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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Kudos, Van

Someone has bestowed one of the coveted Groovy Awards for Web Series Excellence on EastSiders star, Van Hansis for his portrayal of Thom in the second season of the series. Van was named, Grooviest Actor in a Drama. I just can’t argue with that. At all.

Van Hansis as Thom opposite Kit Williamson in EastSiders.

This is the second time this trophy (?) has been lain at Mr. Hansis’ feet. Read all about it here.

What I’ve said on the subject. Twice.

Return to Silver Lake – Long-Awaited Arrival of EastSiders Season 2 Does Not Disappoint

(Sept. 15, 2015) — Well, today’s the day, kiddies: the second season of the award-winning series EastSiders debuts on Vimeo On Demand. The next chapter in Kit Williamson’s saga of love, infidelity and figuring it all out is deeply, darkly funny but also complex and multi-layered. Its twists and turns are unexpected, but it hews true to what you want from a sophomore outing: familiar, yet boldly different. And frankly, that’s harder to do than you might expect.

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(rear, l-r) Matthew McKelligon, Willam Belli, Satya Bhabha and Stephen Guarino and (front, l-r) Adam Bucci, Kit Williamson, Van Hansis and John Halbach star in the smart, funny and moving second series of EastSiders.

This season begins with Thom (Van Hansis) and Cal (Kit Williamson) in bed. Strange, you may think. After all, they broke up at the end of season one. The shot then opens wider to reveal someone else in the bed with them. Oh. Well. This is different. And with that establishing moment, we’re off to the races.

Season two opens up new vistas, explores characters in ways that we don’t ordinarily see or, in many cases, that we may have never seen before. In the aftermath of the infidelities that broke them up, Cal and Thom still find themselves drawn to one another even as they find their lives changing — “inexorably” is the qualifying adverb that Cal uses multiple times — and they begin to date again. But, more willing to push the boundaries of a “traditional” relationship than they were previously, they begin to experiment.

“I wanted to break open the love triangle,” said writer/director/star Williamson. “Jealousy is only interesting to a point. What happens when it’s removed from the equation?”

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Adam Bucci as Trevor, Matthew McKelligon as Jeremy and Satya Bhabha as Jarred assist creator Kit Williamson in his quest to “break open the love triangle” as Thom and Cal explore new sexual horizons in season two.

As Thom and Cal attempt to navigate the unwritten rules of morning-after protocol post-first threesome — a shower? a hot breakfast? — we find the man who was the catalyst for Thom and Cal’s breakup, Jeremy (Matthew McKelligon), having a new fling and Ian (John Halbach), who has just broken up with “Krazy Kathy,” drowning his sorrows in whiskey and eggs — and an unexpected liaison — at brunch.

The first episode also introduces us to a few of the key characters who add substance to the second season, including Cal’s sister Hillary, whose introductory scenes are played in hilarious fashion, almost as a delicately rendered but slightly unhinged aria, by Brianna Brown and Thom’s new co-worker Jarred, played with a nice, light touch by Satya Bhabha.

Adhering to the same non-linear track that worked so well in the first season, the second episode of this season takes us back a day and shows us how we arrived at the events seen in episode one. Kathy (the magnificent Constance Wu) is back just long enough for her and Ian to end things before leaving on the non-Equity tour of Cats. “It’s a really great opportunity.” (This may not be terribly funny to you, but to anyone who has ever spent any time in the theatre, it’s hilarious!) Party promoter Quincy (Stephen Guarino), who threw the Mayan Apocalypse party in season one, has a more substantial role here alongside the indescribable wonder that is Willam Belli as Douglas.

It’s in this episode that you begin to see Williamson’s masterful plotting begin to take shape as unexpected threads are pulled and the tapestry begins to take a more complex and quite unanticipated shape. It’s all clever enough to leave you eagerly awaiting the next installment.

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The central focus of EastSiders is on Kit Williamson as Cal and Van Hansis as Thom, who show us just how well they have mastered their craft in the second season of this witty and boundary-pushing dark comedy.

