Ben Ferguson’s series My Family with Hazel comes at a time when the humor and lightheartedness of television’s cheeriest genre — the sitcom — is most needed. Ferguson both acts and produces the show, which is set in Bel Air with Ferguson playing a successful actor (named Ben) and father of two daughters.
The captivating sitcom packs humor and relatability into scene-sized-punches. Ben’s daughters, Alexis and Sophia, live with him, and the three share the quarrels, intimacies, and curiosities of an archetypal family. The trio’s dynamic changes, however, when a quirky live-in housemaid named Hazel comes to live with them.
Ferguson, who directed Pine Valley Medical (2016) and The Evening Show with Ben Ferguson (2015), got the bug to work in television after listening to Oprah Winfrey discuss pursuing one’s passion. He volunteered at the local public channel, TVSB, as a cameraman for six months before becoming host of The Evening Show. It was there that he met many of the actors whom he now collaborates with on the show.
“I’ve realized that I’ve met a lot of people that have passions just like me, but they get to a certain point and don’t do it,” Ferguson said in an interview with the Independent. He has confronted his own uncertainties in starting this endeavor. “There is a point where you want to run,” he admitted, referring to the anxieties of tackling ambitious feats, “but as soon as you cross that point, it opens up a whole new world.”
Hazel isn’t filmed in a typical studio setting; Ferguson rented a living room for the production, and it is where the actors film the show. “Hazel is the first show that I have done completely out of the studio,” Ferguson said.
Amy Marie Orczo, who stars as Hazel, enjoys the cast’s enthusiasm. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said, adding that Ferguson is an actor’s director who “sees things from both sides of the camera.”
“The crew is not like others [I’ve worked with],” said Ferguson, who praised the cast for their affinity for collaborating with each other on set. Stephen Eric Gordon, who stars as Cujo, agreed: “We are truly a motley crew,” he said. “I love that we all have a variety of backgrounds, age groups, and life experiences [that] allow us to bring that to the table and breathe life and humor into the script.”
The actors met for Zoom conference rehearsals for three weeks before filming all three episodes in one day. When asked about rehearsal during the pandemic, actress Asa Olsson, who plays Grandma, said “the clarity of Ben’s vision … made the day great even with masks and distancing during rehearsals.”
The stars faced surprises during the filming of Episode One when they were forced to replace a cast member who went AWOL last minute. Fortunately, spontaneity is a language Ferguson knows well; he acknowledged that his scriptwriting allows for extemporaneous influence. At the outset, he drafted the backbone of the script then left room to incorporate real-life inspiration into his storyline.
Ferguson pulls material from his own life experience when drafting the episodes as well. “I don’t have daughters, but my two daughters in this show are like myself and my brother when we were that age,” he divulged.
Ferguson continuously strives to make each production “better than the last” and hopes to surprise viewers with each subsequent production. —Melody Pezeshkian
411: My Family with Hazel airs on channel 17 on TVSB.
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