What happens when five immoral people create a one-stop-shop business for everything under the sun? Manic, absurd hilarity ensues. Just ask Kimberley Wells and Bree Ali of Business Inc. Kimberley co-created and stars in Business Inc. as Toni and comedian Bree stars as Janis.
I had the privilege of chatting with Bree and Kimberley about what went into making an off-the-rails comedy like Business Inc., showcasing Toronto’s up-and-coming talent, their filming highlights, what audiences can expect and more.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Kimberley Wells — Co-Creator, Toni Bludger
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s your origin story?
Kimberley Wells: I’ve always loved film and acting. When I was a teenager, I did a couple of film classes at my local theater company. I got into improv and sketch comedy. Then, I went to Chicago to study there, and 10 years ago I moved to Toronto where I did a lot of improv and sketch. Both the co-creators of the show, David [Cryan] and Torray [Green], we met at Second City in 2013 and liked each other’s writing and sense of humor.
We decided to create stuff together. We had a sketch show and tried different projects over years. Then, a few years ago, I wanted to try directing again. I directed a short for a film festival called The Tupperware Party. Since then, I’ve made a couple more short films and two web series.
MM: Can you tell me what Business Inc. is about and what inspired you to create it?
KW: It’s about five very immoral, shady characters. They run a business, and the business is whatever you want it to be. Throughout the series, each episode has a few businesses or scams they’re running, from political campaigns, hostage negotiators, math tutors and movie reviewers to selling black market DVDs, robbing a bar and solving crimes. They do a lot of different things over the course of six episodes, but it allows us to have fun because we can parody different genres along with any idea we think is funny.
MM: Since this show crosses multiple genres, was there a lot of freedom in writing for it?
KW: 100 percent. That was part of the inspiration — Dave and I had written this free association script called Whispers of the Whales to support these other scripts. We sent it to Torray as a joke to see whether he thought it was a real script. He loved it, and we were like, “This is a joke script.”
We can mine a lot of comedy, callbacks, meta jokes, parodies and all the stuff we enjoy when it comes to writing comedy. We threw everything and anything at the wall for the show.
MM: Besides being a co-creator, writer and director, you’re also an actor on Business Inc. What has this creative process been like for you?
KW: It’s definitely interesting. All of us creators are actors on the show. Dave himself is not an actor, but we forced him to be on the show. He was very uncomfortable, but it’s an ongoing joke that he’s in it.
For me, it’s a mindset or philosophy. You’re being creative, you’re working with other people and trying your best to offer your point of view to support the creative work while staying true to the vision of what you planned out. But saying all that, it is hard to act as well as direct.
MM: Describe Business Inc. using three words.
KW: Absurd. Fast-paced. Fun.
MM: Since this show is an anthology, do you have a favorite character that you play?
KW: In episode six, my character Toni plays multiple characters because this world is very malleable. She is a detective, and it was fun to play because it was great working with Bree as her detective. We had a ball — we were inspired by the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video. We have two female characters doing an homage to those characters in that music video, which is itself an homage to 1970s cops TV shows.
MM: What can audiences expect when they watch the show?
KW: They can expect a lot. Sometimes, you have to watch it a few times to get certain jokes you won’t get the first time around. I think they’re going to enjoy it. It’s cool to go on this journey with the characters as you get to know them and the various schemes they do. The show has a cartoony aspect to it where nothing sticks. They’re like Teflon. Consequences move in and out as situations come up. There’s this elastic quality to it.
MM: Can you talk about some of the emerging talent featured on the show?
KW: That was one of the big joys about the show, working with so many talented people. The main cast members are us creators along with Bree Ali and Anesti Danelis. Anesti is my best friend. He’s an incredible musical comedian, singer-songwriter, actor and a great person. His character Stavros is so innocent, and he’s good at playing those moments. There’s a parody song and two originals he wrote that are hilarious and incredible. Bree was the only person we had in mind for Janis. She’s so funny in it.
She’ll come to you on set, and she’s like, “Yeah, I was thinking maybe through this section, I’ll try this. What do you think?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. I had this other idea, but sure. Let’s give it a go and see how it reads and looks.” 100 percent of the time, the ideas she brought to the character were always the best option. It’s amazing to see her and Anesti’s work in it because they’re so talented. I hope this is a showcase for them.
We have multiple actors that come back as different characters throughout the show, like Tamlynn Bryson. She plays three different characters and she’s so different each time. Alan Belerique comes back multiple times, as does Sundance Nagrial, Natalie Morgan, Suzanne Miller, Steve Kasan, Sean Gilheany and Subhash Santosh, and they do a great job. I want everyone to see how talented these people are.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise, and where can folks watch Business Inc.?