And the fun really begins here. It’s a lighter feeling throughout as this part of the story is advanced through a series of sexual encounters that are adroitly edited together, revealing the pitfalls, trepidations and revelations that come with this type of experimentation. Jarred — not only a waiter but also a sex therapist-in-training — weaves into and out of the narrative (and the bed) like an adorable ‘sex Yoda’ as Cal and Thom set out to sleep their way through Silver Lake, actions which seem at odds with Cal’s prior declaration that “life is not a gay porn.”

Meanwhile, Guarino and Belli perform a completely demented comic double act and Jonny McGovern’s hilariously deadpan cameo is a laugh-out-loud highlight. More threads are subtly pulled and the first half of the season ends tenderly with a warm, loving scene between Cal and Thom.

EastSiders never fails to astonish. There is a mastery of character and story arc here that you simply don’t expect. And even more astonishing, no one ever hits anything approaching a wrong note: every scene rings bell-clear, every intention is realized, every mark is hit. Also, in almost every indie production, you expect there to be at least one actor — you know, that last-second third-replacement who agreed to work for a $5 footlong and a bus pass — who really should be thinking about other career options; but not so here.

In fact, if anything, Williamson and Hansis are playing at an even higher level than they were in season one. Hansis, in particular, seems completely effortless and effervescent in his portrayal. Thom is on a high thus far in the series and watching Hansis assay this role is a sheer and utter delight and Williamson matches him note for note in an ovation-worthy pas de deux.

Look, I know that sounds like a lot of over-the-top folderol, but it’s really not. I defy you to disagree with me once you’ve seen it.

As for Williamson, well, the world is that boy’s oyster. It’s one thing to be a good actor. Or a smart writer. Or an inventive director. But to be all three? And a producer, to boot? I’m so excited to see what he does over the next 20 or so years. Whatever it is, I have absolutely no doubt that he’ll show all of us up.

Raising money through Kickstarter, Williamson has said, has allowed him to “make the show exactly how I had envisioned it. Crowd-funding is a game changer for stories like ours that don’t often receive traditional financing from studios and TV networks.” And it shows. The authenticity of the story is here in a way that you seldom, if ever, see in something sanitized or whitewashed by networks or funders.

As the first episode draws to a close and Thom and Cal have decided to “officially” reunite, Thom says, “I didn’t know what this was going to be.” Cal replies, “I still don’t.” “Then,” asks Thom, “maybe we can figure it out together?” And ultimately, that’s really what the entire show is about: figuring everything out. It’s something we’re all trying to do. Perhaps that’s what we’re all supposed to do. Or at least try to do: grow up, partner up and figure out something that works. For us.

I can’t wait to see what life throws at Thom and Cal next. I hope you can’t either.

EastSiders premieres today exclusively on Vimeo On Demand. Wolfe Video will release the series on DVD and across additional digital platforms beginning Nov. 3. If you need a season one refresher, click here.

PS — For the record, Summer Clearance and Amber Alert are two of the best drag names I’ve ever heard.

Read more about the rest of EastSiders season two here.


10301414_10205247574447932_541920928921958893_nIf you just can’t get enough Van Hansis and Kit Williamson, this Friday, the film Kiss Me, Kill Me has its world premiere at Reeling2015, Chicago’s LGBT film festival. Brianna Brown and Jai Rodriguez from EastSiders also appear alongside Hansis, WIlliamson and Queer as Folk’s Gale Harold in this Casper Andreas-directed, David Michael Barrett-penned murder mystery caper.


A Few Previous Related Postings:
Kit and Van and Cal and Thom and … Cassandra?, May 2014
Why I’m Supporting EastSiders — And Why You Should, Too, April 2014
Kickstart This — EastSiders Needs You, Jan. 2013
EastSiders — New Web Series Worth Watching, Dec. 2012


EastSiders Season 2 is on the Way

Look at this. How can you possibly resist clicking to see what is happening here? You cant.

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Van Hansis and Kit Williamson are back for a second season of the smash hit web series EastSiders. Available Sept. 15 on Vimeo.

Yes friends, Thom and Cal and Ian and Cathy and a veritable pantheon of guest stars are back in the second season of Kit Williamson’s brilliantly sublime web series. The season will be released on Vimeo on September 15. That’s a Tuesday, in case you’re wondering. Or in case, like me, you need to go ahead and schedule that *cough*cough* sick day in advance for your EastSiders binge.

