Transcribe your podcast



To Not, Armchair Anonymous.


You can't listen to this episode because we're not releasing it. So it was so foul- It was so bad. -that we decided not to release it. No, that's not the case. You're about to hear an introduction for a new show we're doing called Yearbook with Chad Sanders, who we had on the podcast. We love and adore. He's so smart and talented and creative, and he tells this incredible story about one year in his high school life. Yes.


We've been working on it for a couple of years altogether. Yes. We're ready to.


Show you. Yes, we're so happy with it. He did a great job. And so what you will hear first is a conversation about how we got into doing this with him. And then you will hear the very first episode of the show, and they will be on every Friday.


Going forward. On our feed. Yep. And Armchair Anonymous will be back.


Next week. Yes. So you have two episodes every Friday for the next seven weeks.




Well done.


Although I'm trying to put mine in a different way, and it's hard.


So then you can keep.


Your top knot?


Yeah. Do we call that a top knot? Sure. Top knot. Top chef. Top knot chef. Tell me more about your sleeping. It's just been bad. But I mean last night specifically. Did you have candy.


Last night? I had one piece of candy. What one? Twizzlers.


Oh, twizzlers. Wouldn't be my.


I went twizzlers because I'm never buying that.


Well, that's an.


Interesting- I'm never seeking it out, but I do enjoy it. So if it's there-.


Chad, if you were only allowed one candy treat last night on Halloween, what would it have been?


Sauer Patch Kids.


Wow, you guys are both freaks. Twizzlers and Sauer Patch Kids.


For Halloween only, I like chocolate in my normal life.


You just have all the options. You got Butterfinger, you got Snickers, Kit Kat, what's him a call? I don't like Snickers. Three musketeers, Milky Way.


I do like Three musketeers and Kit Kat and Twicks and Reeses.


But Twizzler.


But I want Twizzler. Yeah.


Do you eat candy, Dax? You're a strapping lad, man. I knew I was going to feel this when I saw you, but I was like, Dax, you look really strong, Doug. Oh, wow. Dax, you look.


Great, man. Oh, thank you. Well, I got to make up for the fact that I'm not as cute as you. I got to do something with the area I can control.


You're cute, Dax. Get out of here.


You're the cutest. I know. You're the... Oh, right, we have a moratorium on-.


Yeah, we're trying not to say that anymore about ourselves- What? This? That you're cute? -that we don't like our looks.


Because if we were to realize it's gotten to a nauseating level.


Or it's just like we've.


Talked about it enough. Ungrateful. We've beat the dead horse to death.




Sure. No, I get it. Yeah, on some level, we think it's really relatable because nobody likes how they look. We all know gorgeous people that don't like how they look. Yes.


I saw many driving here today.


I'm sorry. Yeah, L. A. 'S full of them.


So to recap, we interviewed you February 2021. Yeah, it would have been COVID. It was COVID, and it was the most lovely interview. I liked you so much, and I did something I've never done with a guest, which is I reached out to you afterwards, and I was like, You don't need a mentor, but if you have any questions at any point through any of this, I would just love to be available.


For you. You slid in my DMs. Is that where I approached you? You did.


Oh, my God. That's so sexy. Not what you were.


Looking for in your DMs. Yeah, it was one of those moments where the thing that I was hoping would happen happened. I was probably going to try to follow up with you and establish some connection if you were open to it, which can be hit or miss with people. People are busy. I think I might have even gone to DM you, and the DM was sitting there. I've been you to it. Yeah, it was really special.


I appreciate it. Yeah, so then we just chatted. What?


Ding, ding, ding. I'm Chad. Oh, shit.


Thank you for picking up on that.


Sorry I missed that. That was so early for me. It was really good. It was a wild night last night. Sober Halloween. It went hard. But we started chatting, and then I had no selfish motivation to get you under the umbrella. But then when you seemed open to that, I was like, oh, well, that would be incredible. And I would love to do that. We both would love to do that with you. So then we started talking about what would we do. And I can't even really remember how we.


Stumbled upon this. You came up with some.


Ideas for us. I did. I could pretend like I just magically came up with those in the moment. But my book was coming out, which is how I ended up on the show. Exactly. Blackmagic. Yes.


Still read it.


Oh, thank you. Still buy it. Oh, yeah. Please do that. It's still available. It's still available. It's still buzzing and doing its thing. But I wanted to have people give you advice, have your stuff ready to go when windows open. Yeah. I think I might have pitched you all maybe three or four concepts. As it happens, you all were just like, no, that's the one. Ding, that one.


