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New Season of 'East WillyB' Show Mocks Hipster 'Immigration' into Bushwick

By Meredith Hoffman | February 15, 2013 8:13am

BUSHWICK — One vigilant watchdog has his eye out for all newcomers to the neighborhood. If you weren't born within its borders, beware: you're an "illegal" Bushwick immigrant.

That "anti-hipster" patroller, named Cesar, is the latest addition to the "East WillyB" web series, a comedy featuring a wide range of Latino life in Bushwick as gentrification sweeps through the community.

The show — debuting its second season next month — includes both caricatures like Cesar and the depth of young Latinos' experiences amid rapid neighborhood change, the producer Julia Ahumada Grob said.

"We modeled Cesar as a comment on the [people] who patrol the Mexican border on the American side, who make it a point to make sure Mexicans don't come in," said Grob of the new "exaggerated" character, who wears a "Defend Bushwick" T-shirt. "He interrogates people about where they're from and documents it. If you're not from there you're illegal."

While Cesar adds a poignant flare to the show, Grob said that the other characters' experiences run the gamut, from running a business to restoring a broken relationship.

"This season we also have much more of universal human stories," she said of the second season, which employed additional writers and cast members after getting funded on Kickstarter. "We still deal with the gentrification of the neighborhood but the characters have personal journeys."

Grob and her friend Yamin Segal,  who sought to answer a need for media about the young Latino generation, said Bushwick's current upheaval with new residents made the setting ripe for a compelling story — even though neither filmmaker was from the neighborhood.

"We thought about Spanish Harlem or Sunset Park, but Bushwick is so perfect because it's right by Williamsburg and it's going through a huge process of change...and we wanted to play on the fact that people call it 'East Williamsburg,'" Segal said. "We're both Latino...I'm from Park Slope and Julia is from the Upper West Side. This is the kind of change we already saw happen in our neighborhoods, but Bushwick is more virgin to this trend."

The second season's central narrative in "East WillyB" features a young bar owner's struggle to get back his ex-fiancee, said Segal, noting that the show is shot all over Flushing Avenue, Knickerbocker Avenue, Bushwick Avenue and in the shop 718 Unlimited Barber.

The bar scenes, meanwhile, are actually shot in South Williamsburg's Eddie Jr. Sports Lounge, he said.

"It's a Puerto Rican-owned bar that has gone through extreme gentrification but it has an old-school Puerto Rican crowd, salsa and DJ nights," said Segal of Eddie Jr.'s. "And that's what our story's about, this Latino bar as the neighborhood changes."

The tone of the show is not one of anger towards newcomers, Segal said, but it is meant to document the longtime culture in Bushwick that other parts of the city have already lost.

"It's that loudness, the plastic on all the furniture, the community aspect," he said of his recollections of his own neighborhood before its changes. "It was noisy, you'd sleep at night and hear sirens and that made you feel good and at home. For us the show is about expressing that, and that it needs to be heard."

The second season of "East WillyB" starts March 20. Episodes can be found on the series' website.