Ever feel the need to escape into your imagination away from all the stress and drama of your day-to-day life? Who among us can’t relate to that feeling, right? That’s exactly the concept of the new series Mind Fudge, available to stream now on CBC Gem, which focuses on Justine (Justine Nelson), a twenty-something living in Toronto who uses her overactive imagination to turn everyday situations into cinematic mini movies. Whether it’s balancing her relationship with roommate and best friend Katie (Katelyn McCulloch), or starting to get serious with new girlfriend Zoe (Nicolette Pearse), sometimes Justine just needs to escape into her imagination. That’s exactly what she does over the course of Mind Fudge’s 8×8:00 first season.
Created by Nelson and director Jon Simo and executive produced by Peter Woods, Mind Fudge looks to push the limits of the short form web format. The series transforms Justine’s fears and insecurities into vivid detail by doing things such as turning her daily commute into a real-life battle zone. Should we also mention there’s an elevator malfunction that turns into a full on musical? We here at The TV Junkies were lucky enough to get a sneak peak at the series, and after chatting with Nelson recently, also have a few reasons why you’ll want to check it out now on Gem and hopefully worldwide soon!
Its rise from humble beginnings
Before Mind Fudge became the season now available on CBC Gem, the series actually began as an idea between friends Nelson and Simo. “We were feeling uninspired and wanted create something,” she explained. That need to create resulted in short, 1-minute videos made for Instagram that would allow the pair “to get fast feedback, but with a high production value style.” After a few IG videos, “people responded quite positively and it was intoxicating,” leading the duo to expand them now, something that ended up being “quite seamless” to do “because it was actually quite challenging to make them only 1 minute.”
This series feels meant to be
The last of the shorter Instagram Mind Fudge episodes Nelson and Simo created “was a Tinder episode where a whole life flashes before my eyes.” It was then that Nelson “met Peter Woods, who is now our executive producer.” She recalls their meeting being “one of those serendipitous moments” where Woods was “just a guy I was serving at a restaurant rambling on about my life.” After watching that last episode and learning more, Woods liked what he saw of Mind Fudge and “asked if he could option it.” That’s when everything “kind of spiraled” and CBC ended up picking up the series for Gem. Who doesn’t love a great origin story?
The story draws on real-life
While Mind Fudge does play with imagination, meaning episodes can go in all kinds of crazy and unreal directions, Nelson said many things in the show are “exaggerated versions of my own characteristics. For example, I’m terrified of scary movies and that’s in Episode 2.” So while she may not have actually been stuck in an elevator musical, “there are a handful of things that are baked in some sort of truth of my life.” In fact, in getting to do the longer format, Nelson really enjoyed the real and heartfelt stories the show got to explore. “I love being able to actually do some more scene work,” she explained. Previously, “so much of the series was quick cuts and fast-paced,” but now the series format allows her “to have a scene and work with actors I respect and love.”
A strong supporting cast
In addition to Nelson’s Justine, Mind Fudge has a strong supporting cast that many fans of Canadian TV and streaming content will recognize. We don’t want to spoil some of the fun cameos, but Nelson said Justine’s roommate, Katie, “is played by Katelyn McCulloch who is one of my dear friends. I think she’s utterly amazing.” In fact, Nelson said she and Simo “were in the process of writing Season 2, thinking of who we want to cast, and Jon and I both thought she’d be perfect. We then continued to write it as her” and she says that the duo’s “chemistry is so natural and organic.”
Fans of the original Mind Fudge will notice Glenda MacInnis back again as Glenda because Nelson “wanted to stay true to that cast and she’s super fun to work with.” Finally, Nicolette Pearse plays Justine’s girlfriend, Zoe. Nelson said Pearse “just blew us away,” and that after holding a lot of auditions, “she was just hands down the Zoe.”
Making it queer was “a no-brainer”
One of the major positives about more and more streaming services like CBC Gem becoming available is that more queer stories are being told. But for Nelson and Simo, the sexuality of the Mind Fudge characters were just “a no-brainer”. Over the course of the eight episodes Justine’s new relationship with Zoe is explored, but Nelson said there was no “conversation between Jon and I” about making the story queer “or specifically trying to target the LGBTQ community. We were just making a show and then, when we made a heartbreak episode we did it with a woman. “ Nelson said that Mind Fudge’s queer stories “just always came naturally.”
Highly relatable stories
While Nelson said initially making a queer story came naturally and she didn’t think about it much, as time went on and the longer episodes were being written, she admitted that she “did start feeling the pressure of making sure it was proper and wanting to do everyone justice.” She wanted the show’s central relationship to “seem authentic that this was a queer couple and not some squeaky clean television version. I wanted little girls to see themselves on the screen and it was something we gave a lot of thought to.” Nelson said Mind Fudge’s relatability is one of the things she’s most proud of and that she’s not just hearing it from queer viewers. “ I have straight men coming up to me after seeing the heartbreak episode saying ‘Oh man, I totally relate to that!’ As it should!”
While Nelson admits there’s a broad range and need for all kinds of queer stories, her goal is “to be part of the process of not showing the woes of what it’s like to be a queer person. I want there to be more just queer content and not just how hard it is.” She said the trials and tribulations experienced by the Mind Fudge characters aren’t because their queer, it’s just because they are people. “The hardship isn’t that they are gay, it’s just everything else because they are just like everybody else.”
There’s already plans for more!
We know from first hand experience that once you watch these eight episodes you’re going to want more. The good news is that Nelson said her team “is hungry for more too.” She said they are already hard at work because they’d “ideally like to make it bigger and bigger and expand even more.” She said that could include longer episodes that would allow them to “really dive into the characters and have even more hyper-reals in one episode. I think that’s where we’re headed next and that’s underway.”
Oh and if you’re outside of Canada and want to check out Mind Fudge, don’t worry, Nelson said they are working on that too. “Canada gets the premiere first,” on June 7 on CBC Gem she said, but “then we are working on worldwide and it’ll be shortly after.” There may be nothing to announce just yet, but we’d recommend following the series on Instagram to not miss any future news!
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.