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Creator and star of new webseries ‘Working Title’ explain why body positivity matters

It's time we all took a look at how we see plus-size leading ladies.

Feb 29, 2020, 10:52 pm*

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Nayomi Reghay

It might surprise you to learn that, in the past year, more teddy bears have held lead roles in Hollywood films than plus-size actresses. But it’s true. While Paddington and Ted 2 feature pleasantly plump ursine leads, Spy is the only feature of 2015 that dared to feature a female lead with a less conventional body type.

The production company Second Star NYC wants to change that strange reality. After several months of producing seven-day video challenges, Second Star’s team is gearing up to create their inaugural project: Working Title, a six-episode webseries featuring a diverse cast and a body-positive leading lady, a plucky production assistant named Mandy, played by actor and production-team member Knilo Solei.

After passing 70 percent of their fundraising goal, and with just a week left in their Indiegogo campaign for Working Title, Solei and Second Star founder Matthew Willings shared their excitement with The Daily Dot.

The series is largely based on the team’s own approach to collaboration. In their ongoing monthly seven-day film challenges, the team takes its cues from Facebook fans’ suggestions and recruits a fresh group of collaborators each month, with an emphasis on women and people of color.

“Unlike some film challenges where the team is assembled and they all work at once and decide what the product will be, in our model first the writer works on the script, then it gets passed on to the directors, then the editors work on it,” said Solei,” so at each step a new person or team is adding to the work in a way the supports the integrity of the initial idea.”

“It’s been a real exercise collaboration and trust,” said Willings.

Working Title is the team’s first foray into longform content. Willings and his collaborators Theresa Basile and Dan De Jesus had worked with Solei as a guest, and they wrote the script with her in mind. 

“As an actor I get relegated to best friend roles or I get the sassy secretary,” Solei said. “But, I want to be the person who jumps in front of a car and does a silly dance to save the day—that person who can be goofy and gross but also a girl-next-door—and [usually] it’s acceptable because actually that girl is really hot and she’s played by Emma Stone. [So] I was excited when I read the script. It’s really refreshing to get a role where I don’t have to sit on the sidelines.”

While Working Title does feature a body-positive lead, the story places little to no emphasis on Solei’s body type. Willings explained, “I love that our show isn’t about that, yet still highlights someone who is a body-positive role model. The series is about six people who are working on an independent film together, and Knilo’s character is really the one who brings everyone together.”

Amidst a slew of advertising and modeling campaigns eager to tout their own body-positive status, the decision not to underscore Solei’s body type may be the most revolutionary thing about this project.

“Women get a lot of pressure about body image in film,” Willings said. “And men don’t get it the same way, but you’re one type for a guy or you’re another type. But in Working Title these are just people trying to make a film as they are.”

Added Solei, “Growing up I always wanted to be James Bond. I just want to make content that someone growing up can use as a visual cue that says I’m OK, I’m in the right body.”

Second Star NYC’s Working Title Indiegogo campaign ends on Aug. 3, 2015. 

Photo via Irisism Photography

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*First Published: Jul 27, 2015, 7:44 am