Raising Adults is the mostly autobiographical web series about two young Cincinnatians, Brittany Wagner and Kait Staley, trying to navigate life in their mid-20s while also taking care of aging and disabled parents. For Wagner, it was her father; for Staley, her mother. After debuting in 2017, the series is about to start airing its second season in September on YouTube.
Their experiences are wrenching, tragic even. Yet Raising Adults is a dark comedy. Wagner and Staley have worked hard to balance the intensely serious subject matter with the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in.
“In the simplest sense, our series distinguishes itself as a dark comedy in that the girls are young adults now, raising the people who once raised them — their parents,” Wagner writes via email. “And, though ‘adults,’ Britt and Kait still struggle to grow up amidst everything life throws at them, including helping their parents pursue disability support while trying to hold down a job and simply maintain a life of their own. Wrangling Mom at the doctor’s office or revising Dad’s colorful letters to politicians just scratches the surface of the things they reluctantly do for the ones they love.”
But not everything could be handled with humor. Wagner’s father, Mike, who played a slightly-fictionalized version of himself in Season One, was getting ready to act in Season Two and even writing his own lines. But while Wagner was working in Chicago, she received a phone call that her dad had taken his own life in Cincinnati.
“My dad taking his life was definitely not part of the narrative and not something I cared to exploit,” she says by phone. “But it’s very important to me to be as transparent as possible with the audience, anyone I work with and anyone I come into contact with.”
Wagner grew up in Madeira, where she and her two sisters were raised by a single father. “My dad was a closeted homosexual and he met my mom when they were very young,” she says.
Thinking he’d found love, and that his new bride was sent to save him, Wagner’s father tried to live his life as a heterosexual. “My mom was a great parent,” she says, “but she was packing her own demons.”
Wagner went to the University of Cincinnati to study communications and after graduating headed to New York City, where she worked for a digital marketing agency. However, the Big Apple turned out to be a bit much and she returned home.
“I came back to Cincinnati at a time when my dad was getting over his second consecutive back surgery,” she says. “I thought, ‘I’ll come home and take care of my dad,’ and I started managing his health care.”
While here, she participated in the 48-Hour Film Project, in which teams work to complete an entire short film in just two days. It was there she met Staley. “She was an actor in the film I worked on,” she says. “We fell in friendship love.”
It turned out Staley had also grown up in unconventional circumstances with a single mom, eventually settling in Mount Washington.
“We compared notes on the crazy stuff our parents did or the crazy stuff we were going through as women in our mid-20s,” Wagner says.
The two talked about developing a web series but couldn’t get themselves properly motivated.
“Finally we got to the point where we realized we were going to lose a major filming location,” Wagner says. “Kait was going through a big life change after a pretty traumatic breakup and that forced her to move into a place of questionable stability in Northside.”
What might be beyond the second season?
“We plan to pitch Raising Adults to networks with the end goal being to get picked up, sure,” Wagner says. “It’s important to us, however, to work with a platform that really wants to elevate our voice so we can tell the stories and highlight struggles we haven’t seen on screen yet, relating and connecting with others who ‘get it’ or simply want to laugh.”
Raising Adults is available on YouTube.com