wales, while my mother managed and owned hotels as I was growing up. I literally grew up sitting inside those big sauce pots when I was a kid and from then on, restaurants have been a huge part of my life. More specifically, I worked my way up in the industry until I opened my own venues, then I ultimately decided to sell everything I’d worked hard for and moved to Los Angeles to chase the dream of being an actor and filmmaker. And that’s exactly what Rhys is doing. Sacrificing and making it happen while holding onto the family he’s made within the restaurant.
3.) Is there anything that’s similar between you and Rhys or are you completely different people?
We both use sarcasm and comedy to get through the difficult ups and downs we go through in this industry. It’s reactive, just like restaurants. You look up and there is suddenly a line of people. But when it comes down to it, I think Rhys is just a younger version of myself. Or you could say I’m an older version of Rhys.
4.) You’ve appeared in some iconic productions throughout your career, like Grey’s Anatomy and Coronation Street. If you could get any character from another show you’ve been on to be a guest on Served who would you choose and why?
It would have to be Paul Sorvino, may he rest in peace. I had zero hesitation when reading that as I have already thought about it. Having him anywhere in this setting, either as a customer who keeps coming back and tries teaching the chef how to cook, or as a long lost uncle, or even an actual food critic… that would have been incredible.
General Questions For All Three
1.) This isn’t your first time working together as you three have worked on, Leading Lady, prior to this project. Did that collaboration spark fire for this one?
Luca: I believe we were working on Served before Leading Lady, actually. But I’ll say this: I remember the moment we decided to make Served happen. We all sat around a table with a glass of wine in hand, talking about restaurant life, sharing stories about how much we loved it… and at times, how much we hated it. From there, Served came into being. It’s safe to say food mixed with wine, artists, and passion always leads to something interesting… Smash cut to Served!
Alex: As Luca mentioned, Served actually came before Leading Lady, so you could technically say the reverse; that Served sparked a fire for us to do it again. It certainly gave us a shorthand and a familiarity that helped to make the artistic process more creative and more efficient the second time around.
Derrick: Second what both these guys say! Any time you have a great experience collaborating with others, you want to do it again.
2.) If we asked you to describe Served in three words or less, what would you say?
Derrick: One meaningful ride.
Luca: Authentic, dynamic, & LOUD.
Alex: Restaurant. Dramedy. Real.
3.) Are you looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to any moment in particular from the show?
Alex: I think I’m most interested in seeing how people respond to the ending. By the end of the pilot, our hope was that people would begin to see these characters in a different light, and more importantly, they would start to understand what it means to be part of a restaurant family. It’s a special sort of relationship, the one you have with your restaurant co-workers. At the end of each night, having drinks around a table while things are closed down, swapping stories from the day to connect, vent, laugh… I hope that energy is recognizable to folks who understand it and that it captivates folks who might not.
Derrick: I can’t say there is one in particular. What I will say is I hope we get the reactions that we were looking for, if that makes sense.
Luca: I can’t wait! I can’t wait for them to experience the chaos of restaurant life. They will fit right in as one of the team. They’ll feel bad for certain characters, want to speak their mind to rude patrons, and be part of a real restaurant family. Bring your snacks, laughs, and tears!
4.) Who’s your favorite Served character and why?
Luca: It would have to be Eduardo! Eddie! Seeing this story told from the perspective of a character like him is rare. Eddie would usually and unfortunately be a side character, but the team knew this was his story to tell. He has such a warm presence and seeing him get fired before even truly being hired, only to get hired in a lesser role a moment later… He just moves so swiftly into getting on with life and I think that is something we could all learn from – myself especially! Wouldn’t it be great to watch him go all the way from bus-boy to, I dunno… owner?
Alex: It’s probably a cop out to say all of them, right? Woof. Okay, if I had to pick, I think I’ll go with Vic Marie. She’s such an easy character to root against at the beginning of the pilot, but as we peel back her layers, we see that despite all sorts of advantages, life has sort of let her down in a variety of ways and that she’s open and willing to learning how to be a better person. I love a redemption arc.
Derrick: That is the toughest question yet. Especially because I don’t want to spoil future episodes! If I have to pick one, I’ll go with Chef Rob. Because he is just such a wild card. And that’s all I can say without spoilers 🙂
5.) And to finish it off, since we are The Honey POP, we’d like for you to share with us the sweetest memory you have from shooting Served!
Derrick: Actually, this is the toughest question. I’d have to say after we “got” the 15-minute oner I mentioned earlier. Because we worked on this shot all day, and we’re 12, 13 hours into it, and we weren’t getting at it, and the pressure was on, and everyone’s feeling it, and we’re exhausted, and on the last take, we finally nail it. Seeing everyone just go crazy with this weird, shared mix of elation, relief, and satisfaction… That was definitely one of my happiest and proudest moments on set as a filmmaker.
Luca: We did that one take sooooo many times as there were so many moving parts that when the final take happened, we were all jumping up and down like drunken fools in a nightclub at 2am. It was so beautiful to watch artists do their part and not drop the ball. Watching them pass it from one to another. Also the last part where we start chanting. That was improvised and the entire team just jumped in with such ease. A moment I will cherish.
Alex: I’d have to go with our table read. It was the first time we got the entire cast together to read through the pilot (in a restaurant, no surprise there) and most of them had never met before. But the moment we sat down, the chemistry was electric. It was like a true family. We were swapping restaurant stories, laughing about the experiences we’d unknowingly shared, and putting a whole lot of love and creative energy into what we were about to make. From then on, I knew this show was going to be special.
In summary, we cannot wait to see more of Served in the near future. This team did a spectacular job of bringing captivating characters and a compelling story to life. And we have no doubt the show is only going up from here.
And we’ve reached the end of the article. We hope you’ve enjoyed this ride as much as we did. Now, tell us, what are you expecting from Served? What character made the best first impression from the trailer? Tell us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. We’ll love to hear your thoughts!