City’s brand new show Seed is all about the children. Specifically, fifteen-year-old Anastasia, ten-year-old Billy, and the soon-to-be-born child of Rose. Three kids, three different families, and one clueless bachelor bartender named Harry who is about to have a whole new set of leaves on his family tree.
As a young man, Harry thought that a good idea (given to him by his sardonic boss and best friend, Irene, played by Toronto native Vanessa Matsui) was to make a quick buck to fuel his nights of fun by donating sperm to the local sperm bank, under the guise of being a Princeton student. At $250 a pop, it was an easy return on a harmless seeming investment. Fast forward approximately 16 years and he’s still living the good life, working an easygoing gig as a bartender, and enjoying the unattached life with all of its, ahem, friendly benefits.
Enter nine-year-old Billy (William Ainscough), a curly-haired, oddball smart kid who calls him dad and tells him how he hacked the sperm bank’s anonymous donor records to find out his identity. The boy is elated to find him and introduces him to his lesbian moms, Michelle (Amanda Brugel) and Zoey (Stephanie Ann Mills), the former being less-than-thrilled at his perceived intrusion, and the latter an open-minded proponent of peace and love who is slightly more willing to welcome him. Michelle initially has the final say, however, and effectively bans him from their lives, much to his relief.
And then Anastasia shows up.
There is a funny, quick repartee between the characters, a fluid, quick setup of the premise, and a believable adora-quirkiness in Billy and Harry’s relationship, which comes across as almost big brotherly at the outset.
Harry is played to perfection by Toronto born-and-bred Adam Korson, who says he can relate almost too easily to Harry’s laissez-faire, laidback, post-frat boy, early-30s bachelor persona.
“You know when I first read Harry, again, it’s one of those things – and I think as an actor you’re very fortunate when these things happen – when you can read the character and understand the character and what’s going on,” he says from a sleekly furnished interview room at City’s Yonge and Dundas location, ahead of the show’s premiere.
“Definitely there’s more depth, and the more I worked on him, the more I found out, but seeing him off the page I could relate to him in a lot of different ways. I mean he’s charming…I’m quite charming, right?” He laughs and adds,
“I don’t actually have three kids…at least none that I know of! But what I would say is, what I love about Harry is not only is he that bachelor-bartender, but he’s an intelligent guy, there are a lot of different layers to him.”
A family comedy for modern generations, Seed is a fresh, funny take on ideas of family that are a day-to-day reality for an increasing amount of people. And Korson thinks it is important to reflect that.
“I think that while it is unconventional, I think it is becoming a lot more conventional,” he says. “I think that we are seeing families now that are more, you know…couples that it’s not just a man and a wife, lesbians, gay, but also I think that this topic of sperm donation is becoming more relevant, and we’re hearing more about it in the news.”
“I think that for people who can’t have children either biologically because they physically can’t, or you know, you’re in a gay relationship, a family is a family, and people want to have kids, people want to raise kids. And so I think in the past people might have looked down on sperm donation, and that’s really not the case at all. So I think it’s very relevant and very important in this day and age to have that.”
He relates to Harry because with him, you have a person who deliberately steered away from what might be considered a “normal” life with the standard milestones in order to live life by his own terms.
“He made a choice to live the way that he lives, and he’s happy about that and you know, it’s an unconventional life, and most people wouldn’t say they want to be a bartender, have a different woman every night…although they probably do want that, but they don’t do it!” he says with a laugh. “And so for me, as an actor, not a very conventional life to lead; most people would go to university, become a lawyer, a doctor, a businessman… I definitely went against the grain and I’m happy about that.”
Not that Korson is entirely the happy-go-lucky fellow he portrays onscreen as Harry. A top-of-the-class alumnus of Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, Korson has had roles in a wide range of television, stage, and film productions, including 2 Broke Girls, Emily Owens, MD, the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Breakfast with Scot. He’s also involved in writing, producing and directing, one one hand because he enjoys creating, but also as a way to maintain longevity in the industry. His acting experience has had him take on roles from serious to comedic, but with Seed he says he is able to combine his comedic talents with the exploration of a character that has more layers than initially meet the eye.
“That’s also what I love about Harry, that while he came to me very easily, there are so many layers to him that I keep finding, you know, and he keeps challenging me in a lot of ways, that he is not the cover of the book; there are a lot of chapters to him, which is cool.”
For instance, the sudden discovery of his kids is almost like an adventure at first for Harry, a discovery of something new to geek out over, only to forget about it later and move on to the next exciting thing. But he soon realizes he wants to share more than DNA with these newfound family members. He makes no claim to being dad material, and his frank and funny advice is more like what a big brother might tell his much younger sibling, and then whisper, “Don’t tell mom!”
Like when he tells Billy how to deal with bullies, he insists Billy go on the offense by making the first move:
“You can’t run from a bully!”
“Yes I can, my legs are short but they’re really fast.”
And when his newly discovered teenage daughter Anastasia (Abby Ross) tells her uptight parents – child therapist Janet (Laura de Carteret) and law firm partner Jonathan (Matt Baram) – that she wants to go to a party at her boyfriend’s house, where they will probably have sex so that he doesn’t, as she candidly notes, lose interest, her parents are horrified, but Harry nonchalantly says, much to Anastasia’s delight,
“I’d let you go.”