Right there. Well, there was some really weird overlap because it was also one of your ideas was loosely related to an idea I also wanted to explore. Right. So I thought, oh, well, this would be amazing. And then in the dream outcome, you would do your version, and then I would do my version at some point, and Monica would do her version, and we'd have guests. We had seasons. So we have collectively all created this together, and we'll produce this together. And should this all go as we would hope, we'll get to hear other people's story of the same era.


Yeah, absolutely. And I would add all of that has truly taken place over the last two and a half years. It's not one of those things where it's like someone starts something two years ago, and then they finish it two years later in a month. It has evolved over these last two and a half years, including my going down to Maryland for a month to live there in 2022 among many of the people who are featured in the show.


And when we talked to ideas, there were easy versions and there were hard versions, and this was certainly the hardest version. This is a full-on investigative journalist piece that took months and months and tons of interviews and really merging yourself back in the place the story takes place.


It is. One of you had what I thought is the best casing for what exactly this is, like the Hollywood pitch version, which is cereal meets Friday Night Lights, probably in the reverse order in terms of the proportions. It is more high school nostalgia than it is true crime, but it has elements of both. Yes. It does.


And then an element that appealed to me greatly was I think all of us have a story. I certainly have a story of the year I became who I am, the person that's still here. The day I figured, not the day, but the year that I figured out, Oh, I see my lane finally. I know what my niche is, and I'm going to commit to this and invest in this niche. And for me, it's seventh grade. That was the year.


In my mind- The identity was cemented.


-my identity was formed. I was trying a bunch of different stuff on. And then I met Aaron, and I was like, Oh, no, this is what I am all about. And for you, what grade was that?


It was this one. It was 11th grade, which is what is chronicled here in this piece. And it was that for a few reasons. The set pieces here are, My best friend died that year in a terrible tragic car collision that I'm still processing to this day every time someone dies or every time I lose someone in any way.


But this person was a soulmate.


Yeah, I mean, she was my friend. When people say best friend, I know people use the term loosely. I knew her from birth. Her older sister and my older sister were in pre-k together. And so we were just put together as friends. And like you said, soulmates, the way that you two are. And layered on top of that is that, as a kid, I had a crush on her and an unexplored crush.


We get to really deep dive into that during this whole process. One of the beautiful things, sorry to go on tangents, but that's what we do. One of the beautiful things about this show is you discovering things in real time. And that was our hope, right? Is that, yeah, it's not just look at this year of mine. It's you looking back at the year and understanding, Oh, was I right about some of this stuff? Or, Oh, wow, I had this thought then. But now in retrospect, I can see actually it was this. It's a real true exploration that I think so many people can relate to.


Well, yeah, you have the story in your mind, but then you go start talking to other characters in the story, and it turns out, well, maybe that's not the same story. And then you got to start wondering, huh, that's interesting. And then you're learning stuff real time.


Yeah, and they are not just ancillary characters. They are the people who were right there at ground zero, so to speak. We're talking about Alicia's parents. Alicia is the deceased. We're talking about best friends, my own parents, my own sister. A part of this story is also that the tragedy of Alicia's death is immediately followed by my high school basketball team, which I'm a part of, going to the state. I'll trail off how far we get, but having a hugely successful season and being- Going on a run. Yeah, and being The Beatles in our hometown. I'm supposed to be a teenager processing grief, and all of a sudden, I'm thrown into this hyper-masculine- Fame bubble. Yeah, little fame bubble. And as high school is, it's just such a concoction of feelings that goes crazy.


And throughout it is so many questions of identity. Yes. Like we're saying, these are the years we think we cemented our identity. And so really figuring out who you are in the world is so relatable.


I think when we are capturing these particular years for this series, like for me, like you said, is 11th grade for you, seventh grade. The reason why I chose this year, and I didn't even choose it, it's just the story that I keep replaying over and over and over again in my head to this day. I'm a 35-year-old now. I was 15 at the time, so it's 20 years. And it's because even when things happen to me now, I'm reaching back into moments from that year for my identity. As an example, if I get bullied today, I think about a moment that is in this show and how I responded then as a 15-year-old, and I try to go recover some of the bravery I had then. If something happens in my life that is racial, like if I'm in a white environment and I'm a black person- Ding, ding, ding. Yeah.


