You might recognize Katja Blichfeld from her cameo in High Maintenance, the critically acclaimed HBO comedy-drama—now in its third season—she co-created and writes with her ex-husband, Ben Sinclair. The show follows the life of a bicycle-riding, Brooklyn-based weed dealer (ambiguously called The Guy and played by Sinclair) and his sometimes-sad, sometimes-funny, but always-heartwarming encounters with various New Yorkers. Blichfeld, a former casting director for 30 Rock, which she won an Emmy for, appeared in one of the show’s standout episodes from its second season, and while her role was brief, it was hard to miss her, what with her peroxide-colored lob and winsome grin. You may have also read—or at least heard about—the coming-out essay she penned just over a full year ago, at age 39. (Blichfeld officially came out at 37.) Her story would go on to become viral, the effects of which are still felt by others today. “Some [write to me] and say it helped them come out to a family member or a partner,” Blichfeld tells CR. “Some are like, ‘I’m going through this right now. I’ve got weird physical symptoms that all point to an anxiety that I can’t deny anymore.’ My hope in writing it was that it would help at least one person feel OK. So, I’m happy about the results.”
Though it’s only been a little over two years since High Maintenance first premiered on HBO, the show originally began as a web series on Vimeo in 2012. Since then, a lot’s changed: For starters, Blichfeld and Sinclair (amicably) divorced, and Blichfeld is now happily in a relationship with her girlfriend, Adele, who she met at a restaurant a couple of winters ago. Additionally, what began as a low-budget project born from what Blichfeld has called “a blissful cloud of pot smoke and domesticity” has since ballooned into a well-crafted and award-winning production with notable cast members and the backing of one of the biggest television networks in the game. One thing that’s remained the same? Blichfeld and Sinclair’s flawless synchronicity and expert ability to mix cleverness, humor, and voyeurism. Below, Blichfeld took a break from wrapping up post-production for High Maintenance to chat with CR about fashion, beauty, weed culture, and more.
It’s been seven years since High Maintenance first premiered as a web series. Has your personal style evolved since then? If so, how?
“I used to feel like I could only wear dark colors and I hid behind a lot of hair and glasses. My bangs were my shield for so long. And every time there was an event or a press moment, I put on a full face of makeup. Since I came out a couple of years ago, I’ve definitely allowed a lot more color into my wardrobe, and now I don’t wear makeup at all.”
How would you describe your look?
“Last year, a journalist described [my style] as ‘millennial Baby-Sitters Club‘ or something like that, and I was like, ‘Yeah. I’ll take it.’ I definitely like a little humor in my look. And there’s always an element of nostalgia.”
I read that you and your girlfriend, Adele, often share clothes. Who has the better style?
“Adele. She’s so swaggy. No matter what she wears, it looks good.”
Who’s your ultimate fashion icon?
“My great aunt Laura, who died in the early 2000s. She had a truly iconic look that never changed. She wore her hair in two braids and pinned them into a crown on top of her head for her whole life. She had a handful of dresses from the ’70s that she seemed to rotate, and she always had a full look—you know, with the matching shoes, bags, gloves, and hat. And she always wore a red lip: Revlon’s [Super Lustrous Lipstick] in Fire & Ice.“
Do you have any fashion regrets or painful style memories?
“Nah—life is too short for regrets. Every look I’ve had has been a result of where I was in life, you know? When I look back, I can almost track my emotional condition by the length and volume of my hair. The more of it there is, the more shit I’m probably going through on the inside.”
Speaking of your hair, since the show began, you’ve cut it much shorter and dyed it a lot lighter. What spurred that decision?
“I just needed a change. But now I’m getting kind of bored with the blonde, so I’ll probably change it again soon. I’ve been going to Marie Robinson Salon [in New York] for a few years now. Maggie [Castellanos] does my color. Allison [Woodruff] cuts my hair. I love those two.”
How do you care for your bleach-blonde strands? Any specific haircare products you swear by?
“[I love] Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray. It gives me a little body since my hair is really fine and flat on its own. Also, I’m obsessed with the scent of Oribe
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Let’s talk skincare. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have three products with you, what would they be?
“Organic rosehip oil, Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask, and Biologique Recherche’s Creme Placenta.“
You and Adele live in Brooklyn. What are some of your favorite New York City bars or restaurants in the borough?
“Hart’s, Diner, Roman’s—I just rotate [them]. I’m such a creature of habit. I don’t go to many bars, but I love getting a Negroni at Marlow & Sons or Doris.”
What’s one meal from a restaurant in New York that you could eat over and over again?
“Adele and I are obsessed with Via Carota’s cacio e pepe and we do eat it over and over. I also have to give a shout-out the legendary burger at Diner and the clam toast at Hart’s.”
Let’s get into the show. Last season’s premiere episode explored the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. Given the current political climate, will Season 3 include any political undertones?
“I think those political undertones are baked into the fabric of the show. We do have some gentle nods to the #MeToo movement, I suppose. But in general, this season finds our characters dealing with mortality and loneliness more than anything. Life in and of itself feels political right now, doesn’t it? I believe our viewers responded to that Season 2 opener because it captured a familiar feeling and mood without having to name ‘The Thing.'”
High Maintenance‘s stoner-culture DNA feels particularly relevant right now, what with the recent push to legalize marijuana in New York, where the show is set, and in other states. In what ways do you think your show has helped to normalize weed culture?
“Our show has always tried to put weed in the background of its stories to show that all kinds of people use the stuff and it’s just not that big of a deal. Plenty of people use cannabis regularly for a host of reasons. They look like me, you, your neighbor, your coworker, your grandpa. You get it. And, still, we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of representing weed smokers.”
You’ve been candid in interviews about mirroring your personal experiences with some of the characters on the show. Which character have you most related to so far?
“That’s tough to answer because there’s a little bit of me in all of them. But emotionally, I relate to Brenna—one of the women who hosts the feminist meet-up in Season 2—who was played by one of my best friends, Brenna Palughi. She’s well-intentioned and doing her best, but always questioning if it’s good enough. And she uses weed to calm the fuck down.”
It’s been a full year since your coming-out essay was published online. What kind of feedback do you receive?
“It runs the gamut. A straight cis male acquaintance wrote to me after reading it and said he was moved toward self-inquisition, and not even sexually speaking—like, just to ask himself, ‘What do I want in this life?’ That was surprising to me.”
What’s the biggest thing you’re looking forward to in 2019?
“The year ahead feels like a blank slate. There aren’t any big things on the horizon yet—and that’s almost a relief. To be honest, I just can’t wait for my weekends at Jacob Riis beach. That saved me last year.”
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