For an Asheville-set satirical web series deeply rooted in the city’s quirks and charms, Transplanting’s first season received significant attention from beyond Western North Carolina. Among its numerous accolades, the show was featured on Vimeo’s curated comedy page, two episodes were posted on the popular mindful life website Elephant Journal and all 12 installments screened at the inaugural Pilot Light TV Festival in Manchester, England.
The show is soon to be distributed on the website and mobile app of the comedy-driven broadcast network Laff, but it also proved to be a hit on the local level. In addition to garnering generally positive feedback from the Asheville community, writer Lea McLellan and co-creator/director Andrew Vasco held a holiday party that filled The Mothlight. They launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund season two, which debuts Wednesday, Sept. 7, on transplantingseries.com. The series continues with a new installment each Wednesday for the subsequent nine weeks.
The second, and potentially final, run of episodes aims to provide further relatable-yet-exaggerated aspects of Buncombe County life. McLellan — an Xpress contributor and former staffer — sees that ability to connect with viewers as the series’ greatest success and doubles down this year with such additions as a poetry busker and a downtown bachelorette party aboard the Amazing Pubcycle.
“People say things like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been to that date’ or, ‘I know the real-life Chandra,’” says McLellan, referencing the Womyns Group leader memorably played by Jennifer Trudrung in one episode. “Whenever I see these things or people in real life, I’m always pleased because I feel like we hit upon something that people will recognize and readily associate with Asheville culture.”
At the conclusion of season one, former New Yorker Maeve (Hayley Heninger) had found a job and met a love interest in Dave (Drez Ryan), gains that Vasco says are “a good start for a transplant, but not really all it takes to be part of a community.” After the pair of 2015 holiday specials, he and McLellan began brainstorming big-picture ideas of what could happen next. Both creators wanted to see Maeve and other characters grow and develop — a challenge with their commitment to short, viewer-friendly episodes, but not impossible. Shortly thereafter, McLellan started writing.
“The storyline this season is less about Maeve being supernew to town, and more about her finding her niche and putting herself out there,” McLellan says. “Maeve was often the sounding board for these other, wackier characters. For this season, I wanted Maeve to come out of her shell and show her true colors and personality.”
Along with continuing her friendship with Jade (Sam Lebrocq) and relationship with Dave, Maeve attempts to join a writers’ circle and shows off her New York side when her bride-to-be friend from the Big Apple holds her aforementioned bachelorette party in Asheville. True to the show’s theme of relatable slices of local life, Vasco wanted to include the latter scenario after having a downtown supper during which four such groups happened to simultaneously be in the same room.
Other familiar faces include the return of Chandra as well as actors Chase McNeil and Maximilian Koger, who’ve transitioned from baristas to bartenders. Raven Tenderfoot is new to the show as Tayne, the alluded-to yoga teacher of brogi (a bro who practices yoga) Bruce (James Allen) from season one, plus NPR composer BJ Leiderman, appearing in what McLellan calls “a fun role.”
Filmed over 10 days in April at Battery Park Book Exchange, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Little Volcano Yoga, The Salvage Station, Franny’s Farm, The Odditorium, The Mothlight and a yurt provided by Asheville Yurt Co., the new season came together with significant help behind the scenes. An experienced editor, producer and set dresser, Vasco had directed only a handful of small-scale projects before Transplanting’s first run. With one person running sound, the occasional help of a production assistant and McLellan filling multiple technical roles, Vasco was left with a daunting set of responsibilities including art, lighting and camera operation. Though he still sees plenty of room for improvement on his end, that hard work paid off and attracted new collaborators such as assistant director Daisy Talley and Keeley Turner, editor of the final three episodes. Both stepped forward to volunteer their time and lighten the director’s load.
“We were blessed with so many wonderful and amazing crew members,” Vasco says. “They are the real heroes of season two.”