‘EastSiders’ Creator Kit Williamson | Backstage Actor Interviews

‘EastSiders’ Creator Kit Williamson on the Alchemy of Web Series | Backstage Actor Interviews | Acting Tips & Career Advice | Backstage | Backstage.

Good, quick read, in case you missed it — or — ICYMI, as the kiddies annoyingly text. Can’t wait to see what Kit and his merry band do with Season Two.

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in the new web series "Eastsiders."  Watch at www.eastsiderstv.com

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in the series “Eastsiders,” the second season of which is now in production.

Kit and Van and Cal and Thom and … Cassandra?

I hope you’ve already read Kit Williamson’s cover story in The Fight magazine where he interviews EastSiders co-star Van Hansis. It’s an excellent interview. You know, they call an actor/singer/dancer a “triple threat.” I think Kit, because he’s so good at so many things, is just an across-the-board threat. And the establishment should be more than a little wary.

Why? Because Kit is shaking up just about everything that is wrong with the status quo in Hollywood. And he’s doing it while not being an asshole (I’m assuming; but I have it on good authority) and he’s doing it on his own terms and he’s doing it right under their noses because he’s that smart.

After I read the interview, I said to myself, “Well, they’re going to pull the wrong thing.” And I was right because I am Cassandra! (Oh, look it up.)

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Van Hansis, whose portrayal of Luke Snyder on As The World Turns, made an indelible impression on the television landscape, stars as Thom in EastSiders. |Image: The Fight.

Every damn LGBT website I visited it seemed had some version of “Van Hansis Comes Out” on their homepage. And it made me crazy because that’s not the point.

The point is that no one was saying anything about this:

KIT: I’ve been out since I was sixteen, but when I first came to LA my agents were a bunch of Hollywood bro guys and I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to see me in straight roles. It’s a fear I still harbor, and it’s not necessarily paranoia. I met with a manager a couple of years back who told me I was “fey” and that I would need to “work on that” to be her client.

Someone, somewhere — and certainly more than just me — should be absolutely incensed by that. “Fey?” Seriously? Oh, just butch it up a little. I’ve said for years that the metaphorical corner of Hollywood and Vine is the most homophobic spot in America, but the inability of the industry as a whole to break free from ingrained stereotypes is an outrage.

Has the industry moved forward at all from 60 years ago when the divine Ethel Waters burst forth from a TV kitchen with a “Did somebody bawl for Beulah?” and the only African-Americans on television were servants?

Is gay the new black? Is calling someone “fey” any different? Is the fear that you may not work because someone thinks you may be gay any different?

When Van was breaking barriers and pushing envelopes and making a real cultural impact as Luke Snyder on As The World Turns, he didn’t talk about his own sexual orientation. Why? He tells Kit, “I was completely green, fresh out of college, and honestly, I was scared.”

And why shouldn’t he have been? He jumped feet first into the big time in a highly visible role in an industry that thinks it’s better off if you, you know, butch it up a little. Date some nice girls, like Rock Hudson did. Gimme a freakin’ break.

Van Hansis was a rock star on ATWT. I mean, he was so good you couldn’t really even believe it. He elevated the material to a new level and his was, culturally, the most important gay character of the time in the mainstream media. And the industry — and its warped perceptions of public attitudes and tastes — scared him from telling his own truth as a gay man. That shit just breaks my heart.

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A couple of subversives masquerading as handsome boys next door. Writer/Director/Jack-of-all-Trades Kit Williamson (l) stars with Van Hansis in EastSiders, the independent series that is challenging stereotypes and shifting the conversation on LGBT inclusion. |Image: The Fight.

But, guess what? I get it. I well and truly get it because I’m a helluva lot older. I lived through coming of age in the early 1980s. I lived through the terror of the early AIDS years where you weren’t sure if sex was a death sentence. I lived through years and years of pretense for fear of losing my job and my reputation.

In the late 80s, I was asked by a program director (I was on the radio at the time) if I had a girlfriend. I said that I didn’t. I probably rolled my eyes. He said — and this has been seared into my brain for 30 years — “You ain’t gay, are you? ‘Cause you can’t be gay on the radio.”

It would have been okay, I guess, if I was some abusive straight jerk, who smacked women around instead of a greenhorn 20-something who was scared as hell of being “found out.” I guess no one would dare listen to a gay guy do the damn news.

You can’t be gay on the radio. Jesus, that’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Thirty years have passed since then and the needle hasn’t moved on actual, honest-to-God LGBT acceptance by the industry. Thirty years.

And that, cats and babies, is why EastSiders is so damn important. As Van points out in the interview, the show is changing the narrative; upsetting the applecart of preconceived notions.

There’s no classic hero to emerge from Thom and Cal nor is there one to emerge from Ian and Kathy. What’s there instead is a marvelous leveling. The gay characters are just as screwed up as the straight characters and the distinctions are not in any of their sexualities but in their personalities. And that’s powerful.

The show started at the Mayan Apocalypse and it’s shown since day one that just because some group says that disaster’s coming, it doesn’t mean it is. Life doesn’t work that way.

So, for anyone who has ever been told they are too gay or not gay enough or not straight enough or to butch it up or to hide their truth or to not ask or tell or that you can’t be gay on the radio, well, you owe it to yourself to make sure that this season of EastSiders gets made. Your $5 will make it happen.

What do I get out of this? Not a goddamn thing. Except smart, powerful entertainment. And the satisfaction of seeing the LGBT acceptance needle move a little bit more toward BETTER.


