“Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.”
While watching the Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, the emerging actress and writer Karin Kamryn became immediately inspired upon hearing those words spoken by the celebrated singer Nina Simone. Out of that inspiration grew Coffee and Cream, Kamryn’s debut web series, in which her most vulnerable thoughts and feelings are captured for the public — flaws and all. Kamryn lives a normal life as a 25-year-old black woman from Queens who regularly ponders herself, her thoughts and decisions, and God. In an email exchange, Kamryn tells the Voice, of her mandate for Coffee and Cream, “I wanted to create an experience that showcased black women being ordinary a la Broad City, but soon after got inspired by Frida Kahlo, who reassured me that I could in fact shamelessly be the subject of my own art.” (The series was directed by Khajauan Walker, founder of Coal Crown Creative, and powered by ZIIIRO THE COMET, director of digital hive, The JTPK.)
Although the subject matter may seem intimate, the series is lighthearted enough to easily digest. The setting, however, is completely abstract — very unusually so for such sitcom-y material — and will require viewers to challenge their imaginations a bit. Surrounding herself in a white, cyclorama-like studio space, Kamryn uses colored cardboard boxes as props to add distinct levels and dynamics to each episode. In order to provoke the audience’s imagination, Kamryn explains later in the email thread, she settled on “an abstract minimalist [backdrop], stripping all of the distracting elements and leaving the atmosphere surrounding my subjects in your hands.” (She told me she toyed with three different conceptual settings before landing on the minimalist scenery.)
Episode “A” — she designates each segment by letter, not number — centers on Kamryn’s conversation with a white woman while they both wait for a bus. Her inner voice manifests as the stranger takes an interest in her natural hair, yet she remains polite throughout the exchange. The next episode tackles one of the most important decisions we all struggle with: What to wear? Kamryn, for her part, fights the urge to feel comfortable and confident, but also doesn’t want to be on the receiving end of the usual catcalls, stares, and maybe even followers.
In the “C” episode, Kamryn finds herself on a date over donuts that goes awry when her companion, Gerron, assumes that she’s not “just black.” The rendezvous, in the end, turns out to be a wash, but it’s obvious from a few comical moments that the two share a bit of natural chemistry. Episode “D” plays out as a one-woman therapy session, with questions appearing on-screen; Kamryn admits to a range of fears, including of saying “no” and talking to God. The final episode brings everything full circle, with a montage of clips from the previous segments, Kamryn’s inner thoughts spoken over them with a sense of reflection. In only 25 minutes, Coffee and Cream serves as a refreshing introduction to an exciting talent. Hopefully a second season is right around the corner.