Since 2012 the dark comedy drama “EastSiders” has delighted audiences and critics alike.
A true labor of love, “EastSiders’” first two episodes premiered on YouTube, which was followed by the series being picked up by Logo TV's website. People loved it — “EastSiders” went on to receive several Daytime Emmy Award nominations.
Thanks to the accolades and its growing popularity, “EastSiders” is now streaming worldwide on Netflix, where the fourth and final season premiered in December 2019. The streaming giant carries the show's entire four-season run.
Openly gay Kit Williamson not only created “EastSiders,” he also writes and directs it, and is one of the stars.
"I wanted to depict queer characters with flaws and complexities," Williamson said. "Back in 2012 there was very little representation, and the representation we did get wasn't very substantive. I've drawn inspiration from my life, my friends and my neighborhood, but it isn't an autobiographical show."
“EastSiders” tells the story of Cal (Williamson) and Thom (Van Hansis), a gay couple in the trendy Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake. Cal and Thom are struggling with the complexities of love and infidelity — Thom has a propensity for cheating.
Drunken outbursts follow as Williamson's insightful scripts follow their attempts to fix the sometimes sad, sometimes funny mess they’ve made of their lives.
Williamson said that it was the support of the show's fanbase which kept bringing it back for additional seasons.
"Over the years we've raised nearly half a million dollars through crowdfunding to make the show," said Williamson. "It's incredible to have the show backed by the fans. I've never taken a paycheck because I wanted that money to go towards making the show the best it can be."
Williamson explained why he drew the show to a close, despite its popularity with viewers.
"I believe good stories have endings, and I didn't want to constantly imperil the characters' relationships just to keep the story going," he said.
The actor who plays Thom will be familiar to viewers of daytime TV. His portrayer, Van Hansis, played Luke Snyder on the now cancelled soap opera “As the World Turns.” While Luke certainly wasn't the first gay character on afternoon television, he was the first gay character to become part of what soap fans refer to as "supercouples" — Luke was involved in a romantic relationship with Noah (Jake Silbermann).
Hansis described how he sees Thom.
"Over the course of the series, we see Thom, like all the central characters, stumble haphazardly towards maturity," Hansis said. "Thom is a writer and is Cal's boyfriend. While there is a lot of love between them, there are also a ton of issues. It's not that he's not committed to Cal, but I think he sort of has code of commitment, and often gets dazzled by all the shiny things around him. I think throughout the four seasons we see them intermittently grow together and apart and see how they can form a relationship that grows on their terms."
Hansis also spoke of the differences between Thom and Luke.
"Luke is about a decade younger than Thom," he said. "He was around 21 or so when World Turns ended, so I think he's a lot more immature than Thom is. Luke also has more of a sense of entitlement and is very headstrong and knows what he wants. Thom has no clue what he wants and he tends to be very reactive to whatever is right in front of him."
Hansis noted that part of “EastSiders’” success comes from the onscreen chemistry he shares with Williamson.
"Kit's a really wonderful person to work opposite and he is such a great director," he said. "He lets his actors do their thing and fully trusts them. We have just gotten really comfortable with each other and there's a level of trust there that makes it easy. Honestly, you can't build chemistry — either it's there or not. It's up to the Gods."
Also in the cast is John Halbach, real life husband of Williamson. Halbach plays Ian, an allegedly straight guy whose been known to fool around with guys now and again. Halbach spoke of the challenges of working with and being directed by his own husband.
"The challenge of making the show is that we literally take it home with us every day," he said. "Thom and Cal's apartment is our apartment, so we wake up on set every day, and every day for the last seven years we've both done something either to create or promote the show. It's a passion project and we love it, but it's also work with a capital W. Sometimes it would've been nice to take a break or have more resources."
Halbach added that he felt it's all been worth it, and that he was proud of what he and Williamson had accomplished.
"I hope people can see some of themselves in the stories we've told," Halbach said. "I hope it can serve as sort of a time capsule for life over the last seven years. Since the show started the world has changed a lot, including marriage equality becoming legalized, the arrival of PrEP, and the election of Donald Trump. As the real world changed, so did the world for our characters."
Halbach says that the ending of “EastSiders” is bittersweet, and that he hopes they gave the characters and storylines satisfying endings.
"I'll mostly miss everyone getting together to celebrate a new season," he said. "But we're all friends, so we'll still see each other."
Williamson cannot speak highly enough of Netflix for picking up the show.
"Being on Netflix brought the show to a worldwide audience," he said. "We're subtitled in over thirty languages now, and I get messages all the time from countries where it's illegal or dangerous to be gay saying the show made them feel less alone. That's been the most rewarding thing."