After years of YouTube stardom for his online confessionals and sketches, Jasmeet Raina — the Guelph, Ont.,-born Punjabi Sikh millennial formerly known as Jus Reign — wanted a new creative challenge.
So with nearly a million subscribers to his name, Raina went totally dark in 2018, leaving Reddit users and YouTube commenters to speculate for years over his whereabouts.
Six years later, he’s back in the public eye with Late Bloomer, an eight-part Crave series loosely based on his own experiences trying to make it as a 21st-century content creator in a religious family. The show premieres Friday.
“I felt like maybe the internet wasn’t the best place — or YouTube wasn’t the best place — for me to tell the story,” Raina told CBC News in an interview, explaining why he suddenly went off the grid and left online fame behind.
“The Internet can be a pretty wild, hectic, attention-demanding and -giving place,” he added. He wanted to make a show exploring the deeper elements of life as a young South Asian person, “so in order for me to do that, I needed [to] carve out that time to be able to focus on this.”
‘I don’t look at the internet as an evil thing’
Late Bloomer stars Raina as Jasmeet Dutta, a young content creator and med-school dropout whose comedic web videos are made from the basement of his immigrant parents’ house in the Toronto suburbs.
Jasmeet helps his family run their tiffin (homemade meal) service, but his true ambitions for success — going viral — are entirely, humorously at odds with what his parents imagine for him. They tout his sister’s fiancé, a prolific realtor, as their ideal of what a man should be.
“There’s a generational difference between what success means to different people,” Raina said. “Especially coming from a different culture or different background, you have your own interpretation of what that success [is] going to be.”
For the fictional Jasmeet, that generational clash manifests in nightmarish dream sequences.
He buys his father a yellow sports car, only to be yelled at for making the family look like they’re showing off; or he imagines that his nude photos are leaked from his laptop, garnering coverage on Punjabi-language news channels and disgracing his parents.
“As a child of an immigrant growing up in this world … there’s always conflicting ideas in your head and conflicting views. They’re always just kind of bashing up against there,” he explained.
“You’re really trying to figure out what it is that you are. And so that level of pressure, that level of expectation can kind of harbour or further propel that anxiety.”
Raina says he wanted to explore mental health challenges from the perspective of a creator who struggles with a fear of the unknown and expects things to go wrong in a hundred different ways. “I think naturally, as a person, my brain tends to do that,” he said.
But his approach to posting online — and his own relationship to the internet — has changed dramatically since he began making videos at 19 years old.
“I don’t look at the Internet as an evil thing or something that we should avoid at all costs,” said Raina, now in his mid-30s. “But I think it’s just [about] having a healthy relationship with it.
“You don’t need to have this anxiety daydream that you’re gonna become irrelevant or people [are] gonna forget about you. And even if they do, whatever, who cares?
“There’s still life to live, you know? It doesn’t really matter.”