Interview with Marc Jordan Cohen, Writer, Producer and Creator of “Daddy Issues”

My goal in writing this was to eliminate stereotypes of sexuality (race as well) and simply have people existing as who they are in the show.

The bio from the Instagram page of “Daddy Issues” reads: “It costs a lot to live in New York. Is it worth selling yourself? As Matt struggles to stay afloat, his best friends entice him to join their newest venture.” The wonderfully talented Marc Cohen shares where the premise for the show came from, how he hopes to tackle issues within the LGBTQ+ community and what you can expect from this tale of human relationships down below.

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Tell us a little bit about the show and how it came about.

MC: I graduated from the drama department at NYU Tisch last spring and was emotionally and physically drained. I have always wanted to create my own content because I love to write and was inspired to mould characters and situations born from my own life. “Daddy Issues” is about three friends, fresh out of college (shocking coincidence!) beginning an amateur escort business. They each have their own daddy issues.  How they deal with these conflicts and how it effects their lives is revealed as the season progresses. “Daddy Issues” is a result of being vulnerable and searching for my authentic voice. My goal was to source real elements from my life and frame it with a fictional plot. 

Brian Swinney and Melanie Porras are your co-stars. Are they close friends of your?

MC: Yes! Melanie is one of my best friends and I actually wrote Destiny with her voice in the back of my head. Danny’s character is based on a combination of some of my friends, but Brian felt like the right person to execute him.

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The escort business is an extremely tight-lipped subject. How do you plan on depicting it?

MC: I’ve already received concerns from friends that I may be depicting it too lightly. This show is by no means a comedy. Yes, there are light moments, but it’s because there is a lot of darkness that shrouds these characters throughout the rest of the season. “Daddy Issues” is more about the relationships and emotional arcs of these characters than it is about their circumstances. There’s a point in the 3rd episode where Matt is violated in some way –I don’t want to give anything away, but it explores the dangers of not taking sex work seriously and how you can be taken advantage of. By no means can I speak for people, even some friends of mine, who are escorts. I am open to educating myself and talking to people particularly in the trans community and hearing their stories. I welcome input and am aware that there is much to learn. I hope to not offend in any way.

LGBTQ+ representation is sparse in mainstream media, even if it is more progressive than it has been in the past. What are your thoughts on the topic?

MC: When I began to write this show, I was very conscious of most depictions of LGBTQ+ people being stereotypical. For example, the character, Kenny, in the TV show “The Real O’Neals” is skeptically and slowly accepted by his Irish Catholic family and sings about ‘Gay Brunch’ and even makes a bisexual joke in poor taste. The people writing these characters aren’t always LGBTQ+ themselves. I feel lucky that growing up I had “Will & Grace”. Those jokes were written by gay men and it resonated with the gay community because it was us making fun of ourselves. The shows I’m seeing today feature “the gay best friend” or the “gay uncle.” It all feels like we’re the butt of the joke, and trans people are just now only tapping the glass ceiling. My goal in writing this was to eliminate stereotypes of sexuality (race as well) and simply have people existing as who they are in the show. I’m still exploring and tweaking, but that’s my intention.

What can we hope to see in “Daddy Issues”?

MC: Drama. Twist and turns. I definitely love having little cliff hangers at the end of every episode. People will be betrayed, but will also realize that people aren’t as bad as grudges would have you believe them to be. It’s about choosing friends to be your family and trying to accept the one you were given at birth. There’s a bit of role reversal where the kids have power over their parents, but I guess that’s up to interpretation.

How do you think it differs from what’s on T.V. right now?

MC: Sexuality is a huge plot point in most shows. In “Daddy Issues” sexuality is a non-issue. None of the characters are rejected for being gay, or born into a religious household, nor does the show focus around a group of LGBTQ+ people (i.e. The L Word, Queer as Folk, or Looking). It just happens that I’m writing it and thus it is told through my lens as a gay man in New York, but it includes all types of people, and I hope to include more as the show develops. However, my main goal is not to focus on labels, but rather concentrate on each character’s emotional saga.