 

I Want My GayTV — Web and Broadcast Series Line Beginning to Blur

(Jan. 7, 2014) — Tonight, the cable channel Logo will air a movie-length compilation of the series EastSiders. [Check your local listings, but it looks like 11:30 p.m. in the East.]

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in the web series "Eastsiders."  Watch at www.eastsiderstv.com

Kit Williamson and Van Hansis star as Cal and Thom in “EastSiders,” which is seeing its cable premiere tonight.

So, what’s the significance of this — other than the fact that I’m a fan? Well, I think it’s because the series is at the vanguard of blurring the line between Web-based entertainment — the quality of which is seen often (and wrongly) as “less than” — and traditional broadcast/cablecast TV. Logo seems to be tentatively dipping its toes into the Web world to see what they can mine for their network. (The show was released originally on Logo’s website, after the first episodes premiered on YouTube.)

Down the TV Rabbit Hole
I’m actually not among the ones who think that a television deal is the end-all-be-all of the entertainment world. In fact, I tend to think that networks are looking to the Web for content because they are running scared — scared of the death of cable monopolies, scared of the death of cable bundling, scared of the increasingly small numbers of corporate parents, which tends to have a negative effect on diversity and innovation.

I mean, let’s get real, it’s great that Logo is out there, but it’s owned by one of the most powerful entities in the entertainment world: Viacom. And it does not exist because of any altruism; it’s because Viacom saw a niche where they thought they could make some money. Not making any money? BAM! You’re the next Discovery Health Channel.

It’d be great if the creators of EastSiders could tap into a bit of that corporate money to make a second series (or more), but not at the price that corporate tentacles usually bring with them.

Still, watch, if you’ve never seen it. It’s a terrific example of a program made independent of studio money or interference that’s simply just better than most anything you’ll find on a major network. It’s one of the first, of what I hope are many, programs to showcase different voices and points-of-view.

It’s Awards Season
It is. I know this because the New York Times on Sunday helpfully included and entire special section in the newspaper. One of the awards not helpfully included were the Third Annual Groovy Awards for Web Series Excellence.

There were a few outliers, but generally EastSiders and It Could Be Worse took home the most, er, …. well, I don’t know what groovy thing you get — statuettes? trophies? certificates? Starbucks gift cards?

Anyhow, here’s a rundown:

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Van Hansis, Kit Williamson and John Halbach of EastSiders.

Grooviest Drama Series: EastSiders
Grooviest Actor in a Drama: Van Hansis, EastSiders
Grooviest Supporting Actor in a Drama: John Halbach, EastSiders
Grooviest Supporting Actress in a Drama: Constance Wu, EastSiders
Grooviest Guest Star in a Drama: Sean Maher, EastSiders

It Could Be Worse received the following in groovy achievement:

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Wes Taylor, star and co-creator of It Could Be Worse.

Grooviest Comedy Series
Grooviest Gay Series
Grooviest Actor in a Comedy: Wesley Taylor
Grooviest Supporting Actor in a Comedy: Adam Chanler-Berat
Grooviest Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Alison Fraser
Grooviest Guest Actor in a Comedy: Audra McDonald

It Could Be Worse is the brainchild of Wesley Taylor and Mitchell Jarvis and fast-established itself as a member of that rarified position occupied by EastSiders, The Outs, Whatever This Is, and Husbands known as “Belongs on TV if TV Had the Balls to Produce It.” A second season is currently in production.

Meanwhile, I have to say, it’s an egregious slight not to include EastSiders creator and star Kit Williamson on the “groovy” list. He’s just as groovy as Van — and I’m not even being paid to say so!!

You’re Out? You’re Off the Air: Networks Swinging the Big Gay Axe

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NBC’s “The New Normal,” a gaycentric series the network chose not to renew.

Although most people associate the month of May with the Kentucky Derby, Memorial Day weekend traffic or beautiful spring bouquets for Mom, television has only one thing on its mind: Out with the old and in with the new. Manhattan is awash with TV folks in town for the upfronts, the annual ritual in which the networks present their fall schedules to advertisers in hopes of wooing big bucks. It is too early to tell which network will be the big winner, but this year there is a clear loser: gay characters.

via Derek Hartley: May-day! TV’s Big Gay Bloodbath. Huffington Post

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Will Horton (Chandler Massey) and Sonny Kiriakis (Freddie Smith) on “Days of our Lives,” one of the few gay couples on American television.

Sadly, Hartley tells it for the truth, but I’m not sure he actually goes far enough in his hue and cry against the broadcast networks.

Last year there was a lot of positive buzz about the numbers of gay characters on the networks. The sum total of gay characters was about 6% of all characters — lame — but it was the highest percentage ever. After wiping us off the map for all intents and purposes in primetime, in daytime it’s not much better. There seems only to be  Sonny and Will’s  front burner storyline on “Days of our Lives,” amongst the sordid lives being lived on the few remaining televised soaps. Other than that, gay characters on traditional American television are few and far between. (Eden Reigel’s Bianca stands alone — as a proud but lonely lesbian in the gay landscape of Pine Valley on the Web reboot of “All My Children.” It will be nice if that changes.)

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Van Hansis, Kit Williamson and John Halbach star in the superlative Web series “EastSiders,” created by Williamson and now available on logotv.com.

Moving away from traditional TV to find entertainment, I would encourage you to check out these great Web series: EastSiders, The Outs, Husbands, and others. If you go to Logo to check out EastSiders (highly recommended), explore some of their other Web only offerings, such as Hunting Season.