WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A new comedy web series that follows the misadventures of a Dominican-born taxi driver beat out two other shows to be featured on a site that curates web-based television and movies.
"Yo Taxi" follows Pedro, a chubby, merengue-loving cabdriver, as he picks up fares in Northern Manhattan and The Bronx. Pedro’s short fuse and impulsive personality frequently land him in tricky situations — from using a salami to defend himself against a would-be mugger to accidentally pouring cocaine into his coffee when he mistakes it for sugar.
The site that picked his show, Stream Now TV, chose the series based on fan votes.
Creators Gavin Hungerford and Joseph Cepin, who plays Pedro, based the show loosely on experiences that Cepin had as a real New York City cabdriver.
“Everyone in New York City has taken taxis and had their own crazy experience with a cabdriver,” Cepin explained. “Now they’ll be able to see that sometimes they’re the ones giving the driver a crazy experience.”
In his green cab, Pedro picks up people from all walks of life, including an inattentive mother and her bratty young daughters, a French burlesque dancer who turns into a love interest, and an amorous couple who get a little too frisky in the backseat of Pedro’s cab.
Cepin, 22, said that Pedro’s experiences are very exaggerated versions of his own stories that take on a life of their own because of his character's spontaneous personality.
“He thinks on his feet and reacts to everything as it comes,” Cepin said. “But he’s also naïve. The things that he does, he doesn’t do to hurt anyone.”
While Cepin never hit anyone with salami, he does admit to bouts of road rage and said he once had to call the police on a drunken customer who tried to grab the steering wheel from the backseat of his taxi.
Cepin and Hungerford filmed the first season of the show, which consists of five episodes, beginning in April. Uptown residents will recognize many of the show’s locations, including the Dyckman Street strip, the Harlem Viaduct and the elevated 1 train tracks.
Cepin wanted to highlight Uptown and The Bronx, because his character just moved to New York City from the Dominican Republic.
“I wanted to focus on Pedro’s culture,” he said. “He’s Dominican and there are a lot of us living in Washington Heights and The Bronx.”
Hungerford and Cepin are already at work writing the second season of the show, which will expand Pedro’s adventures to Queens, Brooklyn and even the Dominican Republic. They are thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign to help fund filming this spring and think that exposure on Stream Now TV will help with that.
“We hope this will make people see, 'Wow, they made it to this official website so it’s probably a good show,'” Cepin explained. “Hopefully, more people will want to give it a chance.”
The show has already won over Cepin’s parents, both of whom drive taxis for a living. He added that even though "Yo Taxi" is a farce, at its heart is a real story that is not often told.
“We’re still telling the Dominican cabdriver’s story,” he said. “We don’t often see that story of hard-working Dominican in the United States so I’m proud of that.”