Cinematographer Charlie Gruet captures balance between celebrity and obscurity in The Other Two.
The phenomenon of social media stardom and the revolutionary effect it has had on the entertainment industry is nothing new.
Content creators using a microphone and a webcam as their sole gateway into notoriety have gone from relatively obscure internet performers to household names.
What goes often entirely unacknowledged, however, is the plethora of bystanders who are caught in the tidal wave of publicity. When a meteoric rise to fame sends a shock through the system of an otherwise ordinary person's life, who is left by the wayside?
Comedy Central's The Other Two focuses on the hapless exploits of two such characters, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary Dubeck (Drew Tarver), as their younger brother Chase (Case Walker) becomes an instantaneous internet phenom. Navigating jealousy, doubt, and existential uncertainty, Brooke and Cary live between worlds as two struggling performers, and their auxiliary role supporting their much younger (and infinitely more well-known) brother.
Finding the sweet spot in the dichotomy between these themes requires an eye for balance and well as emotion. It is an unenviable task that falls, in part, to cinematographer Charlie Gruet.
Gruet, formerly of High Maintenance and SNL, shot the first season of The Other Two setting his sights primarily on one thing: capturing the dichotomy between the grounded reality of Brooke and Cary's adult lives against the pomp and circumstance of Chase's rise to fame as a teen popstar.
"I think it's fun to explore how generationally different we can be, even though we're only a few years apart," Gruet said, "I think the value of the narrative of the show is something that we can look upon in ourselves.
"I am an analog native. I grew up with cassettes and albums. I was born before the internet. There's people now who grow up who only know the internet. The show is a fun look at how people are trying to navigate this fast-paced, technologically advancing world."
This narrative incites the thematic split between Chase and his older siblings, as his viral popularity widens the generational gap and fuels sibling envy. This paradigm lent itself to visual opportunities which, according to Gruet, underscored the distinction between each character.
"I feel like we always tried to have Brooke and Cary in a two-shot. The show is called The Other Two and it is about those two," Gruet said, "They played really well off each other."
While Brooke and Cary stick together, Gruet also took great care in capturing Chase's journey into the disorienting world that he is thrust into. Going to great lengths to capture the excess and brilliance of the scenery, Gruet takes a deep dive into each and every scene.
"In the finale, it takes place at the VMAs, so we got the chance to do a complete live performance stage set-up, which was kind of unique to the show," Gruet said, "So that was another moment where I was like, 'I'm gonna exploit this for cinematography purposes.'"
Gruet credits the show's creative team for entrusting him with the ability to shape the tone and aesthetic of the show in a manner that allows for these two threads to accentuate the overarching narrative themes, as well as the visual parallels.
"What it does is it allows you to tap into a more soulful framing, or more soulful lighting. I have to admit I am super fortunate to be able to work with creators and directors who allow me to do that," Gruet said, "Knowing that they trust me gives me confidence in making a scene a little moodier, or making a scene a little more dynamic.
"I think it is recognizing that and grabbing hold of that confidence and trying to push that forward into the frame and even into the people around you."
With the full support of a cohesive creative team, Gruet strikes that delicate balance, and takes a look into the humanity of the show's titular "other two," Brooke and Cary.
"What we had to do was create these settings and situations and they would be in a larger scale and a grand scope of some kind," Gruet said, "Then when we would point our camera towards the other two, Drew and Heléne, who play Cary and Brooke, we wanted it to remain grounded and kind of personal and human."
Gruet's chosen method for underscoring those personal moments was less invasive and more strategic. Using the subtleties of the material as a guide, Gruet made the decision to set his sights on the character over the aesthetic.
"The actors are delivering such a beautiful performance, you don't want to let the camera get in the way of that stuff," Gruet said, "So it is better, a lot of times, to just shoot the performance first. I think the way to balance the emotion and the comedy are to make sure that the camera and the lighting aren't getting in the way of those two elements, but building those two elements."
While balancing that kind of juxtaposition is difficult enough, more challenging still is building the emotion in those personal moments. While finding the emotional nuance of the relationship between siblings Cary and Brooke, Gruet found not just a narrative foundation, but also the heart of the show.
"Ultimately, the show is about them, and how they're orbiting this world of celebrity, and being able to see how they're growing in that," Gruet said, "Cary has his own arc where he is trying to figure himself out, and Brooke has her own arc. They run parallel to each other. That's the heart of the show, for me. The connectedness between Brooke and Cary as brother and sister. We wanted to visually show that."
Above all else, Gruet wanted to ensure that the experiences he was capturing through the lens were translating to the experiences of the audience. Gruet's cinematography in The Other Two is, more than anything, an intimate window into the desires, fears, and hopes of the audience, reflected in the characters on screen.
"It's finding those moments. Not every shot can be a Rembrandt, but you find those moments in those scenes in each episode and you take advantage of them," Gruet said, "The viewer is having a cathartic moment with these characters. If you can help that catharsis, then you've done your job."