Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman in the second season of “This Close” Michael Moriatis/SundanceNow

This Close creators and stars Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman took the stage to talk about the second season of the Sundance Now drama, which broke ground in more ways than one. For one, it was Sundance Now’s first straight-to-series order. Secondly, it puts the spotlight on the seldom represented deaf community.

For the second season, Stern and Feldman said that it will mirror the first and secrets will be spilled. More than that, Michael (Feldman) and Kate (Stern) to new challenges, specifically mental illness and how it impacts the deaf community.

Feldman and Stern, who are both deaf, unpacked how mental illness is often stigmatized for those who can hear, but with the deaf community, the stigmatization is magnified because the community is small.

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Feldman points out that it is really important to tell these stories because the deaf community has little representation on screen. For Michael, it was important that they address his mental health during the second season. “We knew he had a problem with alcoholism,” Feldman pointed out. In addition to that, he points out that Michael is not dealing with his past and that it is causing mental health issues.

“There’s an added layer of anxiety,” said Stern about members of the deaf community seeking out mental health. She said that there is always a third party when it comes to that narrative and the deaf community is often concerned about whether or not people who can hear understand them correctly.

“We don’t see that kind of representation on screen,” she said. She adds that “life is messy” and that the aforementioned stigma to mental health needs to be removed — especially for the deaf community.

Kasher, whose parents are deaf, appreciates the importance of this representation on the show. “It shows the messiness and humanity of people,” he said. “It digs into humanity beneath the surface — that’s what is exciting about this.”

Based on a series of shorts featured at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s Short Form Episodic Showcase, This Close
explores universal and relatable themes of love and friendship — in its many permutations. Twenty-something-year-old best friends living in Los Angeles, Kate and Michael, try to balance their personal and professional lives. She’s
newly engaged and struggles to grow at work, while he battles self-destructive writer’s block after having his heartbroken. As they each tackle their own issues, their friendship is put to the test.