Stage 13’s new digital comedy series, “High & Mighty,” is headed to Sundance this year and it’s bringing with it a fresh perspective on funny. With a predominantly Latino cast and crew, the show centers on a character named Chelo (Jorge Diaz) who gets shot by a mysterious flower delivery man which leads him to discover he has superhuman powers; but only when he’s drunk or high. Described as “‘Spider-Man’ meets ‘Pineapple Express,’” writer/creator Cesar Mazariegos (who, no joke, pitched the series during a break from his job working at an L.A. mortuary) gives us a superhero origin story in a way that hasn’t been seen before.
With the heart of an independent movie in a comedy that is sharp and intelligent, the series takes place in East Los Angeles, where the population is mostly Latino. Carlos López Estrada, serves as the show’s director. Known for his award-winning music videos, Estrada has worked with artists such as Capital Cities, Goo Goo Dolls and clipping. In fact, it was his work with clipping. that spawned a friendship with “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs, which in turn, produced the film, “Blindspotting;”another one of this year’s Sundance favorites.
Back in 2012, López Estrada became the youngest director in history to win a Latin GRAMMY for the stop motion video "Me Voy," a song by the Mexican pop band Jesse & Joy. “It’s crazy because we did these projects in garages and empty rooms in our house with very little money,” he told AXS during a recent phone interview. “To think that we would be recognized or win any kind of award and then end up with a GRAMMY for it was a little bit unexpected to say the least.”
While that kind of early-on success might have been a surprise to the Mexican-born artist, it certainly wasn’t far-fetched. Estrada’s family has a long history in the entertainment industry. Carlos says he grew up taking in their appreciation for the arts, which is what inevitably prompted him to go to film school. It was his overall love for playing music that led to the natural evolution of becoming a music video director.
“I think in many ways, one of the reasons they picked me to direct [‘High & Mighty’] was because I got to use many of the same muscles I’ve been using in music videos. The show is really visual. There’s trickery, effects, and a lot of music. I think the energy of it, I wouldn’t say it’s like music video energy, but it’s definitely inspired by it.” The fact that the show’s creator, Cesar, is also a big music video fan, made the pairing for the project just right.
“I think I approached it in many ways like a video in the sense that the episodes are short and each is exciting for different reasons. I tried to make each one self-contained, fun and different,” Estrada explained.
After 12 years in the U.S. directing music videos and commercials, Carlos says he’s thrilled to be venturing down this path now. “Having an opportunity to start with the story [where] 95 percent of the cast are either Latino or people of color, seems like the most exciting way for me to get into narrative filmmaking.”
As for the cast, Estrada says that by the end of the first week, they were all hanging out and having a good time together. “That’s something that I hoped would happen because the story really revolves around friendship and the different relationships that all these characters have. It translates onto the show because these guys really cared about each other. There was all this improvising and a lot of goofing around. I think that impacted the way the show looks and how it feels.”
“High & Mighty” stars Jorge Diaz, James Eckhouse, J.R. Villarreal, Adam Zastrow, Shakira Barrera and Chelsea Rendon.
Sundance screening details are below:
Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 3:30 p.m. - The Ray, Park City followed by Q&A
Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. – Park Avenue Theatre, Park City followed by Q&A
Thursday, Jan. 25 at 9:45 p.m. – Broadway Centre Cinema 3, Salt Lake City
To find out more about Stage 13, a part of Warner Bros. Digital Networks that showcases some inspired new voices in scripted and unscripted storytelling, click here.