Well, it's a diverse.


Crowd today. It's a diverse crowd. But you come in the dark in the Shepherd household, and you're just like a monster truck outside.


It's a million paradise.


I feel like it formed me this year. And we're also, we're burying a lead here, which is that also I was one of many witnesses to a very terrible crime, a murder that year in front of my.


High school. You got your whole life in one year.


Yeah, exactly. I got a whole life in one year. That's well put.


Yeah, every single experience you're going to have, like deep heartbreak of horrible, horrific violence, fucking glory on the basketball court. Yes. Anything life could throw at you throughout you that year.


Yeah, and that's the year that I lost my virginity. That's the year that I got a driver's license. We start driving around. We're a bunch of knucklehead, 16-year-old dudes on a basketball team with car keys now. We go up to house parties and stuff like that. And another part of the context to this show that I think is important is I had never experienced death before. There. I had never encountered death in a real way. I had lost relatives who I was not close to. I had never lost someone close to me. But in the national context, the Pentagon in 9/11 had just been a few years ago. I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is very close to the Pentagon. Columban High School had happened in 1999, so that was just a few years prior. There was high school violence happening. It was starting to enter the zeitgeist. Then the DC Sniper, which I don't know if people remember who weren't from DC, but there was five minute walk from my high school. There was someone who was a part of that.


Is that the father and son combo?


I think it was a stepfather and son.


A stepfather, yeah. The wicked stepfathers.


Ding, ding, ding.


I just remembered during that season of life, even with the DC Sniper, kids couldn't go to the prom. Kids couldn't go to football practice. Football practice was happening in gyms. People were running around from the car to the gas tank and back, hiding, ducking underneath windows and stuff. But you're a kid. So it all just seemed like it almost seemed.


Like play-play.


Pretend. Yeah, it.


Seemed like fun. Well, you're an apex in mortality.




You might witness a bunch of people get killed around you, but even your mind like, But yeah, but I'll witness that and I'll be the one that gets out.


Because I'm the main storyteller.


Yeah, right. You can't kill the hero of the story.


You're the character.


In the video game.


It's too early. This is all happening to cultivate my story. Exactly. And I would say going back to give some of the tapestry of the show, the story is told through the eyes and through conversations between me and people who were all there. I would say maybe 25 to 30 people who were all there. In having those conversations, I learn how much I am not special in that year stuck with people. I did these interviews right after COVID, in fact, right after COVID. Depending on how you look at it, COVID is still.


Going on, but- It ended in Tennessee on April 40th.


Yeah, exactly. Okay, great. I'm so glad that's behind us. There are people who had lost relatives in COVID who are three months removed from that experience, now talking about how losing Alicia back then is affecting the ways that they process grief to this day. And I would add also like, this is not a sob piece.


It's not a sob. I know. I want to make that really clear that when we first started this process, we were so explicit. This cannot be super sad, Garen. This can't be a sob story, even though there's tons of sadness and there's tons of light. High school is fucking fun. It is. It's crazy. And we get to have that, too.


Yeah, I would say the tone that I have now is the tone of the show.


Which for us, luckily, works perfectly with ours, which is there's some poignance, there's some irreverence, there's some fun, there's some humor, and then there's some super real moments.


I guess everybody thinks their hometown is special, maybe. I don't know, but I know that I feel that way. There are probably 25 or so people whose voices are in this thing. I would say 20 of them I still talk to on a semi-regular basis. I still have Lale, who's in there. She used to run the fashion show, Fashion Exeter High School. We went to an art high school. I just called her on the way here to be like, Should I wear this funky dog chain necklace? Or should I wear it because she styles me for stuff? The guys on the basketball team, I still FaceTime with those dudes every day. I still play basketball with them. Alicia's parents, the way that I dropped in on her house to go to these interviews, I could drop in there to get dinner any time I go back to Maryland. Either that's just circumstantial or these events of this year actually truly did bind us in a way that is something. I actually decided before I came here today, this is a new thing in my life right now. I was like, I'm going to do my job, but I spend so much time talking and writing about race.


I'm going to leave it in the work a little bit.


You know who really wrestled with that and was a big portion of our interview was Jordan Peele. Really? Yes, because here he does the most profound work on it of all time in the movies, for sure. In my opinion. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and then there's this maybe internal pull. I can't make everything about Ray's. Yet he's so good at talking about Ray. Should he not? Just the internal dilemma of it.


