Esther’s Parisian life is thrown into shambles when Rex, her new American roommate, moves in. The two think they are absolute opposites, but will soon realize they are made of the same criminal cloth.

Sworn Frenemies (USA) is the perfect mix of humour, absurd situations and quirkiness, with a sprinkle of American stereotypes and a French touch – not to mention the cute cat!

We spoke with Weetus Cren and Alexandra Guerineaud, the writers, producers and web series actors, about their experience creating the show.

What was your main inspiration for the series? How did you come up with the idea?

Weetus Cren: Much of the inspiration was the breakdowns in communication between two people of different national backgrounds. As a person born in America, I have spent a lot of time in the UK and France and have travelled a lot.

Alex Guerineaud: It was a combination of things. It happened really organically, just hanging out one day talking about mutual experiences when you’re in a foreign culture and imagining funny scenarios. At one point we realized we had a premise. I’m fascinated with the concept of imagining the mundane lives of people that are usually the glamorized archetypes in films or TV. How would the bad-asses of Hollywood handle the mundanity of life if you were a fly on the wall? What are their insecurities? Their quirks? Their secrets?

What prior experience did you have before you started the web-series? 

WC: I worked on a number of indie feature films as an actor and producer. I’ve had a great deal of writing influence on a few of those, though without actual writing credits. I also write and direct a show available on Amazon Prime called THE SCOTTISH PLAY. Other than having professional actor training in London and Los Angeles, I have worked behind-the-scenes in film and TV since the early 90’s.

AG: Acting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I used to beg my mom for classes. Then while going to A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theater) in San Francisco, I worked in indie films both as an actor and doing all kinds of production jobs before moving on to producing. When I moved to Los Angeles, I continued training and became more and more interested in creating my own work and applying all I had learned to the stories that inspire me. Overall, I’ve been involved in indie productions for the past 20 years or so.

How did you fund your series?

WC: We sold our souls years ago and still have some credit left on our accounts. Actually, it was funded by Magnussen Media Group. Our souls have no value at this point… especially mine.

AG: Indeed. Our irresistible charm managed to convince Magnussen Media Group to produce the series. We are incredibly lucky.

As a French person myself, I found the pronunciation mistakes (therapute, chatte…) hilarious, however since your series was released in America, weren’t you concerned your audience wouldn’t get the jokes? How did you go about with the translation?

WC: I’ve always thought some of the best jokes are those that you don’t get the first time around or that you never realized was a joke on first viewing, much like watching a kid’s movie again as an adult and suddenly understanding a new level to the humour. I think French speakers and English speakers of different levels will both have little bits that only they will think is funny. 

The first drafts of the series were written in English, since my French is not the greatest, but I’m also aware of many of the pitfalls with the language having spent so many years learning it. Alex did the full adaptation into French. But “therapute” was a vowel pronunciation mistake on my part when Alex and I did the first table read of the French draft. Once she had a good laugh, she explained it to me and we decided to keep it in. My pronunciation gets me into a lot of trouble… like when complimenting someone’s neck.

AG: Haha!!!  Weetus’s innate talent for twisting the meaning of French words is pure comedy gold. Ask him to read you some Molière. It’s worth it. 

We didn’t worry about people not getting the jokes as we were developing the project. We just focused on writing what excited us. It was fun pushing those characters’ buttons. The series is really a hybrid of both our imaginations, and for that matter the humour is neither American nor French. It’s kind of its own thing and I think both audiences latch onto different things.

The script was fully fleshed out in English first, then I adapted the dialogue so it would make sense to a French audience. Doing it this way allowed us to look at the dialogue from all angles and it was easier to make Rex sound like someone who learns and evolves with the language as he spends more time in France. Another challenge was reverting back to English with the subtitles. Some of the jokes were difficult to translate into English, such as “Therapute” as you point out, but we were okay with that.

Sworn Frenemies Trailer

What was your favourite scene/episode to create and shoot?

WC: The most fun was the scene where Esther and Rex are bouncing on the bed. The foot massage scene was also fun. I always love shooting the ludicrous scenes of anything. I have a weird sense of humour. I also loved creating the video game.

AG: It’s so hard to choose. It’s like choosing your favourite kidney. I loved shooting all the fantasy scenes in Episode 4. I love how they escalate to Esther’s ludicrous last fantasy. I think it’s a nice break from the world of the story and acting-wise it was fun playing into her alter-egos. The bed scene in Episode 5 where they have the unsexiest bed scene you can fathom was a lot of fun to shoot too.  We were running out of time and we had to rush like total maniacs. The energy was really high and we just rolled with it.

Has the end product strayed far from your initial vision?

WC: Other than the end product not making so much money that I can buy my own island, no. Seriously, I think we were really lucky to get such a great crew together. Everyone was awesome. Céline Nyanga (director/editor) and Kevin Burke (director of photography) are so easy and fun to work with and are both excellent at what they do. Also, our producers Zubi Mohammed and Eryn Rea always do a great job keeping the project on track. The better your producer(s), the closer you are able to stay to your initial vision. Plus, none of our team are micromanagers which makes it all go easier.

AG: The end product did so much justice and more to the initial vision. I was thrilled when Céline Nyanga agreed to direct. I had seen her play “Uterine Affairs” at the Fringe Festival in Los Angeles, and it was brilliant. She knows how to navigate the absurd in a subtle and intelligent way. She brought so much of her own creativity to the piece. Also, I am eternally grateful to Magnussen Media Group who are so wonderful to work with, and who put a fantastic crew together. Kevin Burke, our Director of Photography, brings years of experience and is an absolute pleasure to work with. Everyone from the producing team to the crew and post-production team got so involved with the series. I did not expect that at all. And then there was the magic of the dream cast who crossed our paths. The project attracted people who “got it” and loved it and I was really touched by everyone’s level of commitment.

What’s next for the show? Are you planning on making more episodes?

WC: We will be making more episodes after the COVID craziness is over. I’m definitely excited about getting more into Esther and Rex’s strange backgrounds and their real motivations.

AG: We hope so! We would love to pursue the adventure. We shot the first six episodes so far and we have another six ready to go that would complete Season One. Esther and Rex’s dynamic gets crazier and crazier as they keep revealing who they truly are.