On Dec. 14, actor/writer/director Kit Williamson, a young veteran of Broadway, will premiere the first episode of his new, gay Web series Eastsiders. The auteur describes his baby as a dark comedy about the aftermath of infidelity.
"Cal has recently discovered that Thom, his boyfriend of four years, has been cheating on him for months," Williamson said, in an interview with Windy City Times.
"Things explode between them, and their relationship is turned upside down. My entire life, I always assumed that infidelity was a deal breaker, but I also believe that there is such a thing as unconditional love. I wanted to explore this tension because I think it's really rich and complex. Ultimately, this is a character driven story. I wanted to create complicated, flawed gay characters because I think far too often gay characters are depicted as archetypes, if they're depicted at all."
Williamson co-stars as Cal in the series. He plays opposite Van Hansis, who some viewers will fondly recall from his long running role as Luke on the now-cancelled CBS soap opera As the World Turns.
As the World Turns broke ground when Luke was paired onscreen with Noah (Jake Silbermann) as daytime TV's first same-sex supercouple. On Aug. 17, 2007, Hansis and Silbermann made history when Luke and Noah kissed onscreen. Noah wasn't the only onscreen love for Luke, who, unlike other small screen gay characters, had an active romantic life.
Hansis plays Thom in Eastsiders. "Most characters I play are doing something a little devious, yet have rationalized it so they think they are doing the right thing" Hansis told WCT. "Thom is the exact opposite. He's cheating on his long term boyfriend, who he really loves. He knows what he's doing is wrong, he feels terrible about it, but he does it anyway. He's not a bad guy, but he's making bad decisions. What's interesting is figuring out why he's doing it. Weak-willed? Bored? Or maybe he's just being realistic."
Hansis is sure Eastsiders will have crossover appeal to straight viewers. "Good writing has no sexual orientation," he said. "I think people from across the spectrum are going to like this because it's incredibly well written, and from what I've seen, very well made."
Williamson concurs. "I think it will appeal to a gay audience because it doesn't talk down to them," he said. "I don't think that you should make any assumption about a person based on their sexual orientation and I hope it's refreshing to see gay characters explored as characters rather than as abstract ideas. I think it definitely has crossover appeal because ultimately, it's a story about people and we're all people, right?"
The actor offered his take on who his character is. "Cal is a bit rough around the edges. He drinks too much, he swears too much and he has a bit of a temper. But he's a fiercely loyal person and he would do anything for Thom. He loves him and can't imagine a life without him. That said, he has a really wry, mean sense of humor and he can't help but dig into Thom about what happened."
Williamson got Eastsiders made by the sweat of his brow. He told WCT that the first three episodes were financed out of pocket. He wrote the series specifically for the Web, which gave him the creative freedom he'd never have found at a TV network. The actor brings quite an impressive resume to the table. "I got my start acting on stage, doing experimental theater in New York while I was in college at Fordham University," he said. "My junior year I was cast in the Broadway revival of Talk Radio, and the experience really changed my life. More recently, I've turned my attention towards TV and film. Since coming to LA I've done a lot of independent films and some really cool genre movies."
Working together turned into a veritable lovefest for Eastsiders' lead players, with each singing the other's praises. "First and foremost, I knew we needed incredible actors to pull this off," said Williamson. "It's a very quiet, character driven story that I think really hinges on the acting. For Thom, I knew I needed someone that you couldn't help but like. It's a daunting task for an actor to win over an audience who knows before the first episode even starts that he's been unfaithful, but I don't know if anyone could stay mad at Van Hansis. He has an amazing warmth and kindness to himtruly one of the nicest people I've ever met. He also has so much going on under the surface when he acts and he is fascinating to watch."
"Kit is awesome, plain and simple," said Hansis. "I have a lot of admiration for the guy. Throughout the whole process he was completely open to everyone's ideas. After he knew he had the shots he wanted he would give the actors another take just to do whatever they wanted, which was really awesome. I think some of those takes made it into the series."
Williamson said that three episodes have been shot, and that they are 10-15 minutes each. He envisions Eastsiders being produced in three-episode "seasons," and is now hard at work on future storylines.
"I have a lot of ideas," he said. "I can't imagine ever getting tired of writing for these actors."
Look for the first episode of Eastsiders to be posted online Dec. 14. Episode two follows Dec. 21. The third episode will appear in January.
For more information, visit www.eastsiderstheseries.com .