It can be a feature if you so choose to use it. I think I'm among the best writers at that particular subject genre when it comes to black experiences. I'm not a social scientist or anything like that, but pretty good at describing experience. And it's funny because something I will never forget that you also... There's a couple of things from when you reached out to me, Dax, that I liked.


I got a hunch of what one you're going to bring up.


Do you know this one? I mean, you said to me, you were like, I can't.


Remember how you said it. I want you to have legs long beyond the moment of blackness is what's in the zeitgeist. I want you to have a long voice.


And it resonated because it was already in my heart. You know what I mean? And you knew that. You could see me. You saw. You were like, Oh, this dude, he can do something that is going to be, I don't want to say bigger, but has more dimensions than just writing and talking about race. That's the fucking both sides of the coin with you, Dax, which is like most people would not be bold enough to say that to me, but it was something I needed to hear in that moment. And so I don't know what you do with that. It's who you are. Yeah, I know, either.


What I felt was just remember the stories you're telling, they're very human stories. And especially when I'm listening to your year that changes your life. The stuff with masculinity was so my experience. And you talked about it openly when I interviewed you, which was so fun. I was warned like, don't get in here. Start laughing with the white foot. And I'm like, Yeah, you have to carry that pressure. I have this weird hillbilly blue collar, fuck rich. I got a thing too. I got to hold up. Yeah. And it's like, we all got these fucking things that we're holding. We're trying to make peace with all these elements in our heart might not match what context we were born into.


And I think you almost uniquely wear the complexity of those things that are at odds on your person, like you specifically, in a way that I think in a way that I really do think draws people in. I'm not here to butter up you too. One of the nice things to say to you all, let me just get out the way. The thing is I know you guys probably know this about what you've built here, but this is something I've looked forward to since February 2021. My book tour took place in my office in New York on Zoom screens, and that's a bummer. And you guys made it feel big. You guys are like Madison Square Garden for talking writer people. Exactly. That's really nice.


That's so awesome.


It's really cool for me to actually get to be in the place. I'm thankful that you all invited me. And Monica has... I don't know how much Monica has portrayed that I'm in Monica's hip pocket all the time because I'm like, I'm excited.


He's advocating for himself and is ready, and we are, too. So we're happy to have you.


Okay, thank you. That's the last thing I'm going to say.


Well, then I would like to compliment you. You're a real artist. You have a real point of view, and it needs to be serviced, and you shant compromise it, nor should you. I know that you and I have a similar... I'll say for me, what it's derived from is an insecurity, which is like, notes don't sit well with me. Notes shake my own confidence, and I'm barely teetering on the thought that I'm worthy of telling a story, and other people listen. And when I hear notes, it starts to shake that already very shaky foundation I'm on. Sure. And so I just may be projected, but I think we have the same sensitivity. And so whenever we had ideas, I knew I was sending it someone similar to myself. And I was always really, really blown away with your willingness to, if not, take it, deduce what was being said and run it through your filter and do some pivots or do some adjustments. I appreciate that. It was really impressive. Every time you went back at it, it got better and better. And we mostly, I'd like to say for people who are about to listen to it, Monica and I listened to them together up here.


And after everyone, we were like, Wow, it's already pretty much there without a.


Lot of work. We are really, really happy with it. And this gets revealed, I think. But we did do a pivot in the middle of this where we were like, I think we need another dimension here, and we need to hear something else, and we need to explore another piece that isn't getting explored. And that was a little bit further on in the process. And to your credit, you agreed.


Yeah, because it meant a lot more work for you. Yeah.


And I think.


It may- And a lot more awkward questions.


Yes, it's uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable what you've had to do. We, listen to the last episode, and we're just- Crying. Yeah, and thrilled. Just so thrilled. It feels so not to pat ourselves on the back. It feels so armchair expert to me. It feels so much under our umbrella of everything we do, which is life is fucking complicated and nuanced, and there's no good or bad, right or wrong, angel, devil. You really get to see all the pieces. We're just really happy with it.


I am, too. And this is a very precious story to me. It involves the life and death of my best friend. My mom is on this project, you know what I'm saying? It needed to be handled as something precious. And I do think, Dax, to your point, part of that artist impulse, that storyteller impulse that is part insecurity, for sure. The impulse is such that you want to get it out. And that's why I've been chasing, chasing, chasing Monica so much over these last... Not that she was running, but that's why I was just, you want to get it out, even if it's not perfect, even if it's at 70 % of what it could be, and you all were very thoughtful and measured about making sure that it got to what it should be, and in your notes, you didn't ask me to differentize anything. You were opening up new subject headings that needed to be explored so that maybe that 10th person out of 10 could really feel themselves in this project and see themselves there.


