The HBO Max series Happily Ever Avatar gives viewers a look at real relationships that blossomed in unreal worlds. Jake and Chelsea met one another behind their gaming avatars, but soon connected with each other outside of the fictional characters they’d created.
What are their thoughts on having their relationship featured on a TV show? How did they navigate the interesting and awkward world of virtual avatars to begin with? And what’s the advice that they might give other people who are looking for connection but might be too scared to be themselves online?
We discussed these topics in our recent interview; get to know both Chelsea and Jake before you stream all twelve episodes of Happily Ever Avatar now on HBO Max.
Brittany Frederick: What made you comfortable putting your relationship out on TV as part of Happily Ever Avatar? It’s not an easy decision to be so open, especially in something that is so personal.
Chelsea: I’m going to be completely honest. When I got the casting call sent to me, when I decided to have us apply, I genuinely didn’t think we’d get picked. (laughs) I think it was a really fun experience for us. But when I applied originally, I didn’t think anything would come of it. It wasn’t really something I worried about at first.
BF: Have either of you had a chance to watch the series now that it’s streaming? Do you have thoughts on how it all turned out?
Jake: I’ve only seen bits and pieces. I’ve been working pretty much the whole quarantine, so my screen time is very limited and I’m very picky about what I watch. But Chelsea, she binged the whole thing. It’s twelve episodes at ten to fifteen minutes a piece; you can kill it in an hour, an hour-ish.
Chelsea: I thought it was fun. I think it’s a good little snippet into our life. We did film at a couple of fun places, and I think those scenes are all a lot of fun. Medieval Times, I think that whole sequence was a lot of fun, [and] my grandma being in it was really exciting. People who watch it might recognize her because she was actually in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, an Adam Sandler movie.
Jake: She’s been in a lot of things. Hail, Caesar! And lots of TV shows and all kinds of stuff.
Chelsea: She’s done a lot. So getting to be on screen with her was a really special moment for me as well.
BF: Happily Ever Avatar is a great counterpoint to what we think about online relationships. Usually the focus is on the negative stories, but you’ve proven that there are positive outcomes, too. What would you say to people about building good, constructive relationships online?
Chelsea: You’ve already got something in common, so that helps right there. When you first meet people, you’ve got to go through all the small talk, trying to gauge like, “Oh, what’s your interest about this? What’s your interest about that?” If you’re meeting someone on a video game, you kind of have already jumped past those steps. And at least in my experience, I’m a chatty person. I talk a lot, so it always just felt very natural to me talking to people I met on video games.
Jake: A lot of the people that I talk to everyday are people that I met online. We moved to Kansas and I met people that I had only ever spoken to online for the first time. Me and Zach had been talking for seven years before I even met him. And then when we finally moved here, Jessie’s in New York, and all the dudes in the guild are all over the place.
So not only do you have that thing in common, you all play a video game together or you like the same things, you have that thing to talk about. But also, you can’t go hang out with them [in person], so the only thing to do is talk or play a game together. You learn to have conversations with those people through Discord or what was Skype and Vent for us.
Chelsea: I think that’s a big point, actually. The whole Discord type, talking to them over voice. Because obviously you need to be safe. There’s crappy people out there. Talking over voice is a huge aspect. Personally, I just like talking to people while I’m playing video games. I’m always like, “Yeah, let’s hang out in Discord and just chat.”
Jake: Chelsea will launch the video game, load into her character and not do anything, but still sit in Discord and talk. (laughs) There’s only one way to find out if you’re going to be friends with this person or more, and that’s to have a conversation with them and find out. And if you’re not willing to do that, you’re not going anywhere.
BF: How do you decide how much of yourself you’re willing to put out on these platforms? Because as you said, there can be people who either are purposefully not being truthful or maybe they’re just not comfortable sharing online.
Jake: For me, outside of the show, I stream on Twitch and I have a Twitter with not a small following but not a big one either. I’m not going to change who I am, or say stuff I wouldn’t normally say, but also there’s a line there. And I’ll share up to that line and then I stop.
Chelsea: I think I’ve had to learn. I’m very much like, “Oh my God! We just started talking, let’s be best friends.” What you see is what you get, basically. I’ve always tried to just be my authentic self, and I’m the same way online. What you see is what you get. I’m passionate about the things I’m passionate about. I’m very vocal about the things I’m passionate about. It is what it is. Obviously with that being said, personal information, stuff like that is a little more guarded, but I give a lot of info.
BF: What’s one thing you think people need to know about gaming or the online community that they perhaps aren’t as aware of yet?
Jake: I was an all-state and all-conference lacrosse player, I was a jock and also a big fat nerd. That line [between the two] is still firmly drawn in the sand, and I think it’s garbage. It’s a bunch of nonsense.
My little brother is very much like, I only play one video game. I play Call of Duty because that’s what guys do. But also he’s hitting me up on the back end going like, you’re still playing WoW [World of Warcraft]. You’re still playing that fantasy stuff? I think that needs to be talked about in general. I think that line in the sand needs to disappear. I think people need to let people like what they like.
Happily Ever Avatar is streaming now exclusively on HBO Max.