CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP: Big Piph proves he’s far from finished in new web series
WORDS / KODY FORD
For years, Epiphany “Big Piph” Morrow has worked tirelessly as a rapper, media figure and mentor, raising his profile across the South from Little Rock to Atlanta. A graduate of Stanford and a native of Pine Bluff, Piph has focused more on his art and his community than material trappings and fame above all else. He performs regularly with his seven-piece band, Tomorrow Maybe, and serves as lead coordinator of The F.A.M. Project, which empowers future youth leaders to fulfill their potential. He’s been a cultural ambassador to Morocco, Algeria, Ghana, Seychelles, Myanmar, Thailand, and most recently, the Philippines. While there, he performs, holds workshops and creates with local artists.
Over the last few years, Piph has ventured into digital content with The Glow on PBS, which was based off of his one-man show. This web series saw Piph sitting down with Black entrepreneurs and creatives such as Korto Momolu, Benito Lubazibwa and Chris James. In 2022 he produced a web series for Arkansas Democratic governor candidate Chris Jones. After gaining this experience, Piph decided to mix it up for his latest outing, Far From Finished, a semi-fictional, scripted web series.
In Far From Finished, he plays a version of himself that is, in his estimation, about 50 percent the real Big Piph, with the other half being a hyper-inversion of himself, a feat that can be very difficult for an actor to pull off. He describes it as a Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Atlanta meets Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance. At the onset of Far From Finished, the character Piph is nominated as The Kusp. The eight-episode season isn’t an entirely linear story, but shooting for The Kusp is the narrative framework for each eight-minute episode that are like vignettes from Piph’s life, which will build towards a character arc for him during the season.
As for the inspiration, Piph said, “[I]t all sparked from two roles that converged. One was just a personal role of artistry, wanting to work on a fictional, scripted web series, right? So something where I actually wrote it all out and then also shot it…start to finish. And that kind of culminated with just personally in life, recognizing people in a certain peer set were in a nice position in life, but still kind of wondering what’s next for them or will this be it? Or as I say, it’s like, is this it? And so it’s kind of like really me unpacking that. And I probably had that in my career in life, like, several years back. So it’s me unpacking that as well as speaking for my peer group and then kind of just putting it in the scripted format. So those two things converged, and this is what you get.”
Piph maintained creative control over the project as a writer, producer and star, with Kenneth Bell serving as cinematographer and director. The two have collaborated over the years on music videos. The pair decided to avoid the fast cuts of music videos. They focused on different framing devices for each episode, such as a vlog or an interview.
Given the nature of Far From Finished, Piph recruited friends and family members to also perform in the show. He estimates that 80 percent of the cast are non-actors but reiterates that many are creatives with some acting experience. He even cast his mother in one episode, creating a new challenge for him as a writer.
“So as I wrote it from their tone, and that’s where the improv came in as like I wrote it as you in one or two dimensions, now heighten it, let’s flow with it,” he said. “Within that framework, the other 20 percent actually were actors in the area from Alievea Disney to Taylor LeRon, who have done stuff from Lifetime movies to BET+ movies. And so that was just tapping into the acting pool of state. And I got some help just from going to certain Facebook groups and throwing out casting calls. And a few actors I knew gave me references. So about 20 percent of ’em are just active from the state.”
Piph describes the show as Arkansas-centric, shot mainly in Little Rock and Springdale. The sponsors include Lost Forty, ACANSA and Camp Taco. Ferocious Productions handled the soundtrack, the title music and other audio. Shooting lasted over three weeks and took place at 15 locations with 25 actors, an intense production schedule for even the most seasoned filmmakers with a full crew.
Given Piph’s limited resources and multiple roles, things got tough. Still, he persevered, crediting Bell and his friend Tiffany Brown with keeping himself in check and the production focused and moving forward. Wearing many hats during production caused stress, but he knew he had to bring good vibes to the set. Everyone there was watching him, feeling what he was putting off. Just like on stage during one of his shows. Accomplishing such a large undertaking as an eight-episode web series might leave most people ready to kick back and relax, but Big Piph is far from finished. In fact, he’s already writing season two.
Watch Far From Finished and listen to the soundtrack at FFFseries.com.