‘The Outs’ Creator Adam Goldman Talks Queer Storytelling on the Internet

Here’s a good article from Esquire about Adam Goldman and the second season of The Outs. I haven’t written too much about The Outs, even though it is the series that originally got me hooked into the world of web series in 2012.

I found season one deeply satisfying. I found season two perhaps even more satisfying. The characters felt deeper in many ways and, perhaps naively, I was not expecting Jack and Paul (Hunter Canning and Tommy Heleringer) to be the emotional center, the real beating heart, of the series, even though these two were always my favorite characters.

It’s elegantly written, wryly funny, deathly serious and intelligent. Goldman’s intelligence shines through in every scene. It’s worth a watch on Vimeo for that alone. (But Canning and Heleringer are just lovely!)

Source: ‘The Outs’ Creator Adam Goldman Talks Queer Storytelling on the Internet

Emmy Nods for EastSiders

Congrats to the EastSiders crew for their Daytime Emmy Award nominations. The second series, which debuted in October, was nominated in the new category of Outstanding Digital Drama Series. Van Hansis was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Digital Drama for his role as Thom. This is his fourth Daytime Emmy nomination, having been a contender three times for his portrayal of Luke Snyder on As The World Turns.

kit

Series creator/director/producer/co-star Kit Williamson may have had the best reaction, as evidenced by this Instagram post.

I’m glad that NATAS has seen sense and created the digital drama series categories. As we continue to uncouple “television”  from the “television set,” it’s important that we continue to recognize new ways to deliver content.

75

Van Hansis and Kit Williamson in season two of EastSiders.

The content, though, stays the same. Well, let me reframe that thought. Most “entertainment” on traditional television stinks. Much of the best content is coming fast and furious in new delivery methods — EastSiders on Vimeo, House of Cards on Netflix, Transparent on Amazon — and I think while the death knell for traditional broadcast and cable networks has not yet sounded, the plans for the coffin may be being drawn up.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen EastSiders, what is the matter with you? Watch it now.

Finally, here’s some Daytime Emmy trivia for you. Who was the first daytime performer recognized with an Emmy? That would be All My Children’s Mary Fickett in 1972 in a special daytime category at the primetime Emmys. Fickett played AMC matriarch Ruth Brent Martin for nearly 30 years.

Mary-Fickett-Children_320

Fickett in the early years of All My Children.

However, the first person to take home a daytime statue for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama was Elizabeth Hubbard in 1974 for her portrayal of Dr. Althea Davis on The Doctors. Hubbard won an additional Daytime Emmy in 1976 for portraying First Lady Edith Wilson in an NBC special, but astonishingly — and despite eight additional nominations in the category — she never won for her quarter-century of assaying one of daytime’s greatest roles: Lucinda Walsh on As The World Turns.

Soap04b

Hubbard as Lucinda Walsh, one of the all-time greats.

Hubbard played Van Hansis’ grandmother on ATWT. She’s nominated again this year as Outstanding Actress in a Digital Drama, for her role in Anacostia, the web series co-written and co-produced by Martha Byrne, who played Hubbard’s daughter and Hansis’ mother on As The World Turns.

You can use all that next time you play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon!

Limping One’s Way to Glory

“I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like to be young and desired,” writes Ryan O’Connell in a genius new essay on Thought Catalog.

He continues, “I, for once, would just like to be used and objectified.” Oh, Ryan, honey. Me, too!

Anyone who has ever had body issues, self-esteem issues or simply wasn’t pleased with what they saw staring back at them in the mirror — excluding bad hair days, beautiful people (and you know who you are) — needs to read this piece. He sums up so well what so many of us have been thinking.

The gay media is terrible — let me rephrase — is TERRIBLE at portraying “the other.” If you are not a ripped, muscly, hairless white boy in the tried and true Tab Hunter tradition, well, fuggedaboutit. Heaven forbid if you are overweight or over 40 or you have an overbite or you limp.

Of course, it’s not just the media. Have you ever been to a gay bar? 

The queer community is quick to be indignant so long as we can be indignant standing alongside some impossibly chiseled Ken doll. O’Connell again:

I know it’s embarrassing to admit all of this. Like, “Forget about my professional achievements and my cool brain. Just tell me I have a nice ass and that you’d like to come on my face!!!!” But TBH it’s how I feel a lot of the time.

