When viewers last saw them, gay couple Cal (Kit Williamson) and Thom (Van Hansis) were living in New York City. Cal and Thom are the lead characters in "Eastsiders," a dark comedy about a loving if dysfunctional relationship.
The show's third season has been released on DVD via Wolfe Video and is also streaming on Netflix, where all three seasons can be viewed. "Eastsiders" has been nominated for six Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Daytime Digital Drama Series, Outstanding Writing and Directing for creator/star Williamson, and Outstanding Actor in a Digital Daytime Drama Series for Hansis.
In season three, Cal and Thom are leaving New York and driving cross country--they're moving back to their old Los Angeles neighborhood. Along the way they pick up a hot hustler (Colby Keller) who ends up ripping them off. Never ones to learn from their experiences, the guys end up in a hotel room with a sexually aggressive couple (Wilson Cruz, Tuc Watkins) who try to engage them in a game of husband swapping. Through these and other crazy if humorous experiences, Cal and Thom's love for each other shines through.
Williamson and Hansis, who are themselves openly gay, took some time out of their schedules to chat about "Eastsiders." Williamson said that he was genuinely surprised by the show's success.
"We honestly had no idea how many lives the show would have," he said. "I self-financed the first two episodes back in 2012 and put them on YouTube. It’s hard to believe that six years later the show is on Netflix worldwide, translated into nearly 30 languages and nominated for 6 Daytime Emmy Awards. It took a lot of hard work and a lot of stubbornness."
Williamson added that he found it relatively easy to wear multiple hats on the series. "At this point, this kind of multi-tasking doesn’t intimidate me at all," he said. "It’s so creatively fulfilling, and I think you have to push yourself to your limits to level up. But there’s definitely a lot of stress and exhaustion that goes with it, mostly because we’re producing this on a shoestring budget."
One aspect of "Eastsiders" that might particularly appeal to gay viewers is the abundance of gay actors playing gay roles. In addition to the two leads, Colby Keller, Wilson Cruz and Tuc Watkins are all openly gay.
"I think we’ve come a long way but we still have a very long way to go," said Williamson. "I am not of the mindset that only gay actors should play gay roles—Leith Burke and David Blue are both straight and play gay characters on "Eastsiders," and my husband John Halbach is nominated for a Daytime Emmy for playing a straight character on the show. I am, however, aware that there are far fewer opportunities for gay actors and most high profile gay roles in 'important' films go to straight actors, especially in movies. I think the walls are coming down on TV but film seems pretty behind the times."
Van Hansis is one gay actor who is used to playing gay roles. He first came to prominence for his portrayal of Luke, a front-burner gay character on the now defunct daytime drama "As The World Turns." He has also appeared in several LGBT stage productions.
"I think there has been a great deal of inclusion for the LGBT-plus community, which is a fantastic thing," Hansis said. "Gay characters are seen across a spectrum of media, in all --most?--genres of film and TV and have more fully fleshed out storylines rather than just being 'the gay one'. I love that. However, I think part of the reason that a show like "Eastsiders" is special is that it puts the gay characters - and the relationship between Cal and Thom - at the front and center. They are the driving force of the series."
Hansis described his character Thom.
"I would say that he's a little bit of an enigma," he said. "He lives very much in the moment and loves instant gratification to a point that it distracts him from reflection on his life or thinking about the long term. All the characters change over the seasons, but I think if we are specifically talking about the third season, we see Thom kind of confront the fact that he is not where he wants to be or expected to be at this point in his life. We see him begin to work through that and work on who he wants to become."
Hansis also spoke of the series itself.
"It's kind of hard to describe in a soundbite," he said. "I feel like each season has its own tone and that the series as a whole plays with genre in a really unique way. It's a dark comedy that follows a messy group of young adults as they navigate themselves and their relationships. Society says that at this age these people should have their shit together, but they don't. But they're trying."
Williamson spoke of his own character. "Cal’s a mess," he said. "He’s smart but makes dumb decisions. He drinks too much and he has trouble watching his mouth. But he really cares about the people in his life; his partner Thom, his friends, his family. He wants to do the right thing and be a good person, but he has a lot of emotions. The show has followed the characters for five years now, from their 20s into their 30s, and Cal has slowly been getting his shit together—I think he’s in a much better place in season three than in season one but he still has a long way to go."
So will there be a season four?
"We’ll see," said Williamson. "We’re still focusing on getting season 3 out there in the right way. But I’d definitely love to keep exploring these characters."
Look for "Eastsiders" on DVD and Netflix.