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What’s the writing process been like so far? What kind of role do you take, production-wise?

MC: I wrote every day starting in December of 2016 and had 5 episodes complete in about 3 weeks. Of course, I went back and did a lot of editing for another month or so until it was flushed out. I am currently writing the second season. It has slowed down some because I’m still figuring out how the plot will continue. Production wise, I am the main producer. I had the generous help of two very good friends: Sage Kirwan and Ysabel Jasa who helped me cast, send emails, organize shoot times, locations, logistics, etc. I am forever in their debt. The three of us created this pilot on our own, and on my own dime. Hence my need to launch a Kickstarter in order to finish the season.  

It’s still early but do you hope to be picked up by a network or are you happy being a web series?

MC: Yes and no. Doing this on my own has caused quite a few anxiety attacks. I’m very lucky to have supportive parents who will answer my calls and friends who will volunteer their time and talent to help bring the story in my brain to life. It would be incredible to have funding, and support, and access to equipment that a network could provide. I’d also love to have a team of people to support my vision, but I am cautious because I don’t want to lose my control over the show. It’s a pros and cons situation.

A lot of LGBTQ+ shows shy away from a lot of issues within the community, like the glorification of white twinks, bisexual erasure, over-labelling, racism, etc. Do you plan on tackling these issues?

MC: I hope to. Bisexual erasure is actually something I explore in the first season, I won’t say how, but I’m working on making sure it’s appropriate because I have a lot of bisexual friends who are offended by how the media constantly fails on including them, so I’m making sure to consult my friend, Eliel Cruz, a bisexual advocate, before I release anything on the matter. Racism is something I start to explore lightly in the second season, and I’d love to have more conversations with people who have lived these stories and incorporate them appropriately into the show. Just know I want to do it all, I want to include everybody because this isn’t my story anymore, it’s all of ours. And if it does seem like I shy away from these issues in the first season it’s because I focused on laying the ground work of who these characters are and eliminating stereotypes, as I mentioned earlier.

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What kind of audience do you hope will watch Daddy Issues?

MC: I hope everyone watches! Obviously some of the content is not appropriate for children. It’s about relationships. Fathers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives, friends, lovers. It’s about human connection. Loving and accepting each other regardless of where we came from, who we love, and the mistakes we may continue to make. (Fun fact: I watched Sex and the City when I was 7 years old with my mother).

Do you have any underlying message(s) for the community that you want to get across with this show?

MC:  I want people to think before judging someone, and recognize themselves in others. At the end of the day, we all have pain and a past. Viewers may have felt the same way as one of the characters or made similar mistakes. Maybe they don’t relate to something specific but can still acknowledge that we all have struggles even if they are different. I think that’s a huge necessity given our political climate: Can we hear each other without shutting each other down? Can we see beyond an opinion through to the reason why someone may have that opinion? I just want more kindness and acceptance in this world. 

How would you describe the show in fifteen words or less?

MC: Escort service made up of three friends navigating paying bills, choosing family, and facing consequences.

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Click this link to go to the Out article, which features the exclusive pilot and the Kickstarter campaign to help fund the rest of the season.

Interview with Cheyne Gallarde, Ex-Drag Queen Turned Illustrator

Mainstream media needs to celebrate them and all LGBTQ artists! We’ve got a lot to bring to the table and we know how to entertain beautifully!

Cheyne Gallarde, Hawaiian artist famous for his pop art illustrations, caught my eye on Instagram when his work was featured on the accounts of the top four drag queens of this season’s RuPaul’s Drag Race. He’s talented, funny and definitely on the way to big things so I decided to reach out.

What, to you, is the definition of art?

CG: That’s a huge question! In my opinion, art should challenge the viewer. They say that if all your friends love your art, it’s not good enough. Art should never be safe, it should always prompt some kind of reaction – be it love or hate.