Yep. I get it. Most of us, I would imagine, get it. It’s admitting that we get it; that’s the rub. In this essay and in his hilarious new book, I’m Special, O’Connell tells us all what it was like for him to grow up gay and with cerebral palsy and how excruciating — and really, sometimes hilariously funny — that could be.

cast

Gee, somebody left this poor crippled child to fend for himself in the back yard.

Again, I get it. I was born with they call a “congenital anomaly,” which sounds better than “birth defect” or “club foot,” which sounds positively medieval and gross. The doctors were always quick to point out that it was “environmental” rather than “genetic,” so no one would worry that a horn or tail might start growing at any minute. No, let’s just blame Mom and her screwed up uterus; that’s better.

I had a lot of surgeries and wore weird shoes on bars that held my feet in strange positions and a lot of other random treatments, but basically I was pronounced “cured” by about age five and all of the problems I’ve had in the intervening four decades — knee problems, ankle problems, sprains, stiffness, pain — are all, according to doctors, so much better than if I had never had anything done at all. And while this may be true, the fact of the matter is that the surgeries were a mask. They made my foot look like a normal foot (20 paces is everything!) but they didn’t make it function like a normal foot.

(I also learned early on to hide my limp, which will probably lead to hip problems or something as I age. When I’m tired or have been walking a long way or simply forget, I get, “Oh, why are you limping?” Since that answer involves a whole can of worms, my stock answer is, “War wound.” There are those occasional annoying souls that insist on a follow-up. “Which one?” Crimean or Peloponnesian are my stock answers. Sometimes I thrown in Boer. It usually never satisfies them but it does shut them up.)

Like O’Connell, I also found love when I didn’t think it possible and found that someone could love me warts and scars and crappy knees and belly and all, which is something that I never really ever conceived of. (For the record, some of that is dramatic license. I don’t have warts.) Today, nearly a decade and a half after finding him, I still stand in front of the mirror and wish that I was taller or slimmer (nearly always) or that my hair hadn’t gone grey when I was in my 20s or that my stupid leg wasn’t hurting bad this morning so I could elegantly descend the stairs spouting witticisms like I was a character in a Noël Coward play instead of ungracefully clomping down like an ogre.

It’s probably all in my head, but, hey, that’s where all body issues live. What I have learned over time is that I don’t dwell on them quite so much as I used to. For much of my young adulthood they crippled me — emotionally — because I knew I couldn’t be perfect and therefore I shouldn’t put myself out there because I would just get rejected anyway and if a guy didn’t reject me, what in the hell was wrong with him?

I’m well over all of that but it doesn’t mean that being physically different doesn’t suck. It does and it never goes away. Acknowledging it and just living your life are the keys, I suppose.

I think Ryan O’Connell is my new Spirit Animal.

This Troll Again? Kim Davis reflects on her role in marriage debate 

Source: Kim Davis reflects on her role in same-sex marriage debate – LGBTQ Nation

“How ironic that God would use a person like me, who failed so miserably at marriage in the world, to defend it now,” Davis said Tuesday. “The Lord picks the unlikely source to convey the message.”

Yeah, well, “ironic” is not the word I’d use. “Typical” is more to the point. It’s always that way with haters. Hate me because I’m gay? Wait long enough and someone will catch you trolling for trade in the men’s room. Hate people for using Federal assistance? Look closely at who’s skimming off the top of the money pile. Shame adulterers? Look who just got exposed for having an affair.

God didn’t use you, sweetie. What happened was you used “God” to not do your job. And Kentucky’s new governor, who wants to take clerks’ names off of marriage licenses, is just abetting you and your particular brand of zealotry.

Remember this face, friends. This is the face of true intolerance and hate. Well, you say, she looks just like every other regular, ignorant, white woman in America. That’s right. Be on the lookout. And don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

H/T LGBTQ Nation

The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on Days of Our Lives

467210470

Christopher Sean, Freddie Smith and Guy Wilson played “the gays of Salem” on Days of our Lives. They are seen here at the 26th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in 2015.

