What if it wasnʼt Bernie Madoff who embezzled billions in a decades-long Ponzi scheme but his cunning, attractive secretaries?

Julian De Zotti and Hannah Cheesman created Whatever, Linda, which is a ten-part internet dramedy inspired by the ʻrealʼ story behind the epic rise and fall of the largest financial fraud in history.

Tucked away in the bowels of the accounting office of Barney Lahnar Investment Securities on Wall Street in 1978, entry-level employee and victim of circumstance, Linda Thoroughbred, cracks the code to begin the worldʼs most notorious Ponzi scheme with the help of her three female co-workers.

Tell us a bit about what inspired you about the Bernie Madoff scandal?
I remember being shocked at how one man could get away with so much, for so long, fooling the people he fooled with relative ease. From there it was investigating that culture at his firm but also on Wall Street. What kind of person or temperament is required for that kind of crime? From there, because we always wanted to tell a story that was female centric, we discovered those people who worked on his Ponzi floor for many years and that environment and those people became the focus of what could be a real compelling and fascinating story to tell.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the difficulties finding filming locations that were representative of the 1970’s era?
For exteriors in New York, it was just about finding spots that had a certain sensibility and look of that time period – we found some in Brooklyn. Wall Street itself hasn’t changed so much in terms of its architecture so we shot there as well. We lucked out in finding a studio in Toronto with some dilapidated sets that worked for the look and feel of the series and matched Linda’s financial fortunes at the time. With the help of our Production Designer (Michael Leach) and his team, we were able to fill in the rest of the spaces to make them look authentic.

Tell us about what it was like to star in your own series? Do you think you found it more difficult
The first thing I always say is: “It was a lot easier to memorize all the lines.” And that’s certainly true of doing one’s own writing. But it also speaks to the fact that it felt like a natural extension of the work Julian and I and our team had done together, to take on the role of Linda. Sure, it was a shift in focus (Julian stayed on writing, watching behind the monitor for lines that did not work), but since both acting and writing come from a similar place, for me it did not feel as though I was over-extending myself.

Now, if I had tried to direct it too… different story. But of course it came with difficulties. Having created and written it with Julian, being producers on the show, and acting in it — these roles all require different things of you. As the writer, you want all the actors to ‘get’ the characters, you want there to be flow in the overarching scenes, you want to minimize the work that has to be done by the editors. As a creator, you want everyone to be working at the top of their game, not calling it in… but as an actor you need to be very self-focused/scene partner-focused, not ‘meta’ focused. And finally, the producer — you want to get your day! You want to be able to afford post production afterward! These warring needs were a challenge.

Describe the ultimate fan of your series?
Any female over the age of 16 really; also those (whichever gender) who really dig stories with a cable feel. TV/movie aficionados who watch a lot would totally dig our show.

What’s special or different about your series?
It’s a period piece but not over saturated in it – it’s been shot and has the feel of something more slick, modern, and upbeat. I think the female characters and their dynamic is special and unique and the audience can easily fall in love with them. It is relatable without TRYING TO BE. I think every woman has gone through a similar discriminatory experience in the workplace. But we take that further and empower our characters with a willingness to change and not be submissive to their environment.

How many people worked on this project?
A TON. There is the core team: myself and Hannah, Mackenzie Donaldson our co-executive producer, director Matt Eastman, exec producers Kevin Saffer and James Milward, and supervising producer Kathryn Rawson. Outside of that there was the cast and crew for the shoot, plus Secret Location (James’ company) and their entire labour force working on the web side of things.

Have you achieved the goals you set for this series?
Most of them. We are extremely proud of the show and the response to it. I think building a larger audience for the show is still a big goal we have yet to achieve.

What’s your background as a content creator? And how did you approach this project differently to previous projects?
I’ve been making movies and theatre for over ten years. I’ve co-written, co-produced and starred in a feature film that had festival play in North America and is now available on itunes and Amazon. It is called NEW YEAR. Two things stand out as having a different approach: writing/creating a narrative structure for a webseries – something that will entice and hold attention over a longer period of time; aligning ourselves with people who have a web/digital expertise so they could help us build a significant and attractive online presence.

What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome in production, and how did you go about it?
I wouldn’t say there was one challenge – there were many. I would definitely say having to shoot what was essentially a feature film over 10 days was a major challenge. Getting our day, shooting the script in that amount of time. We had a stellar team – production manager, line producer, AD and of course director, who were on the ball and made it happen!

From start to finish, how long did it take to complete this project?
We started writing the initial idea in Fall of 2012 and we are currently exploring developing the series for longer format television, plus continuing to build an online following so the project continues!

Whatever, Linda
on the web:
Whatever, Linda website
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