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.

‘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.


 

Why I’m Supporting EastSiders — And Why You Should, Too

You know that old saw, right? The one about taking a village to raise a child? Well, it takes an army to produce a show. And we need some foot soldiers.

This is not really light-hearted banter; this is fact. If you want to see something that you can’t get anywhere else, you will need to help make it happen. What does that mean, “make it happen?”

It means, you need to bring cash to the table. And you need to click HERE right now to make EastSiders Season 2 happen by supporting this Kickstarter.

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Will your $5 or $10 contribution help? Yes, absolutely. In fact, if every single person who reads this blog gave $10; they would be done.

So, do it.

There’s a counter-intuitive tipping point of information vs. action. If you’ve been around long enough, like I have, you’ve seen it before: a lot of terrific press, but you want to see even more momentum in the crucial front end of a campaign. This is because people assume that if they read excellent press about a production at every turn, then they don’t have to support it. That someone else will pick up the slack. That there is some big donor lurking. That their $20 doesn’t matter. And it does. It absolutely does.

If you want to see this show, you must give now.

If you want to make sure high-quality, independent LGBT voices continue to make an impact, you have to pledge your support now.

If you want to make sure this series has even more of an impact than the first season, you need to give now AND you need to tell a friend.

And you need to make sure your friend both gives and tells their friends.

Twenty bucks and a couple of tweets or Facebook posts or Instagrams. That’s all. That’s a couple of trips to Starbucks. Sure, you want another caramel macchiato, but is that worth more to you than making this program happen?

If EastSiders raises 80% or 95% or 99% of their goal, THIS SERIES DOES NOT GET MADE. That’s how Kickstarter works. You meet your target or exceed it. There are no do-overs. One shot.

If everything goes well and with two minutes left in the campaign it stalls at $124,980, it was your $20 bill that caused EastSiders Season 2 not to get made. Don’t be that person. Support this now.

I’ve made my pledge because I believe in this work. Kit has already proven that he can turn out a fascinating, relevant, entertaining, smart product, so I have no doubt that this group will do it again. I’ve joined the army (because we can do that now, you know) and I’m not asking you to pledge; I’m just telling you to do it.

You’ll thank me. Yes, you will.

Looking: Pay TV Goes Where The Web’s Been Before

HBO’s much ballyhooed Looking premiered last night and a lot of gay folks were hanging an awful lot of expectation on this half-hour. Trying to be everything to everybody would be a surefire way to set yourself up for disaster, so I wasn’t looking — as it were — for that. I didn’t have any expectations; I just wanted it to be good.

And it was, but I can’t help but feel a bit like Brad Bell, the co-creator/writer/star of Husbands, the hilarious marriage equality sitcom, who tweeted this:

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I’m going to come back to that in a second, but I also noticed that Rob Owen’s review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called Looking the “latest descendant of Queer as Folk.” Well, I don’t buy that at all. It’s closer to a modern day Tales of the City.

Of course, the San Francisco parallels are obvious and Armistead Maupin’s classic stories are classic for a reason and they are more layered because there are simply more layers on the canvas, but Looking’s Dom (Murray Bartlett), the mustachioed waiter nearing 40 who is always on the pull, is a gay clone of Tales‘ Brian Hawkins, not QAF’s Stuart Allen Jones (or Brian Kinney, in the American version). And that’s not taking anything away from Bartlett — he’s lovely — but it bothered me throughout the episode.

I also have to admit being bothered by the opening scenes featuring Jonathan Groff’s Patrick going for a quick handjob in the park because that is exactly what would have happened in Tales of the City in the 70s and 80s; except that it wouldn’t have been interrupted by a cellphone call. If director Andrew Haigh (I am such an enormous fan of his work) and writer Michael Lannan were trying to be ironic, it didn’t read. It came off as another depiction of gay men being completely and utterly driven by sex alone. And, quite frankly, in 2014, we desperately need to get beyond that because, well, straight people.

Then again, see above re: being all things to all people. (And for the record, back in the day when I could have possibly pulled a trick I was too bloody terrified to contemplate it and now that I’m too old and married, I’m awfully too old and married!)

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Frankie J. Alvarez, Murray Bartlett and Jonathan Groff in HBO’s Looking, which follows the lives of three gay men in San Francisco. |Image: HBO

Look, Jonathan Groff is a wonderful, subtle, earnest performer and he’s so enjoyable to watch. Bartlett and Frankie J. Alvarez are equally competent hands on the tiller and you are interested in what will happen to them all enough to tune back in for the next episode. Also, it was nice to see people like Ann Magnuson,  Matt Wilkas (from the delicious indie comedy Gayby) and Tanner Cohen (Were the World Mine, the Shakespeare-inspired gay fantasy) who sports one of the most hilarious tattoos I’ve ever seen on screen.

Back to the Web
But, like Bell intimates, haven’t we seen some of this before? Is Patrick going through the same “slutty phase” as Jack in The Outs? Or are his attempts to find someone who is “not boring” akin to Thom in EastSiders? I have sense that we’ve been down this road already.

What set EastSiders and The Outs apart were the disintegration of a relationship (EastSiders) and the rebuilding of a different kind of relationship after a breakup (The Outs) and while Looking is not the same, it struck me as being a network version of a mashup of these two independent series. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t feel that Looking lived up to its hype. Not that it’s not good — because it is — but that there was too much lead in.

Then again, we’re so damn starved for entertainment in the gay community; so desperate that someone will turn that mirror back on us, that when there is something out there in the mainstream that may validate us, we want it to be as good as it possibly can be. And we’re always disappointed when it doesn’t meet all of our expectations.

It is unfair for me to compare The Outs and EastSiders to Looking, because they are each different animals, but I would urge you to look at their world views, too, if you haven’t already. The Outs is available here and EastSiders is available as individual episodes and cut as a full-length feature at logotv.com.

As for Looking, I’ll be looking in on it again next week because, since I just told a bunch of folks to give a recast on Days of our Lives a chance to settle into the role, it would be disingenuous of me not to allow this show to do the same.

P.S. — Don’t take my word for it. HBO has just released the first episode on YouTube for non-subscribers to see.

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!!