Well, I hope it was obvious as you gave us the notes to give you. You stumbled upon some things that deserved a lot more. Yeah, it wasn't known at the beginning, and we were just open to the idea that things will present themselves. And they did. When Magic happened, I think we were just always committed to circling that and building that out a little bit. And it was incredibly fun. It was so fun to do that with you. That's the most development we've done on the show.


It is, and most definitely Doc style. We have been talking since the beginning of our show when we started adding shows, doing something more serialized and a little more serial-esque. And so this did feel like the perfect opportunity to do that. But it was scary. It's like, we don't really know. We just talk. We don't really know how to do that. And is it going to, like when you enter any documentary style, anything, is it going to be anything? We don't know. And we got really lucky.


I'll go even further. It was almost the most ideal experience listening to Apocas ever because let's say we were listening to Serial, and on episode one, something popped up. And I was like, God, I'd kill to know more about that. I don't have no saying that. This was like, it was participant listening. So I was like, Oh, wait, there's so much there. I want to know more.


About that. And to be clear on that, Monica already said it, but I just want to rehash. That meant sometimes three months of going back and having 10 conversations with people and calling around to the high school quarterback at this school and someone who was on the Palm team at that school and saying, Does anybody know how I can reach so and so and being thrown around to people's grandmothers and principals? And some of those people ended up in the show. So it wasn't like just go change of sentence. No, it was like a want.


Change the sentence. You got a lot of the nose. Oh, yeah. You did a lot of chasing to no end to some extent, but a lot of that came out of that, too.


Yes. And to speak to the nose really quickly, the nose came because this is not processed. Twenty years later, people in my hometown, Silver Spring, Maryland, are still processing. People's lives are still affected here. And so to that point, we also wanted to be thoughtful to make sure that we were going to create something here that is, journalistically, has its integrity and honest and goes in there and goes there. But that's also going to help people process and not send them backwards, basically.


Well, the fact that you did it is proof that you haven't processed it. You wouldn't have taken it on if you understood everything about it. That would be so boring.


When I say I think about those events every single day, still, I am telling a full-hearted truth. I talk to Alicia in prayer still as a 35-year-old. I only knew her until she was 15. Yeah. So I know almost everybody on the show better than I ever really even got to know her. I only now get to know her better through doing the show.


We already mentioned it, but it's so true that I'm sure in your mind, your story is so unique, mine is so unique. But the nostalgia is so, it's so catchy. It's all the same shit. You're young and you're figuring out. And yeah, she was only 15, but those first 15 years are much longer than the next 30. Yeah, right? They occupy a bigger percentage of your memory and everything. They're so important.


Yes, I think everybody knows the scene that is walking into the coolest house party they ever got invited to. They finally get invited to that party. You walk in either by yourself, God forbid, probably with a couple of friends. Hopefully. You get in there and you look around and it feels like you're in the arena. It's like, Where do I stand? Who do I talk to? What do I drink? What do I smoke? What's the right alchemy of being myself and being someone else that's going to work for me here? It's a process that you never perfect. I think the kids who are all the way at the top of the food chain were still like.


Well, you're at that party, assuming everyone else knows the playbook. Right. And you never stop to go like, No, everyone in here is as uncertain as I am about what I'm supposed to do next. Which is why people do crazy shit at those parties. One guy is like, Fuck, I bet if I jump off the roof of this thing in the pool, everyone will like me? No one knows what they're doing. Yes, you're right. It's so funny and endearing. It really is. And then there's the fighting and the masculinity. I just.


Love it so much. Can we talk about the masculinity a little bit? Because it's not over.


It's not over, no.


A couple of weeks ago, I was playing basketball, and a woman jumped in with us because she worked at the gym and we were short on bodies, and she was good. She was very good. She guards me. I'm usually the smallest guy out there. I did the wrong combination of something. I was probably too physical. And she erupted on me. And some of the things she said to me, she called me the F word. She yells that I get no pussy. Oh, wow. I went there- She's like, You got feminine energy. And she really went... And it's like, even today I was literally just staring at the floor waiting for it to be over because I didn't know what else to do. I think, Dax, I've heard you talk about things like this. I am really pretty solid in my masculinity at this point, but I also know some of those things are true. The part about me having something that is a femininity in my spirit somewhere, it's real. I don't know if I'm a Pisces. I think it is a good thing.


