"Eastsiders": Gay dark comedy finds audience on YouTube
"Yeah, but how can you possibly trust him again?" Kathy asks as she tries to deal with her heartbroken best friend, Cal.
"Maybe I can't,” he responds in moment of calm distress. “Maybe that has to be OK."
In the wake of an affair, the dark, new comedy Eastsiders examines the tribulations of a gay couple's relationship as the two struggle to redefine just what’s “OK.” Is it accepting his boyfriend's apology and forgetting his infidelity? Or is it knowing when it’s time to cut your losses after years of personal investment?
The promising YouTube series is written, directed, and produced by Kit Williamson (Cal). Van Hansis plays Thom, his two-timing boyfriend who isn't sure what he wants either. The show's darker moments are balanced by Kathy (Constance Wu), a pill-popping, bubbly, and essential mood-elevator for Cal, while Matthew McKelligon stars as Jeremy, the third wheel responsible for the relationship's turbulence.
As evidenced by Eastsiders and Hunter Lee Hughes's Dumbass Filmmakers, YouTube is quickly becoming a destination for LGBT-themed programming, filling a void in mainstream television—the exception being cable channel Logo—that traditionally favors gay characters over queer-centric programming. Later this month, Gwist is set to become YouTube’s first gay channel, boasting 10 original programs.
The pairing seems obvious in retrospect. YouTube offers a safe harbor and creative freedom for talented filmmakers and aspiring artists, allowing them to to find their voice and niche audience without the pressure of a traditional network. And it’s working.
The season premiere of Eastsiders has been viewed more than 35,000 times, and with almost two weeks remaining, the show’s Kickstarter goal to raise $15,000 to improve the show’s production values and complete the nine-episode season has already been reached.
"We're making it for them,” Williamson said of the show’s supporters. “It's really as much theirs as it is ours, and we owe all of our success to them. I think it's such a mistake to put up a barrier between yourself and your audience with a Web series."
A Mississippi native who attended Fordham University in New York, Williamson got his first acting role starring beside Liev Schreiber in the Tony-nominated play Talk Radio. Soon after, he moved to Los Angeles and started writing.
Williamson said the first two episodes of Eastsiders "poured out" of him, and he's excited to produce the remaining seven.
"I think there just isn't time to be precious about your work when you're making a project like this—you've really got to give yourself over to the collaborative process," he added. "In writing the rest of the season, I've really tried to let the characters dictate the plot points, rather than manipulating them into hitting the marks I might want them to hit."
Thus far, Williamson's series is charming, sharply written, and well-acted (despite the dull soundtrack that sounds royalty-free). Also, keep an eye on Wu, who pleasantly steals each scene she's in, and Happy Endings fans will notice the amusingly flamboyant Derek makes a brief but delightful appearance in the second episode.
While he did control nearly every creative portion of the series, Williamson claimed the only commonality he shares with his character Cal is the show’s setting, Silver Lake, a Los Angeles suburb.
"To the best of my knowledge, I've never been cheated on, and I certainly haven't ever cheated on anyone,” he said, “but as a writer I'm interested in exploring relationships that are murky and complicated and bringing levity to dark situations.”
Photo via EastsidersTheSeries/YouTube