These days, when there’s a cultural lack in the mainstream, artists are heading to the internet to create a new venue in which to express themselves as well as entertain others. The Outs, a webseries written by Adam Goldman and Sasha Winters, fills a void currently left open on television. The series follows Mitchell and Jack, two gay men living in New York, as each deals with their recent break-up and newly single status. Funny and poignant, The Outs takes a refreshingly honest look at what it’s like to be a young gay man now in New York—the awkward dates, the awkward sex, and, thankfully, the awkward (and hilarious) social scenes. Funded by two Kickstarter campaigns, The Outs is already a modest success. With three episodes online and three more to be completed, co-creator and co-star Adam Goldman chats about the process of creating a web series, the inevitable comparisons to Lena Dunham’s Girls, and the still disappointing lack of gay characters in media.
Where did the idea to film a web series come from?
I wrote the last scene of the first episode originally; it’s when my character Mitchell shows up at his ex-boyfriend Jack’s house and they have a fight. I had forgotten about it—this was last October or November. One day, my boyfriend at the time saw that I was wearing a blue shirt and he said, “You look really desperate in blue.” I said, “God, that’s a fucking mean thing to say,” and he replied, “Oh, you wrote that, I was quoting you.” He showed me the scene. I had forgotten it, but I kind of liked it. My roommate and my co-writer Sasha, who plays Oona, and I both wanted to make something, and I wanted to write a part for her. We started starting in February and we shoot a couple weekends a month and try to put them out every four to five weeks, which people are starting to not be happy with, but that’s our schedule because we don’t get paid.
How long does it take to film each one?
One of our actors, Hunter Canning, is in War Horse at Lincoln Center, so his only day off is Monday. Typically we’ve done them in two days—Sundays and Mondays. I think lately we’ve done three-day shoots when there have been more locations, or, in the last episode, we had to do some reshoots and it was much longer. We try to do each one in a few weekend days and a Monday, which is why we have like 20-hour days. It’s really stupid and everybody ends up grumpy, but the product is good and now everyone’s happy.
I know you have planned for exactly six episodes, but the first three are of varying lengths. Is that on purpose?
It was a natural thing in the sense that when I was writing them I didn’t think we were going to produce them. Luckily, we got to make them, and there are challenges and there are assets to doing something for the web. One of the nice things is that we can write each episode to be as long as the story is—exactly that long. The third one is 22 minutes long, the second is 18, and the first is 12. The fourth one is going to be 12 or 15 minutes. Some people on the crew are going to be bummed that it’s only 15 minutes, but I think people get it.
When I think of what people want to watch on the internet, it’s a lot of dumb YouTube videos that you can watch at work. It’s ambitious to create something longer with a story.
We’re walking this line where we want to make this little television show for the internet, but we do sort of want you to be able to go home after work and watch it. Watch it at work, I don’t give a shit—it depends on your work place, I guess. But it wasn’t deliberate; it was an accidental thing, and I feel like it’s about what you can deliver. If I can write a three-page script that leaves someone satisfied at the end, I’ll do that instead of writing something like Prometheus, because it’s just about where we leave you and that’s really important to me: the taste that you leave in people’s mouths. The second episode, which I love, definitely has some issues, but people really loved the final image of the two guys in bed. And I knew as soon as we shot it that it was really beautiful. As long as we can let people walk away feeling something, we win.
Have you written the entire thing?
Basically, yes. It’s all carefully outlined, and there’s some dialogue stuff that’s sort of in flux.
It definitely follows the British model as opposed to American sitcom, in which the entire season or series in written before shooting.
And if we wanted to be 12 episodes or 20 episodes, you can’t write that all at once; that’s very hard. It’s amazing to that people want more than six episodes! If it happens, that’s fine. At the moment, we just want to deliver on all the stuff we’ve set up frankly in the first three episodes.
Was there anything that you were sort of thinking about style-wise or writing-wise that inspired you to do certain things with the show? Is there anything you point to and say, “I was inspired by this movie or this television show or this writer?”
There’s a British TV show called Pulling. Everybody should watch it. It’s one of those things that’s on Netflix instant one week and then it’s off the next week, but it’s incredible and we certainly, as far as just balancing being a little bit edgy or in your face and funny and then ultimately like, “Oh fuck, I’m crying”—that’s sort of what we wanted to be like. I just want everybody to have a voice. It really gets under my skin when everybody in a show sounds the same. I know that I happen to hang out with people that are funny, so I think the characters end up being funny and that’s where the humor comes from, but I hope that everybody sounds differently.
I’ve read other writers who have compared The Outs to Girls. How do you feel about that?
I didn’t know about Girls when we started, and I think our first episode came out before Girls. I’ve tried to avoid it just because our Venn diagram kind of overlaps a little bit. I think that this Brooklyn thing is really in the zeitgeist right now, and I think we’re doing something unique. What stands out to me about Girls is that it ultimately feels very much like Curb Your Enthusiasm. My problem with the show initially is that I don’t really like those people, and that’s the point.