Yes. Listen, this is another thing I really related to I was listening to it. It was like, Girls liked you. They did, yes. That becomes very obvious. The dudes don't like that girls like you. And girls like you because you do have a bit of a feminine energy and you have a safety to you and you feel emotional. I don't have a feminine energy. This is what I mean, and it'd be easy to conflate the two. He's super communicative. Most boys are not super communicative. They don't want to look you in the eyes. They want to walk next to you and chat. That's what's feminine about it, is that you'll sit down with a woman, you look her in the eyes, and you can talk for three hours. I think that's really unique for boys. I, too, have that.


Same thing. There's an emotive connection there.


Yes. They're talking to you the way they're able to talk to their girlfriends, as opposed to when they're talking to guys like, Yeah, let's go. I don't know. Let's go to that party.


Yeah, no, that's right.


Yeah. Monica, do you corroborate? I always use the word corroborate, and sometimes I'm like, Am I using this wrong? But I don't care. No, that's not right. Do you corroborate this point of view on people throw femininity at boys as an insult. They do it to hurt them, but they're commenting on something I think that is generally aspirational, which is maybe you're a little more gentle.


100%. You're a better listener. -sensitive in some way.




High EQ. These are assets. It's a disservice to women to throw that as an insult to men.


It doesn't serve them in the long run. No, it's like that's a compliment. Yeah, I'm sure that you're the same. I could talk on the phone to girls for three hours straight. You couldn't get me off the phone.


I love talking on the phone. I'm so sad people don't like.


Talking on the phone anywhere. I know you do like to call.


I actually wanted to talk about it. Did you hear the voice crack? Feminine. Most people who listen to all of you all's stuff, all of your canon at this point have no... I feel like I have the unique experience of getting to relate to Monica as Monica the executive, which has been quite... It's been very enjoyable to witness Monica the executive because, Monica, you do have such a disarming presence. You're an excellent listener. You do everything Dex just said that he and I do, basically, but better. You look people in the eye, you listen, and you ask really good questions, and you're disarming. You're very comforting. Also, you have the executive function, which is like you are not to be sped up. If I call you ten times and text you 10 times in a week, you're going to respond as you think is responsible. You're not going to make bad decisions for the business or for the show because I'm so thirsty. I just want to chronicle it here because it's a part of you that nobody's going to get to watch you be an executive because that's not something you really broadcast.


She's a boss. She's the simplest term. She's a big time boss. I want to be more like that. And she bosses me around, too, which people don't get to see. Well, I guess they get to hear it a little bit.


That's very nice. Thank you. The best compliment I ever got, I don't know if I've said it on here before, but Emma, our assistant, when she took on the role of starting to answer emails and stuff that I was answering, I was like, Can you just make sure you answer all the emails first? And then if you need me to step in, if they're pushing back on you, we have a lot of publicists and stuff, they're pushing back on you, CC me, I'll step in. And she was like, The way you respond to these publicists is so both cutthroat and nice that there's nothing for them to do. There's nothing left to do. I think it's.


Fair but firm as hell. Yeah, fair.


And firm. I mean, it's just direct. It's just.


Very direct. You leave so very little space for misunderstanding or squirreling. You know how people try to squirl around your answer? That was the answer. Here's a reveal for you, which is that you all know how it is. Two years in, I'm like, Jesus. I'm like, Is the project going to come out? It's a baby of mine. It's going to come out. As you should be feeling that. I called Rachel, who is your bestie, a couple of weeks ago. Shout out, Rachel Field. Shout out, Rachel Field. And I was like, Rachel, she'll give me the truth, and she'll also be caring and giving me the truth. And I was like-.


She's a boss, too.


She's a boss. And she was like, Just call Monica and just be totally honest with her, and she will give you the truth. And that phone call happened a couple of weeks ago, and you did.


We're just trying to protect your money. That's literally all it is. We don't want you to have done all this work and make no money. So it's only singularly, Ben, about that. We think the show is great, and we would have loved to have released it immediately as well. With.


Everyone's doing their part, right? You are doing your part in protecting your project and looking out for it and checking in and doing all the things. I'm doing my part. Dax is doing his part. Rob is doing his part. Everyone's doing exactly what they should be doing. And that's great.