The cut below is from a good article by Jim Halterman regarding the loss of the big LGBT storyline on NBC’s Days of our Lives.

While I understand new writers coming in with their own objectives and vision for the show as well as the preoccupation with celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the show, the fact that the LGBT presence (which has brought the show accolades over the past few years) is dwindling is definitely disconcerting.

Source: The State of the LGBT Storyline & Characters on ‘Days of Our Lives.’ | XFINITY TV Blog by Comcast

Like many people, I was extremely invested in the so-called WilSon story over the last four years and DAYS’ blockheaded move — certainly in my estimation — to take this story off the table led me to say good riddance to the show and stop watching.

Here again is my take to augment Halterman’s.

The Hourglass is Empty – Why Killing Will Horton Ends ‘Days’ for Me

I had heard the rumors, but decided that I wouldn’t believe them. Surely the powers-that-be over at the venerable NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives wouldn’t be so stupid as to kill off the character of Will Horton. But I suppose I was the one left with egg on his face; they were that stupid.

1966810_696345307084250_1098092719_n

Freddie Smith as Sonny Kiriakis and Guy Wilson as Will Horton on the characters’ wedding day in 2014. The ‘WilSon’ story was a powerful example of LGBT inclusion and that loss is the most poignant of all.

And let me tell you why…

There are a couple of things you need to know if you are working on a serial. First, people get attached to characters and families and pairings in different ways than they do in shows that only air once a week for half the year. Second, mess with the show’s “bible” and tent poles at your peril. Third, trying to recreate the “thrilling days of yesteryear,” as the old radio announcers encouraged, never, ever works.

Personally, I loved Will and Sonny. It was such a great, forward-looking, innovative pairing. It was very contemporary, yet very much rooted in the history of the show. Since he was born on-screen to Sami and Lucas (Allison Sweeney and Bryan Datillo, a storied DAYS supercouple themselves), Will always figured prominently in the show’s plotting — outrageous though it could be sometimes — and his slow, torturous coming out process was incredibly nuanced, garnering three Daytime Emmys in a row for then-portrayer Chandler Massey.

Meanwhile, Sonny, the never-seen-on-screen-before SORASed son of Justin and Adrienne (Wally Kurth and Judi Evans, another storied DAYS pairing) and nephew of Victor (the peerless John Aniston), came back to town as a happy, out young man with an entrepreneurial spirit and an eye for young Mr. Horton. Sonny was Salem’s “white knight” and actor Freddie Smith played him perfectly.

DAYS made headlines in 2014 when they pulled out all the stops and threw daytime’s first same-sex wedding when Will and Sonny got married. In all my soap-watching years I’ve never seen a better contemporary story or more emotional episode or anything approaching the meticulous plotting that came together in that show. It was first class all the way.

And then it all went to hell.

Of course, that’s really American serial drama’s M.O., but DAYS took idiocy to a new level when its new writers killed off Will last week and basically drove the gays from Salem. I’m furious about them lessening the presence of LGBT people on television and that’s enough to make me turn the damn thing off for good, but to also mess with the show’s core legacy? As a writer, I may even find that even more offensive — because it’s lazy storytelling.

You see, when you tell a long-term scripted story, you have to have central characters — often called “tent-poles” — to anchor the drama. Will Horton was a tent-pole character for the entire generation of young people on the canvas. Without him, you only have no direct named link to the original center of the family at the heart of the show, so that part of the tent just collapses and severely limits your storytelling ability.

There’s an old rubric out there for writers that says you shouldn’t be afraid to “kill your darlings.” In other words, if you can advance the story in a positive and compelling way, you shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of a character, even if it’s a shock exit. And while I believe that wholeheartedly, I also know that it’s a knife-edge. You can’t cut off your nose to spite your face.

The last time I remember some daytime writer/producer doing something this egregious (there have probably been others, God knows) was in 1993 when Guiding Light killed off Maureen Reardon Bauer and left an entire part of the core canvas floating around aimlessly. Honestly, there were some good storylines in the decade and a half the show had left, but it never really recovered completely.

And Days of our Lives doesn’t have 15 years. There are fewer and fewer people watching daytime television and as the ratings fall off a cliff, DAYS’ great idea has been to bring back some of the fabled supercouples of yore: Patch and Kayla, Bo and Hope, John and Marlena. And a few DiMera villains have been dusted off, too.

