It sounds like a crazy idea on paper, but the web series "Where the Bears Are" has taken off. Since it's debut in 2012, "Bears" episodes have amassed around twenty million views. The Bears have been flown to Mexico, Europe and Australia for personal appearances, according to their website.
The premise of "Where the Bears Are" is simple. Four lovably sweet but not too bright gay bear roommates in Los Angeles solve murders while they look for love in all the wrong places. For their fifth season, the Bears are being visited by a very special guest star: Chaz Bono, son of show business legends Sonny and Cher, has signed on for a recurring role.
Bono, a former musician and writer, is now pursuing a Hollywood acting career. He recently completed a short-term role on the popular daytime drama "The Bold and the Beautiful," where he played a pastor.
It's a far different life for the man who was once known as Chastity Bono — Bono's transition made headlines around five years ago. His battle with gender dysphoria and his struggle to find his true self were eloquently chronicled in the 2011 documentary "Becoming Chaz," which aired on the OWN Network.
As season five of "Where the Bears Are" began streaming, Bono spoke to SFGN from his home in Los Angeles. He told us that writing and music were in the past.
"I started off as an actor," he said. "I got into the NYU School of Drama, but you have to be comfortable in your body to pursue acting. I wasn't, but at the time I didn't know what the issue was."
Bono said he began to seriously pursue acting in 2012, which was soon after he transitioned. "I got great feedback at Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop," he recalled. With his confidence boosted, Bono began getting roles on television.
He said that he prefers playing "dark" characters and doing "edgy" dramas, citing shows like "Ray Donavan" and "Orphan Black" as the type of work he hopes to do. Bono had a nice part in "Dirty," an independent film--it was this production that brought him to the attention of "Bears'" producers.
"I had never heard of "Where the Bears Are" before," Bono said. "But it has good production values and good writing, so I thought it would be good for my reel. And the guys are cool."
Bono said that he had a lot of fun playing Gavin, his "Bears" role. "I'm in the security business," he said. "I basically get very irate because they're pretty stupid and I'm a professional — I got to show a different side of myself."
Since Bears' storylines involve murder mysteries, Bono was reticent about giving away too much. "As in every season the guys are bumbling around being stupid," he said. "I can say that I have a choreographed fight scene that's fun to see."
Bono added that issues relating to LGBT status have no bearing on whether or not he accepts a role. "I don't think about that," he said. "I'm just an actor now — I look at the role. I saw the show as funny, with a good character for me — it was something I hadn't done before. And I think it’s great that they tapped into a market that hasn't been served.
"Bears" producer/co-star Ben Zook told SFGN that the entire team was delighted with Bono. "After meeting Chaz I was very impressed by the fact that he is just like every other working actor in Hollywood," Zook said. "He takes his craft very seriously. He is in classes at a theater company and is auditioning just like the rest of us. There is no pretense. He is a great guy and talented actor. I think he’s going to have an amazing career — hopefully he will come back if we do more seasons."
"The door is definitely wide open for next season," Bono said.
Information on watching Where the Bears Are can be found at the show's website: WhereTheBearsAre.tv/