Award-winning writer, filmmaker, performer and producer Bea Cordelia and Jeff Award-nominated actor, singer, writer and curator Daniel Kyri's upcoming Chicago-based webseries, "the T," is the culmination of their desire to bring more intersectional LGBTQ-focus stories to the small screen.
They co-produced, co-wrote, co-directed and played the lead roles in the series which is set to premiere on June 18.
Cordelia grew up on Chicago's North Side and studied playwriting, poetry and Gender & Sexuality Studies at Northwestern while Kyri grew up on Chicago's South Side and trained as an actor at University of Illinois-Chicago. They originally met via the late Maggie Daley's After School Matters program when they were 17. Five years later, they crossed paths again at Salonathon and they have been in each other's orbit ever since that fateful day.
"Daniel brought me in to perform at The Dojo, a DIY performance venue he co-founded and curated," said Cordelia. "Then, a year later he approached me about a web series he wanted to create about a Black queer man and white trans woman who are best friends. Serendipitously, I had already written the same pilot, inspired by my real-life relationship with my last boyfriend and current best friend, which is a specific kind of intimacy I wanted to explore in the medium of television. We started working on it together after that."
"The show was created out of the need for diverse representation of queer and trans people living at various intersections of race and class, to center the people too often left for stereotyped bit roles and punch lines," said Kyri.
Cordelia plays Jo, "a white trans woman craving an increasingly elusive intimacy", while Kyri plays Carter, "a queer Black man at odds with his conservative upbringing."
These two characters, who come from opposite sides of Chicago, meet for a what Cordelia said is a magical New Year's Eve night.
"The series is about these two best friends who used to date each other and the friendship they have now has a particular intimacy to it based on the original way they met," said Cordelia. "It is about them separately navigating things like love, sex, dating, relationships, family and work as well as the times the two of them come back together for support."
"The really cool thing we were able to capture with our series is the individual experiences of these two people at different intersections because Carter navigates the city differently than Jo does," said Kyri. "The specificity of these two characters represent the diaspora of queer and trans folks and this is something we do not get to see honored a lot on television."
They shot the series at various Chicago locales, including the Chicago Cultural Center, Lakeview Presbyterian Church, First Slice Pie Cafe and Cordelia's family home.
"Chris Rejano, our incredible director of photography, who recently shot the award-winning film Signature Move, brought a nuanced and beautiful eye to the project," said Cordelia. "Our cast includes notable Chicago talent such as James Vincent Meredith, Barbara Robertson, Sydney Charles and Travis Turner, and they were all dressed and styled by the visionary Chelsey Carter of brand alex carter," said Kyri.
"When I first met with Bea and Daniel, they asked me why I wanted to be involved with this project and I said because this is a story that is not being told," said Rejano. "This is a voice that is not being heard. Right now film and television is swamped with remakes and adaptations. When I watched the proof of concept video for 'the T,' I had an immediate reaction to the honesty of their story and strength of their writing and performances. I thought to myself, here we have an opportunity to bring forth something really original and important. This is the kind of storytelling that we need in this moment."
"Co-producing 'the T' with Bea and Daniel has been an honor and incredible journey for me and my colleagues," said Full Spectrum Features Executive Director Eugene Sun Park. "I know it is clichÃ© to describe filmmakers as 'brave,' but Bea and Daniel are truly brave, not just for their bold vision as storytellers, but because they took on four of the most demanding jobs in filmmaking all at once. The fact that they were able to write, direct, produce and act in 'the T' continues to boggle my mind. And they were able to do all of this at such a high levela testament to their talent and dedication."
OTV | Open Television ( a research project and online platform for intersectional television ) will be the show's distributor.
"Bea and Daniel are a dream team, and 'the T' will be a revolutionary series," said OTV | Open Television Founder and Northwestern University Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Aymar Jean Christian. "They are so easy to work with and bring optimism and empathy to their writing, acting, directing and professional relationships.' the T' is an intimate, deeply human story about the pains of coming-of-age, told with an awareness of how our culture impacts queer and black people. This show will astound fans and the industry, helping them realize how much we need media for us and by us."
"We shot the entire series, and have begun post-production with the acclaimed Periscope Post & Audio, who notably works on shows such as Empire and Sense8," said Kyri. "We just launched our Kickstarter campaign to raise money for post-production costswhich includes editing, visual effects, sound mixing and color correctionas well as pay cast and crew for all their hard work."
When asked what they hope people will get out of the series, Cordelia said, "We want to fill the gap of adequate representation of queer and trans people living at various intersections. Both of us grew up without comprehensive LGBTQ representation and sadly the media is still focused on cisgender, gay, white men. We want this series to be a gift to our communities."
"Additionally, we created 'the T' to desegregate the narrative that we see on television," said Kyri. "A lot of times, if we get character representation at all they are reduced to tokens and stereotypes. My goal is to create space for people like us who exist at the margins or intersections of identities to express the full range of our humanity unapologetically. Mark your calendars, stay beautiful and please consider supporting the T."
To donate, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/fullspectrum/the-t-web-series .