A Dimes Square Expert Dishes on the Dimes Square Reality Show

·8 min read
Sophie Hur/Freeform
Sophie Hur/Freeform

Claude Shwartz is laughing at a tweet. It’s a dig at her new show, The Come Up, but she doesn’t care. The tweet is funny, and she prefers to laugh alongside the haters rather than bite back. When you’re starring in a “Dimes Square reality series,” perhaps you have no other option.

“Every generation gets the Girls it deserves,” the tweet reads, a play on a popular meme, shared with the link to a New York Magazine profile on the cast.

In the flurry of discourse, hate tweets, and fascination about the show—again, what is a “Dimes Square reality series,” and why do we need one—this has become Claude’s favorite tweet about it.

“I would love for the show to be this generation’s Girls,” Claude says, giggling, clearly in on the joke. “Girls was an amazing show. If only we could be that good.”

There have been more spiteful comments about the series, which, by the way, didn’t even start out as a series about the infamous area in the Lower East Side. The Come Up was supposed to be about post-COVID summer in downtown Manhattan, following young creatives hustling and partying in areas all around the city.

But thanks to the rise of think pieces about “Dimes Square” (our very own publication has written one of those), Freeform rebranded the series as a reality show focused on the trend. Though it’s impossible to define exactly, Dimes Square is a triangle in the Lower East Side named after the restaurant Dimes—which, ironically, is California-inspired. Dimes Square is half location (centered in restaurants like Kiki’s and bars like Clandestino), half lifestyle trend (based on articles of the local newspaper Drunken Canal).

Claude, a trans actress with impeccable fashion taste and an exciting rom-com arc on The Come Up, lives in the area. In fact, she’s one of only two stars from the show who still do. “There are people on the show that don’t even know what Dimes Square is,” she says.

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What better way to demystify Dimes Square than to catch up in the area itself? We meet at a quaint coffee shop called Oliver, grab some iced coffees, and sit on the steps of the Mariner’s Temple Baptist Church while people-watching and gossiping about The Come Up. It’s a Friday morning. You can practically feel the buzzing anticipation for a weekend full of partying ahead.

It’s also fashion week in New York, so that sense of urgency is only heightened for the entire cast of The Come Up. One cast member is a designer. Another is a model. One a photographer. Some just prefer to use the occasion as an excuse to throw more parties. Claude isn’t a model, per se, though she’ll certainly take any gig she can get. Right now, she’s working as a coordinator at a fashion company that does editorial shoots and other fashion-related events.

Claude went out last night, but she called it early—she only partied until 2 a.m. Sometimes, parties can go from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m., but “there’s truly nothing in my life that I want to do for 12 hours,” she says. This is why she’s taken up smoking: so that she can escape from a hot, overcrowded party to do a lap around the block, she explains, cigarette in-hand.

In nearly every half-hour episode, The Come Up cast go out to some sort of rave or party, as if they were the alt, downtown version of the Gossip Girl kids. Though she says she doesn’t go out nearly as often as the show depicts, Claude is going out quite a bit during NYFW. She walks me through her usual schedule as if she were a travel planner walking her clients through a trip to Australia.

8 p.m. — Grab dinner, hopefully try out a new spot

10 p.m. — Head to a bar or someone’s apartment to pregame

1 a.m. — Off to the rave, or a club, wherever hot and fun

4 a.m. — Go home. Hopefully.

4:30 a.m. — Remember to wash face, put on chapstick, and set out a crisp glass of Topo Chico on the nightstand. Sleep.

8 a.m. — Wake up for work.

(The Topo Chico is key, by the way. “I have a lot of opinions on sparkling water,” she says earnestly, tapping her blue bottle of Saratoga Sparkling. “This is a classic one.” La Croix, she says, is a no-no.)

Partying takes up a lot of time in The Come Up, but there’s more to Claude’s story. She’s incredibly transparent about why she signed on, both with me and on the show. She wants to be an actress. Though she loves reality TV, joking that she would also love to be a housewife who watches The View all day, her ambitions stretch much further than that.

