Refinery29’s Facebook series ‘Strangers’ is as compelling as anything you’ll find on traditional TV

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“Strangers” starring Zoe Chao as Isobel, and Meredith Hagner as Cam.
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Facebook Watch/Refinery29

    One of the best shows for Facebook’s new Watch platform is Refinery29’s “Strangers.” Business Insider spoke to the creator of “Strangers” Mia Lidofsky about her new series. Lidofsky got the idea for the series after having an interesting Airbnb experience, and has a lot of hope for the Watch platform.

So far, Facebook’s new video platform Watch is full of mostly forgettable, mediocre content, but the platform is also home to one of best scripted series out now: Refinery29’s “Strangers.”

“Strangers” follows a freshly single Isobel (Zoe Chao) as she explores her newly discovered sexuality, while Airbnbing her spare room in order to make ends meet. As new people enter Isobel’s home and life, she’s forced to confront and explore new aspects of herself.

The scripted series produced by Refinery29 is a poignant, heartbreaking, and tenderly told coming-of-age tale, sure to resonate with anyone who has ever felt uncertain about what they want in life.

The series also has some impressive guest stars like Jemima Kirke (“Girls”), Shiri Appleby (“UnREAL”), and Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Concords”).

Business Insider spoke to the creator of “Strangers,” Mia Lidofsky, to learn what inspired her to make the series, and what her hopes for the Watch platform are.

This is what Lidofsky had to say about her new series “Strangers”:


Lidofsky’s idea for strangers blossomed from her own experience renting her apartment on Airbnb.

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Facebook Watch/Refinery29

Amanda Henning Santiago: I know “Strangers” is based on some of your own experiences. How did you turn your own stories into a series?

Mia Lidofsky: I decided to put my apartment up on AirBnb and move out west. It was Thanksgiving and we [Lidofsky and Richard Shepard] had just finished shooting “Salem.”

I was so homesick, and I really missed the East Coast, I missed New York, I missed my family, and I missed my New York community. I was like, “I have to get back to New York at least for a visit.” My apartment was already rented. So I decided, “Okay I’ll become a renter.” And I rented this beautiful loft in Williamsburg with a friend who was coming home with me for Thanksgiving. It was this kind of extraordinary re-entry back into New York because I got to try on a different life than the life that I had left.

I really fell in love with this apartment, and was super sad to leave. When I was exchanging the keys with the host JP, he called me up and he was like, “Mia I’ve got a funny story for you,” and I was like, “Alright JP what you got?”

He said, “Well, I’m dating this girl,” and I was like great, I’m already interested.

He said, “She lives in LA.”

And I was like well that’s complicated, but he said, “No, she’s been living in the West Village for the last three months.”

I said, “Oh cool, I used to live there. I have an apartment there.”

He said, “I know,” and I was like, “Okay?”

Then he said, “You know I stayed with my girlfriend this weekend, so you could stay in my place?”

I was kind of confused, I was like is he trying to make me feel guilty? Like, I paid him. Then he said, “Mia, my girlfriend is your subletter. I stayed in your apartment this weekend.”

JP and I had never met each other, we had only met through Airbnb, and in the course of one weekend we had traded beds in order for each of us to actually survive – JP’s an artist as well – being artists in the city. That was just a really memorable moment for me.

I thought about sharing communities such as AirBnB, and Uber, and Lyft, and Citi Bike, and all of these ways in which the world is shifting toward this sharing economy. And how it just brings this ability to bring different people into your life. It became this really powerful idea for a storytelling vehicle to bring all different kinds of people in and out of a protagonist’s life.

I knew I wanted to tell a story about a bisexual woman. I knew I wanted her to be going through a life crisis about her sexual identity, and where she was in her career, and just sort of explore this life on the cusp of 30.

There’s this perception that we’re supposed to have it all figured out, and be on this certain path, and be really confident in that. But I wanted to look at what happens when you have this quarter-life crisis, and realize that there’s incredible newness and truth in you that you’re just discovering.


Lidofsky’s connections with actors on past projects resulted in some amazing guest stars on “Strangers.”

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Facebook Watch/Refinery 29

Henning Santiago: There are a lot of really amazing actors on “Strangers.” Jemaine Clement is in the first episode, which I was super excited about.

Lidofsky: Jemaine is one of the funniest people I have ever met, and when I was helping produce “People, Places, Things,” – he was the star of the film – we became close. He really wanted to champion my voice, and he was excited for me about “Strangers.”

You know early days when it was just a seed in my mind he was like, “I’ll be in it, you just call me.”

I actually had a lot of actors say that, like Shiri Appleby. When I was working with Jesse [a former colleague] and [Appleby] came in to guest star on “Girls,” she was like, “When you make something, you call me.”

In many ways [“Strangers” is] a testament to people showing up, and following up on their word.


Lidofsky believes that Facebook Watch is “going to be a really good thing.”

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Facebook Watch/Refinery29

Henning Santiago: “Strangers” is currently on Facebook Watch, which is where I initially found it. I’m just curious to hear how you feel about Watch?

Lidofsky: Listen, it’s extraordinarily exciting to be a part of the first generation of any kind of new platform. You know I think that Facebook in many ways is a home that I never would have anticipated, or thought about, but in many ways it feels totally perfect, and the right home for “Strangers.”

In the sense that in the best ways this platform is another sort of sharing economy. It’s a place where there are 2 billion viewers, and if this show has the potential to reach a fraction of that 2 billion people … My hope in filmmaking is to help change the narrative of normal; create crazy positive portrayals of women, of female friendships, of lesbians, of bi, of trans, of sexually curious, questioning, real people. And if I can do that with an endless capability of an audience, that’s super exciting for me as a creator.

I mean that’s a really powerful tool that I don’t take lightly. I think that there’s a plethora of content out on Facebook right now – on the Watch platform – and perhaps it’s complicated or confusing to find shows that feel good and right. My real hope is that eventually “Strangers” will stand out as a quality show that people love, that people connect with, that they laugh at, that they cry to, and that it finds its audience.

I am truly optimistic about what Watch can and will do, and you know it’s early stages. At one point Amazon had just started, and people were like, “But I order bulk toilet paper and DVDs, what do you mean they’re gonna make ‘Transparent,’ and ‘Mozart in the Jungle?'”

And I think people were confused when Netflix and Hulu came on the scene. I have to trust in what Facebook is trying to achieve, and what they’re capable of, and you know I believe this is going to be a really good thing.