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Crown Point native reflects on returning home to film new comedy series
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Crown Point native reflects on returning home to film new comedy series

CROWN POINT — After more than a decade in the wellness world, Crown Point native Ashley Joyce knows a thing or two about finding her center.

And the Crown Point High School alumna is bringing those experiences to the small screen. 

Joyce, along with former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Cheri Oteri and director Layne Marie Williams, recently wrapped filming "Zen Room," a mockumentary style comedy that focuses on the ins and outs of a small town yoga studio

"It's definitely taken from my experience. ... That's the only way you can do it, is really being able to observe your surroundings, especially for me with comedy. Any of my comedy comes ... out of real-life circumstances," Joyce said.

"I'm not really a joke teller. It's more what I find humorous in every day life."

The 10-episode, short-form season began and wrapped filming in Chicago with a largely female crew in early March. 

"I met Layne Marie at a women's film festival last year. ... Then she introduced me to Ashley, and I was just taken by both of them, and they told me about this idea," Oteri said.

"The next thing I knew I was part of it, and then COVID happened, so that kind of put a wrench in things. But here I am and loving every minute of this and loving this idea. I love these girls. I just feel really like this is so special."

Oteri added: "For doing comedy as long as I've done comedy, this is right up there. This is something that I could see on television and being enjoyed by so many people, and I'm really proud to be a part of it."

The three women agreed the set was filled with genuine laughter while production was in progress. 

"I don't think I've ever laughed this much on set, either," Williams said. 

"Between working with camera and all the talent and the lighting and all the pieces that have to come together in order to make this happen — it's just the most fun and also the most challenging thing I've ever directed so far."

Coming Sunday, see a day in the life of Michigan City Police Officer Brian Wright.

A family affair

In January 2020, Joyce and her brother, Tyler Bush, began Two in the Bush Productions, with “Zen Room” being one of the first projects the production company tackled amid the pandemic.

The brother-and-sister duo said they want to be able to bring stories from blue collar America to the table, and while “Zen Room” isn’t from that place, it is from “our life experience,” Joyce said.   

"We are big believers in that your life experience — everybody can only tell their own story, and we are big on representation changing in the industry and everyone having their own voice," Joyce said.

"Our voice is this small town, and 'Zen Room,' is about a yoga studio in a small town. It's not about a big city studio.”

"The representation of location for me in my writing is very important. When you see the Midwest mentioned, oftentimes from Hollywood perspective, it becomes caricatured," Bush added. "If you're able to keep Chicago writers developing the content in writer’s rooms, you get a more honest representation.”

Any Crown Pointers who plan on tuning into the series might spot Easter eggs that pay homage to the Hub of Lake County, Joyce said.

While the Easter eggs are under wraps, Joyce noted “Zen Room’s” Region connection extends beyond Crown Point. Lisa Beasley, who plays Clarity Dawn, is from Gary.

"It was just really cool to see us coming from that area and doing what we do at this level and still sticking to it, was really nice," Beasley said. "It's comforting to be a co-star of someone who understands you regionally."

While “Zen Room,” has yet to find a home, Joyce and Bush agreed, “We don't know where it's going to land, but we're confident that it'll land.”  

Gallery: COVID-19: Hoosiers We've Lost

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South Lake County Reporter

Mary Freda is the South Lake County reporter at The Times. She is a proud Ball State graduate, where she studied news journalism and Spanish. You can reach Mary at mary.freda@nwi.com or 219-853-2563.

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