But, here’s the thing: it will bump up ratings a bit for the 50th anniversary next month, but it won’t sustain viewership. You may have been in love with Patch and Kayla when you were a teenager, but, you know what? You’re middle-aged now. You’ve got responsibilities. A job. Kids. You’re not sitting around reliving the 1980s every afternoon for the 60 minutes it takes to tell a 37-minute story.

tomalice2

The late Frances Reid and MacDonald Carey as Alice and Tom Horton were the center of Days of our Lives when the serial began its run in 1965.

Besides, a bunch of heroes and heroines in their 50s and 60s is not going to play out very long. You can’t hang the entire canvas on that.

The next Tom and Alice could easily have been Will and Sonny. You could have created a new, inclusive contemporary Salem dealing with contemporary problems and situations and you could have still had Julie Williams popping in to be a nuisance a couple of times a year and you could still hang the ornaments on the Horton Christmas tree and make Alice’s damn doughnuts.

Well, you won’t, though. And you won’t have me watching. When Will died, so did my interest. I simply loved the Will and Sonny storyline and I loved Freddie Smith and Chandler Massey and Guy Wilson and I loved how it all reflected the real world and I loved that it was a touchstone for people who had no other way into LGBT issues. Nothing carves those pathways as well as continuing drama. It’s sad we won’t have that any longer.

And, I suspect, we won’t have Days of our Lives much longer, either. Everything they are doing now smacks of desperation. I’m actually glad I won’t be around to see the end of DAYS. I suspect that it will be terribly painful. And completely unnecessary.


Previous
I Do: The WilSon Wedding, Playing the Long Game and Celebrating the Zeitgeist
Congrats, Freddie Smith, DOOL on Emmy Win, Inclusion
‘Sonny’ Skies or Clouds on the Horizon? The New Normal Comes to Salem

More Sands Through the Gay Hourglass — Revisiting and Revising

Verdict on EastSiders Season 2: Most Assuredly the Best of the Lot

You might want to read about the first part of the second season first. Here.

I noticed on one of those ubiquitous Internet listicles that “don’t judge a book by its cover” is No. 8 on the list of “Most Common Idioms in English.” Who knew, right?

It’s like EastSiders. There’s nothing overtly grand about the title. Nothing astonishing. Nothing wow-inducing or cringe-worthy or provocative. I mean, there’s the no-space thing, but that doesn’t compel viewership. It’s just a title. It’s really not that meaningful. It tells me nothing, really. It certainly doesn’t tell me to watch.

And while it doesn’t, I am. I most assuredly am.

Up On The Roof: Van Hansis (Thom) and Kit Williamson (Cal) in a contemplative moment in the fifth episode of season two of EastSiders, which may be the most meaningful and compelling moment in the entire series. I could watch these boys work off of one another all day long.

I also may have exhausted my arsenal of superlatives in describing the first three episodes of the second season, but they all apply here again as well. The tapestry that Kit Williamson originally created with such a deft and delicate hand surprises you in the ways in which the threads spin out, how they weave back together and how they ultimately form a fabric whose unique warp and weft is tight enough to perfectly balance the stories that play out upon this canvas.

The hallmarks of the entire series have been smart writing, terrific acting, deft direction all in service to breathing life into a story that desperately needs to be told in spite of mainstream entertainment’s refusal to do so. And that indie subversiveness in service to being disruptive to the status quo is really the best bit for me.

Meanwhile, the back three episodes that we’ve been anxiously awaiting a couple of weeks for are funnier than the initial trio but are overflowing with the same heart and genuine exploration of the human condition that has since the beginning set this series apart from the rest of the pack.

Here are just a few highlights of these three for me:

std

Jonathan Lisecki’s droll Francis takes down a sexual history profile of Kit Williamson’s Cal during a hilarious visit to the STD clinic in season two, episode four of EastSiders.

The Visit to the STD Clinic. You don’t get a lot of laugh-out-loud depictions of what happens when you get VD, but this one is right up there at the top, thanks in large part to the employees of the clinic, played to perfection by Matthew Wilkas, Jenn Harris and Jonathan Lisecki from Lisecki’s film Gayby (also a great watch, BTW). I have a theory that everything is made better if Lisecki has a couple of minutes in it.