Are there any artistic styles or artists that you draw inspiration from?

CG: The look of my art is inspired by a lot of old comic artists like Jack Kirby, John Romita and Will Eisner. I love their use of shadow and line work.

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How important do you think social media is to the world of art today?

CG: Social Media has become more of an art museum where you can browse and experience new art at your own pace. For an artist like myself, living all the way in the art void of Hawaii, social media has been essential in reaching an audience.

What do you most dislike about the world of art?

CG: I hate how art has become so serious and lacks humor. Humor is an essential element in my art and I hate how artists (and art-lovers) have put a greater value on more mindblowingly beautiful art than something that makes you laugh. 

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If you had the opportunity to collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be?

CG: It would be amazing to collaborate with some of my favorite authors/directors like David Sedaris or Joss Whedon. I think we could make some amazing and hilarious works of art together.

Your work varies from Disney to comic book characters to drag queens – which are your favourite to draw and why? 

CG: Don’t make me choose! Haha! That’s one of the joys of my life, I get to draw what I want. Some days I feel like drawing Ursula and some days I feel like drawing Bianca Del Rio. I’ve learned to not follow trends and just draw what you want. If you pursue things you’re passionate about instead of what you think will get likes, you’ll be more successful. All my clients have found me via my passion projects and not my projects I did for commercial clients. Do what you love. 

Have you had any personal experiences with drag queens?

CG: Yes, I used to be one! I had a short career as a drag queen and even ran my own drag show. It opened up a lot of opportunities for me like getting to perform for Latrice Royale, hosting Mardi Gras to name a few. I loved it, but for now my drag persona is retired while I focus on my art. 

Have you ever used your real life experiences to inspire you?

CG: Indeed! A lot of the bitchy pop art I make come from how I feel or sassy thoughts I have. There’s a reason I draw side-eye sassy bitches — it’s because I’m a sassy side-eye throwing bitch haha! I embrace it because I feel like people can relate to it more than if I was creating a gorgeous renaissance painting, especially in this day and age. 

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Can you tell us a bit more about your personal life?

CG: Like most artists I have a dayjob that pays the bills. Thankfully, it’s doing Graphic Design so at least I get to say I’m a full-time artist. After work, I work on my personal art. I have an art studio where I go to paint. 

What’s the most memorable response you’ve had to your work?

CG: I LOVE hearing what fans think about my work, but the most memorable responses have to be from the queens themselves. Sasha has called my work brilliant and Peppermint and Trinity have both used my art in their official merchandising. I am both honored and gagged at the same time!

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects you can tell your fans about?

CG: A children’s book I illustrated is being turned into a play and I was hired to design the sets and costumes. That’s opening in November. I’ve also been hired to create some original art for a makeup brand featuring some of the drag race queens and that’s all I can say about that so stay tuned! 

What’s been your proudest moment to date?

CG: When I passed 10K followers on instagram! It seems trivial, but as someone who started from 0 followers and organically grew my followers 3 years ago (!) that’s a huge accomplishment!  

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What art do you most identify with?

CG: I love anything with a good story, so it can range from Sin City to the Injustice game/comic to Stranger Things. 

How do you think art has evolved in contemporary society?

CG: Art has evolved to become more accessible. It’s anywhere and can be made my anyone and that’s both scary and exciting! 

What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+ art and artists? Do you feel they’re overlooked or exploited?

CG: I love my fellow LGBTQ artists like Hey Rooney, Travis Chantar and Glen Hanson! They know their audience and embrace it. I think they’ve definitely achieved success but much like myself, they’re still on the fringe. Mainstream media needs to celebrate them and all LGBTQ artists! We’ve got a lot to bring to the table and we know how to entertain beautifully!

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Do you think art has helped tackle issues that are typically seen as taboo like nudity, sexuality, etc.?

CG: Yes and I love it. If someone looks at one of my pop art paintings and it releases their inner diva and inspires them to do something brave that would be amazing! 

