When her acting career grew unsatisfying, Paten Hughes found escape in the tomato garden. But her hiatus from the industry produced more than delicious produce. Hughes’s experience inspired her to create the new hit web series, Heirloom (streaming now on Vimeo). Hughes worked with writer Bekah Brunstetter (This Is Us, Switched-at-Birth) to develop a story arc following the character of Emily, a New York City-based actress who ventures across the country to Northern California after she inherits a small patch of farmland from her uncle. Emily is played by Hughes herself, supported by an outstanding cast of co-stars including Ryan Cooper, Luis Vega, Margaret Colin (Gossip Girl), and Tom Wopat (Dukes of Hazard).
Lydia Plantamura: Heirloom is based on actual experiences. Can you share more of the true events that inspired the web series?
Paten Hughes: Heirloom basically started after some friends suggested I turn my adventures in tomato farming into a story for the screen. I had stumbled into tomato farming after a film project fell apart (story of many actors’ lives). At that point in my career, I had been watching my friends get married and have children and get promotions and buy houses. And I was waking up to a hustle, to a grind that is addicting but also exhausting and somewhat intangible. There are moments when being an actor feels a bit like building a sandcastle. You don’t know when a wave is going to come and wash it away; you don’t know when a bigger kid will accidentally step on it. But for brief moments here and there, you look at this mansion you’ve proudly and delicately carved. And then you start over again when a play ends, when the TV show is over, when a part gets given to someone else.
I was simultaneously frustrated with the roles I was being offered or some of the shitty things you go through auditioning. Feeling like I needed to reconnect to my creativity and what I was passionate about, I sort of found that by planting tomatoes. (To each their own!) I didn’t know anything about cooking or gardening or food or how to make invoices. The “real” Raul was a rock and constantly laughing at my farming ignorance. Without giving away too much of the story, I also ended up dealing with what you start to see in episode nine: one of the prices you pay for creating a successful business!