And there's inherent friction.


Yes. It's going to be there. It's part of.


The process. It's part.


Of it, and everyone just has to accept it. And as long as you do, it's a great working relationship.


I've done a few... I have done another scripted project, same amount of episodes, and at a giant studio with gazillion resources and budgets and all that stuff. And I will just tell you, this experience has been so much more enjoyable than that experience for a million different reasons. And I bet it would surprise people also to just know how much your hands are in your business. Like, you two, Robb, it's not like 10 other execs floating around and shit. It's all.


Of us. That's it. We're aiming for that. We're just not there yet.


No, you say that, but we can't. That's your baby. But this is our baby. The whole thing is. And it's really too hard to even... I even thought recently I was like, I think it's good enough. I don't think I need to go in and do the thing I do on every single show, which is just maybe we take out this word, which to me changes the whole, I think I can let a little bit of that go. And then an hour later, I was like, no, I'm going to go in there. I'm definitely going to do the thing I have to do because.


I have to. Yeah, it's an impulse. It's like under your skin. It's protective.


It's really good to have some geometry in the relationship. Types of people. You're attracted to people like yourself. It's attempting to get into bed with people identical to yourself. But it's so great to have such different skill sets between everyone in this room. Yeah, absolutely. You and I probably not should start a business. We have the same. No, absolutely not. We've got bars and bridges together.


And stuff. -what? Nothing would actually happen.


Get hurt. Yeah, get really sensitive and be hurt and light the whole place on fire.


Can I pull the thread on the... I talked about where I'm at with masculinity today, but I do think that I would say gender is an element of this show. Again, it's 20 years ago, so gender is a lot more rigidly defined even then, very much so. And it's very clear in this show. It's like, here's the basketball boys, here are the cheerleaders. And what I think is special here is there's a relationship here between a basketball boy, which is me, an artistic girl, which is Alicia. And we're really on other sides of the track at our high school, but we are so much in a friendship love. We're so much in a friendship love. You're a unit. And I really want, as a basketball boy who also has the pressure of family and community and people looking at you and wanting you to be such a tough boy, I so much want to be like her. I probably have spent the next 20 years trying to be more like her in a lot of ways.


Oh, God, do I relate to that? Yeah. I'm not who I was at all. I would have liked to have just been sweet and talked about feelings with my male friends, but I thought I'd get murdered if I didn't learn how to be masculine. I just felt like I would get destroyed. I got destroyed at times. I think you do have the added layer of blackness. There's the masculinity, and then there's yet another category altogether about varying levels of blackness. It feels extra cool because I already know how rough just the masculine shit was, but then they have the added layer, which you're also navigating at all times.


Yeah, and we really did into it in the show in a way that I think adds to the show artistically and doesn't distract from the entirety of the show.


No, it would be insane to not be.


Acknowledging that. Yeah, I'll just say one of the things that is a scene of the show that I don't think you get many places, which is very honestly and directly confronting the relationship between athletic black boys and white girls in high school. I'm from suburbia, you know what I mean? My high school was half white, 40 % black, 10 %, what they were calling at the time, other, which is just everybody else thrown into a bucket.


Speaking about feeling other, you're actually labeled other. Literally, yeah, other.


I had the experience of being a part of a small group of black kids, the basketball team, that was invited into the white houses, the big fancy white houses where I'm from, which is not the common experience for the black kids where I'm from. And that does something to your identity around making you feel like you're special in a way that's unhealthy and in a way that you try to steer into for the rest of your life so you can keep getting invited back into the club. And then high school already has that like... This part, I think, is cool about high school. There's this wonder just about each other. You see other people and you're growing into adult-ish bodies, and you're watching each other shape into real human beings. And there's just this like... This is an example of someone who was in many ways very similar to me. There's a black guy on the basketball team named Brandon Driver. He's probably two inches taller than me. He's faster than me. He's stronger than me. He's a better athlete than me. He's the starting point guard. I'm the backup point guard. And I'm like, to this day, I'm like, how can I be more like Brandon every day?


There's a wonder about another person who just seems to be special in high school. I think we capture that electricity about how you see someone who's different from.


You and what you imagine their life to be, it's spectacular. Yeah, it must be. It must be great. Then he's looking at someone, I don't know, he's looking at you like, What happened? I don't know, does every girl like this guy? I'm the fucking star of this basketball team.