I assume you’re watching the latest season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Are you #TeamTrinity like me?

CG: This really is the toughest top 4 to single out! I think they all are strong and have something that the other person lacks. Don’t make me choose! Whoever wins, I’ll be more than happy and whoever loses, I’ll be happy to see them in All Stars!

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You can find more of Cheyne’s art on his Instagram, his Facebook and you can order from his online shop on his website.

Interview with Gaby Dunn, Writer & Co-Creator of “Just Between Us”

Sometime at the end of June, New Form Digital is going to release my pilot I wrote, starred in and created called LOVE ME DO, which is the autobiographical project I’ve been hinting at. It’s a show about my relationship with my dad, who’s an alcoholic. But it’s a comedy. I’m very excited and nervous for people to see it because it’s very close to real life.

It was recently Gaby Dunn’s birthday and I reached out to the gay icon to chat with her about bisexuality, the future of the media and her exciting upcoming projects.

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You’re a strong advocate for bisexuality but bisexual representation remains lacklustre. Media today in contemporary society is more diverse than it has ever been but there’s an unmistakable focus on gay male characters. What are your thoughts on that?

GD: I mean it’s very true. Especially on cis white gay male characters, who are wealthy. I think it’s because media in general is selling a fantasy rather than being committed to portraying real life. For instance, those gay male characters we do see are also very fit, or sexually active, or “fierce.” When it comes to bisexuality in particular I think people are scared of using the word because they think viewers won’t get it but part of being a creator is trusting your audience to understand gray areas.

Queer shows on mainstream networks, like MTV’s Faking It, ABC Family’s The Real O’Neals and even Netflix’s Sense8 have all suffered a very similar fate despite being progressive and positively representative. What do you think the cancellation of these shows means for the future of television-oriented media?

GD: I would hope it means the same that the cancellation of thousands of shows about straight white dudes does but I know it doesn’t. The good news is there are many more platforms for inclusive shows to live on so hopefully creators find their audiences in more than just mainstream places that weren’t going to appreciate them anyway. 

The way you’ve described bisexuality in the past has been something along the lines of open to all genders. How would you say that differs to polysexuality?

GD: I admittedly don’t know a whole lot about polysexuality. I assume they’re similar? I think it really just depends on what word you’re personally most comfortable with, and less on the exact definitions of every label. 

YouTube has restricted LGBTQ+ content and been criticised in the past for promoting heteronormative and ethnocentric content. How have your experiences been on the platform?

GD: The LGBTQ+ restriction is the worst. Our most popular video, which is called Your Girlfriend’s Girlfriend, and features me dating a woman, is demonetized. It makes queer kids feel like their ability to make money being themselves is limited, it makes them feel ostracized from “normal” content, and it’s just a bad look all around. When you purport to be for creative freedom but start cow-towing to advertisers the way networks might have in the past, then how can you say you’re looking toward the future?

I’ve been a long-time fan of Just Between Us for some time now and you’ve recently announced the release of your book with co-author Allison Raskin. Walk us through the process of writing with your best friend. In one of your videos you mentioned how trying it was on your friendship but that you’re closer than ever because of it.

GD: Yeah, we fought a lot about the book because it’s two very different characters and we each had intense visions for what our characters would be and go through. But the conflict in real life is what became the central conflict of the characters in the book. So it was actually really beneficial! And we love each other, so we know when we fight it’s just us getting our ideas out and trying to communicate. It’s never a bad, real fight but collaborating on anything artistic is going to stress both people out. You have to be really clear about what you want and compromise on what they want.

What’s next for JBU? And what are some projects that you’ve been working on independently that we can look forward to? You’ve posted to your Twitter and Instagram about an autobiographical project – can you tell us about that?

