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.