Find out what it takes to make it in America in a new HBO series.
THE Americans like to say that if they can make it in New York, they can make it anywhere. Hence, it is only appropriate that a series – titled How To Make It In America (HTMIIA), about two men in their 20s trying their best to make something of themselves – should be set in New York.
It is in this concrete jungle where dreams are made of (to borrow a line from Alicia Keys’s song Empire State Of Mind), we are introduced to Ben Epstein (Bryan Greenberg) and his best friend Cam Calderon (Victor Rasuk).
Since this is a HBO series and is from the same people who are executive producers of Entourage – Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson – the characters and the story are grittier than a typical TV series, but somewhat funnier and more entertaining than real life.
For example, the easiest way to describe Ben and Cam would be to say that they are the ultimate losers who have failed in practically every business venture they’ve gone into. Well, it’s a given that these business ventures are not so much business-based, but a couple of get-rich schemes that went bust.
Anyway, Ben mopes around all day – regardless of whether he’s helping a friend set up her art gallery, folding jeans at Barneys New York where he works, or attending a party in a pretty girl’s loft made up of a pseudo crowd.
He was once a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology and was dating the girl of his dreams, Rachel (Lake Bell), but a New York minute later, he has neither and is practically broke.
That’s when his pal Cam (who may very well be the human version of the Energizer bunny) comes up with a plan for them to enter the city’s thriving fashion industry, aiming at reviving a 1970s denim line.
However, not wanting to do much of the work it takes to succeed in this business, the buddies choose to do a lot of wheeling and dealing that may very well cross the line of legality. After all, the guys get their merchandise from the back of a truck and a loan from a New York “ah long” – Rene (Luis Guzman) who is also Cam’s cousin.
In a phone interview with Rasuk from Los Angeles recently, he says the 30-minute series does capture the real-life hustle in the city, only the series has captured it in a more humourous and eloquent manner.
He adds: “What I think is so great about the show is that it reflects all aspects and different ages in terms of trying to make it in America, where there are no boundaries. I don’t think it’s just Cam, I think it’s the whole show.”
To put it simply, HTMIIA is the opposite of Entourage. “Those guys in Entourage are successful and already know what their life is going to be like. Here. we are still trying to figure out our lives and how to pay the rent the next month.”
This notion of trying to make it is something that the actor can identify with.
Despite enjoying steady gigs and recognition, Rasuk, who has appeared in high profile movies like Che, Raising Victor Vargas (for which he received a nomination from the Independent Spirit Award) and Lords Of Dogtown (a nomination from Teen Choice Award), feels he has a long way to go before he can proclaim that he has made it.
“When would I say I have made it? I think when I’m in my 60s or 70s, when I’m retired and sitting in my beachhouse somewhere.
“People say to me now ‘ Oh wow, you’ve made it! You’re in a TV show, you’ve been acting for six to seven years.’ I say to myself, I didn’t make it, I’m trying to make it. I think I’ve been doing well so far, but if you don’t manage it well, it could all go away tomorrow.”
Ultimately, he believes it takes a lot of hard work to be successful.
“People tend to switch or change careers when things don’t look promising. In my opinion, that’s actually when you should work the hardest – when things are not looking up.”
Even when he’s talking on the phone, Rasuk’s exuberance about his work and the show came through loud and clear, helped tremendously by the fact that the 26-year-old was speaking in that distinct New York accent really fast.
Born and raised in New York, Rasuk admits having a great time working on this series because he gets to roam his old neighbourhood, hang out with his old pals and catch up with his family.
No wonder he is super excited that the series has been picked up for a second season as it allows the now Los Angeles-based Rasuk to be close to home.
“I have so much pride in where I came from and how I got to where I’m now, so I love filming back in my neighbourhood, I love seeing all my old friends and even family that I haven’t seen in a while. I love when they watch me doing what I love to do.
“We literally shot the show in places where I had my first kiss, played hooky from school for the first time and the first time I learned how to play basketball.
Loving the Big Apple: Bryan Greenberg and Victor Rasuk (right) play good friends trying to make good in HowTo MakeIt InAmerica.
Many of the scenes in the HBO series are set in places that New Yorker Victor Rasuk is familiar with.