“I was initially talking to them about working in a production capacity on the show,” she says. “I ended up developing a really close friendship with [the creators], they learned about me wanting to be an actor, and they were like, ‘Actually, you need to be in front of the camera.’”

How Dimes Square Became the New York City Neighborhood We Love to Hate

After The Come Up wraps, Claude hopes to be “repped, booked, and working.” She’d love to work with indie filmmakers with unique visions on the craft, and she’s got a particular penchant for quasi-romantic comedies, like The Worst Person in the World.

“There’s a growing trend in film—or there could be—of this re-adapted idea of the rom-com with more complicated female characters,” Claude says. She’s eager to play a role similar to Renate Reinsve’s in the Oscar-nominated picture: stunning, flawed, and yet incredibly loveable.

Claude’s plotline on the show takes a similar tack. She’s first seen making eyes at her co-star Ben Hard, but when things don’t work out romantically, they become fast friends instead. Then, we see her with her on-again, off-again fling Malcolm. She’s stopped seeing Malcolm since the show ended, Claude says, but she’s still waxing poetic about love and romance—just like a rom-com star might.

“The hard part of breaking up is realizing there’s someone in this world that used to love you,” she says. Then, quickly changing her demeanor: “Anyways! When the show started coming out, and he’s in the trailer, I texted him, ‘Hey, the trailer just dropped. You’re in it.’ I’m not trying to blindside him or anything.”

Claude has lived and loved in New York her entire life, residing in Tribeca with her family for most of that time. When a street sweeper comes by to scoop a dead rat off the street in front of us via a shovel—“EW,” she says, mid-sentence—she’s not afraid to admit that she’d also love to live in Los Angeles. “I’m not that unjaded by New York.”

Still, there’s something twisted about all the hate the show is getting, especially from transplants. Anna Khachiyan, controversial host of the nihilist podcast Red Scare, dared to chime in, attempting to lob a roast at the cast by saying they “look like they all have email jobs.” Claude fired back on Twitter: “Did you book Steve Bannon via email or just networking at CPAC?”

“She’s a ridiculous person who would be very funny to have a feud with,” Claude says. “I do have an email job.”

But Claude didn’t choose to make the marketing for the show all about Dimes Square. Even if she did, as a born and bred Manhattanite, wouldn’t she have the right to do so?

“People love to glorify the past and talk about how the present is shit. It’s all just different,” Claude says. “I’m like, ‘Bitch, I’ve lived here longer than you have!’ Even some 40 year olds, I’ve lived here longer than you have.”

The show isn’t really for New Yorkers, either, Claude admits. It’s for young folks, probably teenagers, who live outside the major metropolitan areas and yearn for a look at the current trends in the Big Apple. As someone who grew up in the midwest, I confess that I probably would’ve watched this show as a teenager, especially with my high hopes of moving to NYC.

And yet, Claude does recognize that the whole “Dimes Square” thing is dying. “It’s not that exciting or cool any more,” she says. But the tiny little triangle-sized area is still a popular, if confusing, zeitgeist-y moment; of course people are going to buzz about a show focused on it.

“All these Dimes Square kids auditioned for the show, which is funny, now that they’re hating on it,” she says. “Sweetie, just wait until the producers release those tapes!”

It’s also easy to tell how much Claude loves the area, and all of lower Manhattan proper. She vibrantly describes her passion for everything from Tribeca, the Lower East Side, and her favorite restaurants, to growing up with Just Kids by Patti Smith, shopping at vintage stores, and going to raves. She doesn’t care about the critics, because she’s always going to love this area, whether it’s called “Dimes Square” or something else.

When Claude is making faces at sweet little newborns on the street, saying hello to the neighborhood dog, or enjoying a fall breeze on the steps of the church, sparkling water in hand, Dimes Square immediately becomes nothing but a concept on the internet. She was just smart and witty enough to leverage herself and her lifestyle into a role on The Come Up, poised perfectly to snatch a big acting gig. Can you blame her?

“People say this show is the end times of Dimes Square,” she says. “Those are the people that define Dimes Square. To be a part of Dimes Square, you have to hate Dimes Square. It’s a special kind of Fight Club.”

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