By Adam Davenport, special for Awards Daily TV
The Television Academy began recognizing performances in short form content in 2016. Over the last four years since its inception, Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series is a category that has featured performers such as Rosamund Pike (last year’s winner for State of the Union) or Megan Amram, a writer on NBC’s The Good Place whose mockumentary-style vehicle An Emmy for Megan chronicled her efforts to win “one-fourth of an EGOT.” The first season was nominated for two Emmys in 2018 — best short form comedy or drama and best actress for Amram — but neither resulted in a win.
First round voting is now underway for the 2020 Emmy Awards, and on the ballot this year in the short form acting category is an unlikely but worthy contender in Sarah Seeds for her uncanny and highly engrossing performance on Riding The D With Dr. Seeds, whose first season is now streaming on Amazon Prime. It is a vehicle not unlike An Emmy for Megan: Seeds wrote, produced and stars as an unhinged, un-licensed psychiatrist who doles out unsolicited medical advice to her patients on the subways of New York City. It’s highly creative, weird and an original portrait of mental health.
Seeds is a New York actress who has worked on such shows as Inside Amy Schumer, and while she lacks the star power of other performers in contention, the short form acting categories should arguably be a competition where that does not matter. Seeds forges a path for herself here as a multi-hyphenate artist who has successfully self-generated a project that has allowed her to showcase her abilities front and center. She did not sit around and wait for a phone call from her reps to secure work. She created her own vehicle. And she secured distribution for her series on Amazon Prime during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project began on Kickstarter where the creative team raised $27,000 from 184 backers. The show not only boasts a female creator, but it also features women in front of the camera, behind the camera and above the line, including directing by Michelle Cutolo and producing by Lindsay-Elizabeth Hand.
Speaking with Awards Daily, Seeds discussed her creative inspirations for Riding The D With Dr. Seeds and her motivations for bringing comedy to the conversations about mental health.
Awards Daily: What inspired you to create this series? What was the genesis of it and the urgency to tell this story?
Sarah Seeds: Anyone who rides the subway in NYC knows it’s ripe for comedy. It’s hilarious. It’s uncomfortable. It’s surreal. It’s filled with people from all walks of life. I was surprised that it hadn’t been done before, and I wanted to see it on screen. I also was tired of being called in for playing two dimensional characters and wanted to have my weird, freak-flag fly. I wanted to be in something that was offbeat, funny and filled with pop-culture references.
AD: What is your own relationship with mental health?
SS: I’ve always been a huge advocate for therapy, and it’s been integral for me at certain points of my life. I feel like we live in a world where we don’t discuss how important mental health is. We also don’t joke about it. It’s not taboo, and I find comedy is a great place to discuss topics freely and explore them.
AD: What can we learn from Dr. Seeds?
SS: That no matter what hardships and struggles befall you, you can make your own tribe. That being 100 percent yourself isn’t a bad thing. Whatever the world throws at you, all you have control over is how you react.
AD: How did you approach casting to build the world of this series?
SS: We wanted a dope, talented and diverse NYC cast, so we were sure to call in a great pool of talent and just pick the best people for the job. NYC is such a melting pot, and the MTA is no exception. We wanted to make sure NYC was reflected accurately. Also, I have some talented friends who I knew would take my writing and make it come to life.
AD: What character do you want to expand on more as the series progresses?
SS: Definitely our antagonist, Tabitha M.D. There’s more there than meets the eye. I also wanted to expand on the Handsome Man and what makes him tick. Rebecca, the woman who runs the “Victims of Dr. Seeds Support group,” is also a character that will dramatically evolve as the story progresses.
AD: What was the most challenging aspect of producing the first season? What would you do differently?
SS: The most challenging was creating/building the warped D-train set from the ground up. That being said James, our production designer, did a fabulous job in making the set beautifully. It turned out great, and I learned what aspects we needed to focus on in the future to expand the world. As for what I would do differently? I’d say have a bigger budget. Who wouldn’t want that?
AD: What was the most rewarding part of producing this series?
SS: Seeing it come to life. It’s a surreal and stylized world, and it was magical to watch it come to life in physical form. Also, it’s dope how many people GET IT and find it funny. To me, that was just a bonus on top of simply getting it seen.
AD: What advantage does a short form digital series have as a platform for storytelling over other traditional formats for episodic television? Where do you see it evolving? What are your favorite series?
SS: A digital series is perfect for modern storytelling. You have the freedom to tell the story however you want, and you have more choices of distribution. Also, more people see it, and they can consume it in any way they choose. Dr. Seeds easily fits in shorter digital form, as you see it, but could also fit a half-hour format. The world is continuing to expand. Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, season two has been even more enjoyable to write than the first season. Right now, High Maintenance is my favorite TV series.
AD: Who are the artists, filmmakers, storytellers who inspire you creatively? Who would you love to share this series with?
SS: I tend to like artists who analyze and explore the human condition. I also like eccentrics. I’m inspired by a huge amount of varied artists and creators. To name a few: Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Tina Fey, Amy Pohler, Broad City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Eric Andre, Naughty Dog, Patti Smith, Kristin Wiig, Patti Jenkins, James Cameron, Sophia Coppola, David Lynch…etc. Pop culture is everything to me. I love to invest time digesting what the storytellers capture in their own voice… whether it’s a video game, animated series, or song. I’d love to share this series with New Yorkers, surrealists, and comedians. Anyone really. I’m not precious about it because it was created to be seen.
Riding the D with Dr. Seeds is now streaming on Amazon Prime.