Right. But he had the girls, too. I hated that part. I was like, Can I have anything, Brandon? He was cooler. Was taller. You know what I mean? He was better than me. He was so good.


We all have one of those people.


This series, your book will be an anthology. This is Chads, and I can't imagine a better kickoff to it. I am curious, Monica, so everyone knows I would do seventh grade. What would you do? What will you do?


I've thought about it a lot since we started this. It's really hard for me because I think mine also might be 11th grade.


Is that the state championship?


That was the first year we won state and- Football.




I won state. Monica, you're a cheerleader?




Flyer. Two times state champs.


How did we get through this entire module? You didn't reveal to me you're a cheerleader.


Okay. Still learning. All right. So junior and senior year were really big for me. But I bet it was earlier than that where I established I have to be white. It was probably the time when I really cemented my identity, which was, I'm sure, earlier. So maybe even.


Sixth grade. Yeah, maybe the cheerleading is more the result.


Of the change. Yeah, that's like the payoff.


Accomplishing the... Yes, yes, yes.


But the dive in was much earlier. I don't know. I have to think about it.


I don't know. My last thought is when you went to interview everybody, you must have had some anxiety, especially because you're really tackling a very sacred event that needs to be done perfectly. Were you shocked by any of the responses? I mean, for me, I was shocked immediately with how seemingly, willingly everyone, which is probably a testament to her, everyone was pretty excited to talk about how much they loved her.


Everyone was excited to talk about how much they loved her. I'll start with the, I don't know, the scary side of asking. I had to ask the kid who was driving the car that crashed into a phone pole and killed her instantly if he would participate. I had to ask him multiple times. I was surprised that he didn't understand how meaningful she was to me. In fact, he barely even knew I existed. Yeah, that's interesting. And that blew my mind. That did something to me around the story I've told myself about this whole thing, which is that this was such a story in my head about Alicia dying and the relationship that I had with Alicia, Chad, specifically. And in these conversations, I came to understand. Alicia was a special person who made everybody feel like they were that person in her life.


Yeah, she had a bright light.


Yeah, it was humbling in that way. On the other side of this whole thing, I am still trying to understand death because of how that happened. It's really weird as a teenager when your friend just disappeared, gone. That's it. The last time you saw them, they were normal. And now you can't call them, you can't talk to them, nothing. Twenty years later, there were so many still unanswered questions that each person had about like, What does this all mean about life? What am I supposed to do with this still? As an example, one of the people who appears on the show, she lost her dad to COVID a couple of years ago. She still doesn't know what to do with that. So I guess the surprise was just that we don't get any more certain as we get older. We don't get the answer sheet.


You're right. Think about when you're writing something and your computer crashes and you lose the whole thing. I think we've all had this experience. Oh, my God. The amount of time I will spends, I'm not accepting that. I wonder if I... Do I know a computer expert that will, Did it save? But it's not save? I will just resist it. And then the next step is like, Here's what I got to do in the future. I got to be backing up every five minutes. I know there's an auto set. It's just gone and you can't accept it. Then you're thinking of all the ways you could have prevented it and then how you must prevent it in the future. Then that's just a fucking thing you wrote for an hour.


Exactly. You're like, Maybe Apple has it in the cloud somewhere.


You can't accept that. How on Earth do you accept that someone you love has disappeared into the ether?


I think every school has the kid that dies. There's the car accident, there's the drunk driving thing, there's the suicide, whatever. And I was among the kids calling and leaving voicemails on Alicia's phone. We had a big mural that went up in the school that people would write messages to her. You're a teenager. You're still trying to reconcile life and afterlife. And here I am, 35, still trying to reconcile life and afterlife.


Well, listen, I want everyone to check this out because you do a really beautiful job. The other thing is you never know how vain someone's going to be when they go off to do a project like this. Youdo whatever vanity you have, you certainly left it in New York when you went down back to Maryland because you let people talk about you in a way that I find really refreshing. I think you're incredibly honest about the path to discovery you're on.


I appreciate it. It's really cool.


I appreciate it.


We're excited for everyone to hear it. It's so good. I encourage everyone to take the ride with us. First episode is available right now. You could immediately listen to it after this on The Armchair feed. Wherever you listen to your podcast, you can subscribe, and you'll get a new episode every Friday. Chad, I love you. Thanks for doing this.


Love you all. Thank you so much. Thank you for everything.