GD: Well, we have a development deal for a half hour comedy with YouTube Red so we’re excited to see what happens with that. I’m working on a Bad With Money book for 2018 or 2019, not sure yet. Sometime at the end of June, New Form Digital is going to release my pilot I wrote, starred in and created called LOVE ME DO, which is the autobiographical project I’ve been hinting at. It’s a show about my relationship with my dad, who’s an alcoholic. But it’s a comedy. I’m very excited and nervous for people to see it because it’s very close to real life. I’m also going to start writing a column for Marie Claire, which comes out in August. And a million other things. I wrote a movie with my friend Lauren Garroni that we want to make.

How did your podcast Bad With Money start? It’s a seemingly niche topic but your argument is that people don’t talk about it enough – which is true, and especially interesting when you factor in the fact that your Internet fame (which is still a mystifying subject for many) is a large part of your revenue. 

GD: It started with me talking about how much I make as a YouTuber which apparently people weren’t doing before. And when that article went viral, I was approached by Panoply to turn that into a podcast. I’d thought about doing a sexuality podcast but I figured a lot of that topic was covered on JBU so I thought a money podcast would be a great way for me to learn about something I don’t already know about. Instead of doing a sexuality show, which would be something I do know a lot about. I wanted to learn with the audience, rather than teach.

How did you start your writing career and what’s some advice you’d give to aspiring writers? 

GD: I started writing as a little kid and I won an award in second grade for a short story I wrote about breaking my glasses. That was my big break. My advice would be to not undervalue yourself or work for free when writing is a job and should be treated as one.

Female sexuality has always been oppressed, while hegemonic masculine identities are encouraged and seen as the “norm”. More recently things are changing with the “New Man” and social awareness of gender inequality but where do you think these traditional ideals come from? And how/when do you envision it ending?

GD: Oh, it’s the Trump administration. I don’t have high hopes for it ending any time soon! I really wish I had a better answer for this but I’ve been super depressed about that very question for months, haha.

You’re very politically active and involved, which is something that’s much-needed in this political climate. What’s something that you desperately wish will change sometime soon and what’s the first thing you’d do if you were in office for a day?

GD: That’s a great question. I think I’d start with disability and health care and how terrible we are at taking care of the people in our society who need it that most. It should not be so difficult and emotionally exhausting to get help if you need help. We desperately need an overhaul of the healthcare system for the poorest and most vulnerable among us particularly the disabled community and the trans community.

Up until college you described yourself as mousy and you’ve talked about the sexism within the writing/comedy community that you experienced. Was that what made you change your style and appearance?

GD: Not really! I just realized that women are allowed to be both hot and smart at the same time. I spent a lot of time worried that if I was pretty, I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a comedy writer — and if I was smart, no one would want me to act in anything. But once I realized that wasn’t true and I could just be whatever I wanted as long as I was talented and confident and (shock of all shocks) boys didn’t make the rules? I was so much happier.

You’re well-known for your graphic tees and bleached hair now. Who are your fashion/style inspirations and is it as high maintenance as it looks to keep your blonde hair?

GD: I get it bleached once a month but somehow it stays strong! My hair’s very thick so it can withstand all the dying I do to it. In terms of fashion, I really like gender-bending so I like people like Tilda Swinton, Evan Rachel Wood, Rain Dove, Bowie. I like looking more masculine or tomboyish now. 

And lastly, when did you decide to become polyamorous and what would you say to people who think they might want to pursue polyamory? What would you say are the best/worst things about it, compared to monogamy?

GD: I think I’d always been more inclined toward non-monogamy just in terms of having an inkling about it when you’re dating the same way i did about my sexuality. I would say the best advice is not to try and talk anyone into it. To find people who are already poly and test it out with them rather than convincing a monogamous partner to do something they don’t want. The best is the intense communication and how I never feel like I’m being lied to. The worst is time management and not sleeping enough.

Make sure to keep up with all of the exciting stuff Gaby has coming out soon, the second season finale of her podcast is out, “I Hate Everyone But You” comes out 19th September 2017 and Just Between Us has videos out every Monday and Thursday.