It’s a remarkable trailer. I would say “shockingly good,” but really, nothing that Kit puts together shocks me any longer. I’m just excited to find out what he’s going to wow me with next.

For those not yet in the loop (whaaaat??) or in case you need a refresher, find links Season 1 HERE or on Hulu.

Help Van Hansis Make This Series

Hello, Blogosphere. There are nine days left to help make the web series Ms. Guidance by making a contribution through Kickstarter. (Maybe eight now; I’m late.)

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The Ms. Guidance Company all pride-ified.

WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Well, you know I am very bully on making your own art happen these days. One of the gifts that technology has given to creatives is the ability to make more art accessible to more people on a very grassroots level. And social sharing, though services like Kickstarter, has empowered more and more people to be a part of this rise of independent production with a very, very minimal monetary contribution.

Actor Van Hansis and playwright James Ryan Caldwell created the series and Hansis is also starring as well as taking a turn behind the camera, co-directing with Melodie Sisk.

WHAT WILL I GET OUT OF IT?
There’s the satisfaction that comes from making someone’s dream come true. If that’s too damn esoteric for you, I would suggest that you’ll get personal pleasure out of watching a well-crafted story, well-told. Isn’t that why we watch anything?

Also, if you’ve read this blog long enough, you’ll know that Hansis is on my short shortlist of people that I would pay to see read the phone book. (Do people have phone books anymore?) My soap opera people will know Hansis from his former incarnation as Luke Snyder on As The World Turns, recently called out — correctly, I might add — as Number 1 on thebacklot‘s list of 25 Greatest Gay Characters in soaps. My web series folks will know him from EastSiders, Kit Williamson’s smash-hit web series about a dysfunctional gay couple and their equally dysfunctional straight friends. My indie film friends will also be looking forward to his turn opposite Gale Harold in Casper Andreas’ upcoming Kiss Me, Kill Me or the 2013 horror film Devil May Call or maybe the thriller Occupant.

Look, he’s just good, okay.

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Ms. Guidance creators James Ryan Caldwell and Van Hansis.

WHY SHOULD I WANT TO SEE THIS?
I read somewhere that Hansis described Ms. Guidance as Strangers with Candy meets Anton Chekhov. That’s a genius line. How do you not want to see that?

There’s nothing I love more than stupid funny that makes you think; that sticks with you. And from the little teasers I’ve seen, that’s what this is. What do you do when your life doesn’t turn out the way you expected it to? That’s comedy gold, my friends. (Oh, trust me; that’s hilariously bitter experience talking.) Also, Uncle Vanya is one of the funniest plays ever written — yes it is! — so, there’s that.

In addition to Hansis, the cast includes Amber Gray, Adriane Lenox, Ian Unterman, Tyler Hanes, Marco Zunino, and introduces Elliotte Crowell as Jenny Bump, an actress who has a nervous breakdown on the New York stage and returns to her old performing arts boarding school as potentially the worst choice ever for an interim guidance counselor.

WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
Just log on to Kickstarter in the next nine days (eight now, maybe) and pledge. You can pledge as little as $5 or really as much as you want. Hey, for $750 you can get a dance lesson from Tyler Hanes! $750! Trust me, if you’ve ever seen him dance, that’s the bargain of the century.

They have just under $10,000 left to raise of a VERY MODEST goal. Just take that $10 you were going to spend on that venti four-shot no whip cinnamon dolce soy latte and give it to these guys. You’re awake enough; you don’t need any more coffee.

Have a lovely Independence Day. I have to go catch a damn airplane so I can go home for the weekend. (See above re: hilariously bitter life experience.)

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Kickstart Me?

photo-main10/11/14 — National Coming Out Day — This is the perfect day to help make more gay and lesbian representation in the cinema happen. Help to fund this film, a good old-fashioned ‘whodunnit’ with a West Hollywood twist. And, it features some superstar talent: Gale Harold, Van Hansis, Kit Williamson, Jonathan Lisecki, just to name a few. They’ve got just under a month left and about $75,000 to raise. You can make that happen. Here’s the link. Click it!

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.