Evelyn Ngugi in "This Coulda Been An Email." (Image: Hallease Narvaez & StumbleWell.)

Trailer for This Coulda Been an Email Is All Too Relatable

More like endeavoring to slay

Two of our favorite internet cousins, Evelyn Ngugi (a.k.a. Evelyn from the Internets) and Hallease Narvaez, finally dropped the trailer for their web series This Coulda Been an Email. The series follows two young Black women working as HR secretaries tasked with organizing a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiative for their office. 

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This Coulda Been An Email features some familiar faces to those who have been following Ngugi and Narvaez’s work for a while. Produced by StumbleWell, the series’ creative team includes Maya Table directing, Grace Hathaway producing, Christopher Narvaez (a.k.a. Mr. Hallease) script supervising, and cinematography by Daniel Deloach with Juan A. Izaguirre.

Kelsey Pribilski plays the #girlboss HR Director. In addition to working on the creative team, many people involved are also acting. Ngugi and Hallease Narvaez play the main characters, Vanessa and Josephine. Christopher Narvaez plays the man terminated near the end of the trailer.

Other fun bits include the homage to Issa Rae. In the trailer, you can see Rae grace the April 2019 cover of Essence magazine as the issue is propped up on Vanessa’s desk. Now known for her HBO series like Insecure, Rae got her start producing a YouTube web series like Awkward Black Girl in 2011.

How the show developed

On her channel, Hallease Narvaez explains that after working with Ngugi on PBS Digital Studio’s first season of Say it OutLoud, she felt more confident in pursuing scripted, narrative storytelling rather than her previous work in the documentary storytelling style. As a viewer, this is so exciting to hear because this is where I first found each and became an admirer of their work. Then again, I’m extra biased because they’re from Texas.

Hallease Narvaez in "This Coulda Been An Email." (Image: StumbleWell.)

Hallease Narvaez wrote on Indiegogo (where they’re raising money to fund further episodes) that the idea started forming in 2013, when she would chat with other women in a production company she worked at about the subtle microaggressions rampant in corporate culture.

I love that they set in the HR department. The show looks like it will delve into the labor of being an undervalued employee and how DEI work can’t be just completed by going to HR. My and many others’ experience with HR departments has been abysmal despite this being the space to address sensitive issues in the workplace. HR can be an invaluable resource, but ultimately, HR works for the company or institution, not the person needing help.

Anyways, the idea stuck with Hallease Narvaez for years, and then she teamed up with Ngugi in 2020 to workshop the show. They cowrote the five-episode story, and Hallease Narvaez serving as executive producer. Initially titled Hardly Working, the new name is a sentiment felt by many people, especially those in constant video calls when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Indiegogo campaign

The Narvaez’s StumbleWell fronted the cost of episode one to get everyone compensated and the first episode completed. This allocation of funds was possible because of their supporters on Patreon, and Hallease Narvaez earned a prestigious (three people selected yearly in the world) year-long Adobe Creative Residency. Through this residency, Hallease Narvaez connected with mentor and now-director of This Coulda Been An Email, Table.

Hallease Narvaez launched an Indiegogo campaign to shoot and edit episodes two and three.

Episode one, “Divide,” will premiere on YouTube midday February 10, 2022.

(image: StumbleWell)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.