Ocala resident Tekulve Jackson grew up in Citra and brings his community to life, and on set, for his first TV series, “Backstreet.”
While working on a Christian rap music video around seven years ago, Tekulve Jackson wondered if he could be working on a project that was more meaningful to him.
The 43-year-old former state employee and mental health professional said he felt inspired by his Citra hometown and wanted to tell stories about the struggles of everyday people in North Marion County and Ocala, where he lives today, so he created the storyline for “Backstreet.”
The series’ first two episodes premiered at the Marion Theatre in downtown Ocala last week, but if you missed it, the series can be streamed online.
The project started out as a film but evolved into a TV series because Jackson wanted to see his characters’ stories continue.
“I wrote the characters based off the personalities of the people that I already knew,” Jackson said. “Even though it’s all fiction and made up, we’re kind of trying to put the characters in situations that normal people would go through.”
The name “Backstreet,” he explained, comes from a “road” out of Citra and represents many small country roads. Themes include struggling to accept the past and reconcile emotions, the inner conflict between loyalties and the consequences of life-changing choices.
Its filming style is gritty and raw, somewhat voyeuristic with some stylized flashbacks, drone and tracking shots, and the plot centers on protagonist Quentin Jacobs, aka “Q” (Jackson), who’s trying to heal and make a life for himself amid the aftermath of a shooting that took the life of his mother.
In the series’ first episode, “Ouroboros” (symbol of a snake eating its own tail), Jackson “wanted to show how our own decisions can turn around and destroy us also wanted to show Q matures and heals through grief, pain and accountability.”
The story didn’t start off with Q losing his mother, he said.
“I rebranded the show and picked up where it left off a couple of years ago,” he explained. “When I started filming in 2016, I wanted to show how your actions affect more than yourself. Q’s younger brother Casey made some decisions that caused their mother to lose her life and Casey ended up in prison. The rebranding of the show just picks up from there and will go back and explain it over time.”
Q and his family must heal and overcome a wide range of challenges as Q navigates between the twists and turns of conflicting allegiances, which could interfere with the lead character’s commitment to making the right choices and securing his and his family’s future.
Problems with mental health and addiction are also examined.
“We want to display mental health traits and show how those characters deal with them and how they overcome them because mental health is real and it looks different depending on who’s looking at it,” Jackson said. “For instance, I may see someone as my crazy Uncle Bob, but somebody else may see him and say, ‘Okay, Bob has schizophrenia.’”
Locations include The Lodge (exterior shot), Ocala Wetland Recharge Park, Urban Style Beauty and Barber Shop, Tuscawilla Park and other familiar local settings. The soundtrack features some catchy rap tunes recorded and performed by Jackson. The lyrics reflect the story’s themes and Jackson keeps the language clean.
Working with his wife Theresia Jackson, a licensed mental health counselor who runs a therapy service for couples, families and individuals, and their close friend and partner Regas Woods (who plays Clayton Williams), a Paralympic bronze medalist, Jackson started out by creating content for three episodes, but it became evident they needed a larger team to piece everything together.
The crew decided to take a four-year break from filming to regroup, continue to work full-time jobs, purchase upgraded filming equipment, and reach out to various local filmmakers and videographers, They later were joined by cinematographers Christin Hayes and GBG Photography (Governor Jamal Mosley). Tekulve and Theresia have so far invested a significant amount of their own money into the show.
Tekulve Jackson said he also wanted to provide newbies a chance to try their hand at screen work, to show off their abilities, enabling them to pursue their ambitions of filming, acting, directing, and being a part of something creative and entertaining.
Despite having a large team onsite, Jackson constantly worked behind the scenes writing scripts, recruiting and interviewing the cast, planning scenes, editing, and engineering sound for the series. He consulted with collaborators such as Melvin Cotton III, who acts and assists with direction.
Though “Backstreet” rides a roller coaster of emotions, the series brings up themes of morality and justice that challenge viewers to consider their own perspectives and questions the power of forgiveness and the implications of revenge.
“I’m proud of the fact that the show has literally no profanity or insidious language,” Jackson proclaimed. “The worst word you’ll hear is ‘hell’!”
“Backstreet” can be viewed online at the Blac Box Studios video channel on YouTube (tinyurl.com/YouTube-Backstreet) or via the series’ URL at backstreet.live.