KW: Dave and I finished an animated comedy pilot we want to pitch to different production companies in Canada, the US or Australia, whichever one is keen and likes the script and the idea. When I was in Toronto in July, I finished directing a pilot episode of a web series called Workspace. That’s another show I want to get off the ground in 2022 with The Boys Club, which is a production company I run.
My future for the next few months after Business Inc. is editing the pilot and getting that ready for people that are interested in teaming with us to produce it for 2023. You can watch Business Inc. at onVIVA (www.onviva.tv). It’s a startup Canadian streaming site.
Bree Ali — Janis “Menace” Manson-Menendez
MM: What’s Bree Ali’s origin story?
Bree Ali: I’ve always wanted to be an actor. As a kid, I would watch I Love Lucy reruns after school. I did the whole find an office job thing — tried to do the nine-to-five as a data analyst. I started out in comedy. I was doing standup and improv and started taking classes at Second City. I was in my late twenties.
Then, I had a car accident on the way to work one day. The car ran a stop sign and rammed into me. If I had been maybe a second faster, the car would’ve slammed into me on the driver’s side. Instead, it hit my hood.
I walked away without anything broken, but I went on medical leave and that’s when I thought, “Okay, I’m just going to go for it.” So, I got my first headshots and auditioned for the Second City Conservatory. I did that for a year while building my resume. I started doing a bunch of short films and whatever I could get my hands on.
MM: Let’s talk about Business Inc. Can you tell me what it’s about and how you got involved with the project?
BA: My description of it is if the Seinfeld crew had created Vandelay Industries. It is anything to anyone; that’s what Business Inc. is. Whatever you need done, they’ll do it. But they also have their own ball in the game. That’s what every episode is.
I got involved because I knew Kimberley and Anesti. Kim messaged me, sent me the script and asked if I’d like to do it. We got together for the script reading and I met the other creators and writers, David and Torray. David and Torray were looking at me like, “This is the person you want to play Janis?” Kim was like, “She can do it.”
Then, it became a challenge of, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, but I’m going to prove to you that I can do whatever Janis does.”
MM: Describe this show using three words.
BA: Absurd. Unexpected. Amazing.
MM: Do you have a favorite storyline from this season?
BA: There are so many that Janis is involved in. I would say the most fun to shoot was the heist episode. The characters learn there’s money in a safe at a bar. They bust into this bar to get that safe. That episode is layered in an interesting way because you get the POV of each character and how they’re coming into the situation.
MM: What can audiences expect when watching Business Inc.?
BA: Absurd comedy. Come into it with zero expectations and let it wash over you. Be aware that every episode is going to be its own ballgame. It’s surprising and fun because each episode is a mini movie even though it’s with the same characters.
MM: Was it a pretty collaborative experience onset? Was there room for improv?
BA: Yes, definitely. I think that’s the charm of working with fellow comedians and improvisers. Even though there’s a script, I’m always going to throw out a button at the end. That was encouraged and it was lovely. It was collaborative in the way of being able to work each scene with what I wanted to incorporate along with Kim, Dave and Torray letting me know what they’d envisioned.
MM: If you could work with any of your favorite comedians or artists on the show, who would you choose?
BA: There are so many people. I’ve always wanted to work with Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler. I grew up with Tina Fey as my idol and she introduced me to the comedy world. We always got to throw in Mindy Kaling.
MM: What have you taken away from this experience?
BA: Janis is such an absurd character that I’d always wanted to play, but I’d never had any other avenue except for improv. Every day I’d ask, “Why is she in this? Why would she do this? Why would she react this way?” You don’t want to be a caricature of someone acting absurd. How is it genuine? I took that away from it. I think that holds true for drama and comedy. It’s not fun to watch a caricature.
That’s what hit home for me from having this experience — always bringing something genuine to the table. The more genuine you are, the more heartfelt and pointed you are, that’s what sticks out to people, and people can relate to you.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise?
BA: This summer, I was on the set for a new TV show called Robyn Hood. It’s coming out next year and it’s by Director X through Boat Rocker Studios. He’s been the director of Drake’s music videos. It’s a remake, a modernization of the Robin Hood story of stealing from the rich and distributing to the poor. The pretty cool thing about it is the cast is mostly BIPOC. It was a lovely set, super amazing. I’m excited to see how it comes out.
Thank you so much, Kimberley and Bree, for chatting with GGA!
You can watch all episodes of Business Inc. for free here.
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