And then when she leaves in a huff at their unwillingness to let her go to the party, he says to her parents,
“You had to expect that. I mean, you named her Anastasia? It’s kind of a stripper name…”
With the quick, witty dialogue and easily induced laughs, it’s obvious that the show’s writers are just as much the stars of the show as the colourful characters brought to life by the talented cast.
When Harry uses Billy’s newfound “chick magnet” value to try and pick up the attractive redhead with glasses on the bus, and she declares, “I’m permanently off dating,” his instant response, with a killer charming smile is,
“Just a fling, then!”
And it almost works too!
This is a show that, through the dialogue, quickly and effectively paints the personality of each of the characters in broad strokes, but in such a way that leaves the door open for deeper exploration of their development.
When Billy’s concerned but relieved mother, Zoey, lovingly reprimands him for running off to find Harry, saying,
“You can’t just run off in the middle of school!”?Billy’s response is classic 21st century kid:
“I don’t need school. I have Google!”
And when Rose (Carrie-Lynn Neales), the beautiful, if slightly neurotic redhead with glasses Harry almost picks up on the bus, goes into a sperm bank to jumpstart a family on her own and balks at the price, the exchange between her and the unamused nurse is priceless.
“$3500 for getting pregnant? Isn’t there a cheaper procedure?”
“Sure. Getting drunk in a bar.”
Harry’s character is unabashedly frank, noting upon first meeting Billy’s free-spirit mom Zoey,
“You don’t look like a lesbian. I was imagining more…” In comes mom #2, Michelle, hustling up wearing a backwards ball cap, sweats and a harried expression.?”…there we go.”
And when they ask him about his Princeton education, as he had indicated somewhat exaggeratedly on the donor information form, his response is,
“I was accepted into Princeton but chose not to go due to my burgeoning music career. It’s still burgeoning.”
And the relationship dynamic between Zoe and Michelle – open and welcoming versus cautious, tough and skeptical – is reflected in their reaction to Harry’s unexpected presence:
Zoey (with a hopeful smile): “Billy is just bubbling over. He really likes you.”
Michelle (with a skeptical look): “He likes everything. And then he forgets about it. You’ll soon be replaced by a goldfish.”
Zoey’s further attempt to see the bright side of Harry’s sudden presence has her saying,
“They say it takes a village to raise a child…”
Only for Michelle to reply dryly, “And every village has an idiot.”
When the parents of his two new kids ask (translation: demand) he exit their lives, Harry is only too happy to back out of parenthood, and is promptly back to his usual antics when the hot redhead calls him up for an anonymous hotel sex date (taking the nurse a bit too seriously). Harry, of course, is completely up for it, and makes the plans gleefully, but getting back out of his newfound kids’ lives isn’t as easy as he thinks when Billy’s moms come to his bar to ask for his help.
“He punched Sam Carell.”
“He probably deserved it.”
“Sam’s a girl??”
“I guess we should be glad our son is a gender neutral bully…?”
And so Harry begins to find his paternal side when they request his help in talking Billy out of his newfound aggressiveness. His fresh father skills are tested again when soon after the request, Anastasia giddily calls to tell him she’s attending a lipstick party.
If you’re as clueless as Harry was about what that entails, you might want to Google it as he did. Needless to say, it got him abandoning his hot date to go alert Anastasia’s parents to the happenings… thus inadvertently initiating a meeting between the two new families when the moms offer/are coerced into driving Harry and the other ‘rents to the lipstick party to rescue Anastasia from the first step on the road to stripperdom.
When his abandoned hot date decides he is the kind of jerk that turned her off men to begin with, she decides to go ahead with the original plan to use a sperm donor to start her own family.
Except, just as she is being implanted with the one she chooses, who has all her prerequisites (including a Princeton education…) and a nice, albeit dated photograph, she belatedly realizes just who donor XC3000 is.
“And we’re done. Good choice,” The nurse notes, cheerfully oblivious. And on that note, the pilot ends with the introduction to family number 3 – Rose.
When asked what his favourite part of filming Seed was, Korson barely hesitates.
“I mean Halifax is beautiful, best crew I’ve ever worked with. [But] I guess I would have to say, the people. Really. I mean, a job is a job, and it’s amazing when the job can be play, and I think a lot of that has to do with the people you work with everyday,” he says. “While the work was incredible, and the writing was amazing, and everything about it was really such a great experience, coming in everyday and working with the people I was working with – crew, production, cast – we really became a family very quickly. So that was probably my favourite part.”
And as he notes, this backs up the whole idea behind the show’s premise, that “family” is too fluid a concept to be contained within a handful of societal labels.
“Well, I was brought up, I can tell you, and I’m grateful for it, with a lot of love and support. And I think that at the root of it all, love, support – unconditional love – family is a group of people that you can be yourself with, hang out with, do wrong, do good, no matter what they are always there for you. And it’s not a matter of man, woman, siblings, family is family. And sometimes you get that with friends. You know? It’s not always just what society says is the family, you know?”
“My family is here in Toronto, but now living in LA, I have a new family, and it’s made up of friends, and people that I’ve gotten close with. And again, I think it comes from sharing certain values, I think, what’s important to you, something you can go through with someone – again, knowing that they’ll always be there.”
It’s been awhile since a show pilot has made me feel like an instant fangirl (cough-cough*Community*cough-cough) but Seed has definitely caught my attention, and I will be watching.
Seed airs on City, Mondays at 8.30pm ET/PT, and is available after broadcast online at citytv.com.