And while I have absolutely no experience with STDs or visiting an STD clinic, the absurdity of the entire process and the emotions of the characters felt entirely real to me.

The Gallery Opening. Lennon Parham steals the show in a deadpan turn as gallery owner Carmella. And that’s hard to do as she’s competing with the return of Traci Lords as Cal’s drink-loving mother, Val. Parham’s line readings had me screaming. Also, I’m a continuity freak and I appreciate a little bit of nuance, so I was just over the moon when Carmella called Cal, “Kiddo.” Such a perfect little grace note.

9006353

Stephen Guarino and Willam Belli explore different territory as Quincy and Douglas’s relationship deepens in season two.

Cal and Thom on the Rooftop. I’m really not sure how Williamson came up with this scene. He’s perfectly right about it all. Was it a guess? He’s too young to have had these revelations himself, right? I mean, it just stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to rewind and watch it again. It just shows such life wisdom. Maybe I’m making too much out of it, but it certainly proves how incredibly stupid and/or naïve I was at his age. It’s lovely. And exposes every raw emotion that Cal is having — forever questioning, is Cal — plus it ends with a macabre suicide joke. What’s not to love?

Quincy and Douglas. Williamson has pushed both Stephen Guarino and Willam Belli as performers here. Often they both do the top-level humor — and very, very well, I might add — but there are more layers here and both really rise to the occasion. When scenes could merely be a set-up to a punch line, Williamson adds depth and subtlety making the duo mine some unexpected emotions. There is a surprising amount of character growth, proving hilarity and warmth do, in fact, mix well and when you least expect it, the characters emerge multi-faceted, “like a zirconia.”

10654953_1535887386648474_1658368856_a

“Calvin, I want to be here for you in your time of need.” Brianna Brown as Hillary, seen here with Williamson, is a beautiful and hilarious force to be reckoned with in season two.

Hillary. If I’m honest, the actor in season one who was new to me but who wowed me the most was Constance Wu. This season, it was Brianna Brown as Cal’s free spirit of a sister, Hillary. I just fell head-over-heels as soon as she arrived with a potted gerbera daisy and an armload of old-fashioned suitcases and by the end of her initial epic three-minute epistle, I was a believer and by her obsessive message-leaving on the paddle boat, I was a disciple.

Ian and Jeremy. John Halbach has the daunting task of trying to appear that he is playing against type while actually playing exactly to type. First season Ian was loveable; maybe even a bit of a pushover. Second season, post-break-up Ian wanted to, you know, assert his masculinity. “You’re a puppy dog,” says Vera (Vera Miao) the power-lesbian-who’s-using-Ian-for-sex. “I’m a full-grown dog,” he counters. “A mean one.” But she doesn’t believe it and neither do we, as much as Ian, the good guy who thinks he wants to be bad, thinks he wants us to. Ultimately, Halbach’s innate Midwest wholesomeness shines through as Ian decides to reconnect with a person who will be just as much of a challenge as Kathy was, but probably will be a lot more fun. [No spoilers, people.]

Meanwhile, throughout the entire season, Matthew McKelligon’s Jeremy has played out his story on seemingly a separate plane from that of Cal and Thom. As he fumbles through his new maybe-possibly-a-relationship with pediatrician Derrick (Leith Burke), the trio’s life intersects in an unexpected way before at last crashing headlong into one another in the final episode.

In the end, EastSiders ends right where it should. Stories come to a resting place, but, mercifully, are not tied up in nice neat bows. Characters are not assured a happily-ever-after. Lives continue to be led. Mistakes continue to be made. And the people who are thrown in your path for you to love are still being thrown there for a reason, whether you know the reason or not.

“Where are we going?” Cal asks Thom on the roof at the gallery opening.

“I don’t know,” replies Thom.

“Exactly.”

So, do we need to know where we go from here? I don’t think so. I’m just glad we got here in the first place — and opened the book because, covers be damned, this is one helluva good story.

EastSiders season two is now available exclusively on Vimeo On Demand. Wolfe Video will release the series on DVD and across additional digital platforms beginning Nov. 3.