Washington Heights Half-Welcomes MTV Series

By Sandra E. Garcia on Jan 7th, 2013

The cast of new MTV docu-drama, Washington Heights

Cast members of the new MTV reality series “Washington Heights” stand on their turf. (Photo by MTV)

Washington Heights will hit the small screen this week and the community is not keeping quiet about it.

When an MTV “docudrama” series called “Washington Heights,”  by Gigantic! productions, makes its debut Wednesday, viewers across the country and around the world will meet nine 20- to 25-year old Washington Heights residents trying to make their way in the world.

The first episode introduces the cast of friends: JP, the aspiring rapper known as Audubon; Reyna, the outspoken firecracker; Frankie, the bluntly honest poet; and Ludwin, who hopes to break into the fashion industry.

There’s the slugger Jimmy, who wants to play major league baseball, and his main squeeze Eliza, the outsider from New Jersey. And Rico the aspiring actor and his brother Frederick, who’s into designing clothes. Finally, Taylor is the “white girl” who is true to herself but very uptown.

“Our neighborhood is so reflective of our culture and what we go through,” JP said in a phone interview.

He wants to put a positive version of Washington Heights on the map. “Rappers mention Washington Heights when they go uptown for drugs, that’s what they are expecting,” he said. “What they are going to see on the show is way deeper.”

Conceived three years ago, the show was shot in northern Manhattan from December to May. MTV will air 11 episodes this season, one each week.

The second episode follows JP/Audubon as he performs at the local lounge Phuket and shows the drama that develops within such a diverse group of friends.

JP recruited the rest of the cast.  After he sent out a tweet seeking people willing to be involved in the project, no one responded, “so I just asked my friends to do it,” he said.

“We wanted to show a positive side to the neighborhood, and the people in it,” said Beck Hickey, co-creator of the show. “The neighborhood is beautiful and rich, but there are also these hardworking young adults with goals and aspirations.”

But when uptown residents voiced their opinions on social media forums, many were upset about the show’s trailer, which included a fight in front of APT.78, a bar on 191st Street.

Locals claimed the show was scripted and unreal and feared that their beloved neighborhood would not be accurately portrayed.

“I’m not too crazy about the show,” said Ramona Reyes, 25. “The Heights to me is beautiful and full of culture,” she said. “It has its bad side but I hope they portray us right.”

Hickey said that the street brawl “was a natural situation,” not a fabricated dramatic event “to keep people watching.”

“Good or bad we are going to follow these kids. It’s not all about the fight, it’s about how the fight affects their friendship,” said Hickey.

On the business side of things, community board members sound happy about the show and hope it boosts local businesses.

“People love to visit businesses that they see on TV,” said Ariel Ferreira, chair of Community Board 12′s business development committee. ”People loved going to the soup shop or diner that they saw on Seinfeld, or the little restaurant from the movie ‘Serendipity.’”

Uptown Collective Editor-In-Chief Led Black has no doubt residents will love the show and the cinematic way it depicts Washington Heights.

“The show does not push the same old stereotypes about Washington Heights,” said Black. “The show properly conveys the beauty of Washington Heights and I believe it will provide a positive vision of the neighborhood.”

He added, “Our neighborhood is finally getting its proper shine.”

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