That’s sort of HBO’s wheelhouse: they’re making you like these people that are inherently unlikeable.
Or making you want to watch them. It’s funny because people are like, pitch The Outs to HBO! Well for starters, thank you, but it’s impossible because it’s an iteration of a show that’s already on HBO. I try not to compare this show to anything. People have said I’m the new, gay Lena Dunham. Well, Lena Dunham’s really new already, she doesn’t need like…
Someone already imitating her, even if it’s not on purpose.
That’s what’s so funny: it happened contemporaneously, so it makes sense that they do have a lot in common. I do think that there’s stuff about gay characters and gay culture that’s not there.
Are there gay characters on Girls?
Well, her ex-boyfriend, who is played by Andrew Rannells, comes out to her when they’re living in New York after college. He has a recurring role, but it’s kind of just a joke that she had this gay boyfriend in college and didn’t realize it. But that’s the thing: there really aren’t that many gay characters on television at all.
If I may, what is your favorite TV show about gay people?
There’s Happy Endings, which has one main character who is gay. I don’t watch Modern Family, and I know that people love it, but it’s still not accurate because they’re not affectionate with each other in a realistic way. They hug when they get excited about something rather than kiss.
They’re gay because that show told me they were gay. At the same time, then people say The Outs is “the new gay web series.” What does that mean? Like, is every other web series a straight web series?
What I like about The Outs is that it’s very honest about the sexual side of being gay. You don’t shy away from that; like, you’re never going to see the guy from Happy Endings having sex or making out. It’s still important not to scare people away from the sex and pretend it doesn’t exist.
In the beginning of the first episode, there’s less than three seconds of blurry gay sex and I guess kind of vulgar sex noises. We decided we needed to put that up front because if you can’t watch that, I really don’t want you watching the show.
I haven’t seen all of Girls yet, but what I’ve seen I feel is very accurate to my own experience in my twenties. And unfortunately, it’s a show about women rather than gay men. There has never been any sort of medium or art that I identified with that was written about a gay man. I always identify with women in films, sometimes men, but usually I react to things with such strong feelings and emotions that you don’t see straight men do that in film at all. It’s refreshing to see that in The Outs. Not only that, but you’ve got gay guys playing gay guys, which so rarely happens.
I saw Zachary Quinto in Angels in America last year, and I wanted to bring a fucking sign because I don’t think you get to be Louis in Angels in America if you’re in the closet. I was really pleased when he finally came out because I just wanted those kids in Ohio who liked Star Trek to know that Spock is gay. Spock! I have a friend that feels very strongly, that especially like a place in New York, only gay actors should be playing gay roles, and philosophically I really disagree with that because it goes against the idea of acting. That said, it is our total pleasure to have as many gay actors on the show as we do and—not that you need to have experienced it to act it, that’s not what acting is about—since it’s about New York and people and whatever, it helps. And we had experiences with one of the minor gay roles; a couple of them are played by straight men or whatever they want to identify themselves, and one of them asked, “Can you tell me if I’m going to have to do any guy on guy stuff,” and I was like, this probably isn’t a really great match because, no you’re not, but that’s not the point and I kind of don’t want you hanging around. Another straight guy said, “Whatever you want to do is fine, I don’t feel like making out with people on screen.” He handled that right. It’s just about how you handle these things and the level of sensitivity, because no gay actor will ever say, “Hey, am I going to have to, like, touch a boob?” Fuck off already. If you’re a professional actor, then put on your big boy pants and deal with it.
I don’t think that it’s inherently bad that straight actors are playing gay roles. It’s just the response to them being so brave for doing it…
It just drives me up the fucking wall, especially because they’re usually playing someone whose going to die. But look at The Boys in the Band, which is still one of the most realistic gay films ever. All but one of the actors was gay, it was before Stonewall, and no one dies. Granted, that was before AIDS. And I think it’s very controversial but it speaks of such a specific time period that’s really not much different. I think that people are still going through the same issues and interacting in the same way. I think that we address self-hatred a lot differently than we used to, and we use it now to insult other people.
It’s a really funny thing. I noticed in the comments, which I usually don’t read, how differently people react to it. In the first episode, it opens with Jack having sex with someone, like anonymous intercourse, and one person wrote, “I really don’t appreciate the way you’re implying gay men in New York have anonymous sex all the time.” Right below it was a comment that said, “I can’t believe the person having anonymous sex has all this angst to deal with. Why can’t he just be a happy slut?” What people don’t get is that we’re telling a story about people. It’s not like we’re not calling it The Big Gay Show, or saying this is how all gay men are. We’re just trying to create a funny show that also honestly shows how people live their lives.