Kit Williamson is an actor, director, writer and producer who is the force behind Logo TV's web series EastSiders. Williamson also joined the cast of the current (and sixth season) of Mad Men. Despite his success, the Jackson, Miss., native makes education a priority and is currently studying for his MFA at UCLA. Williamson opened up about his role on Mad Men, the importance of education and creating multilayered gay characters on-screen.
Windy City Times: Describe your character on Mad Men.
Kit Williamson: It's a recurring character this season and I play Ed Gifford, the copywriter. Ed really wants to do a good job and he's an anxious kind of guy. You see that in how he acts in a lot of the meetings in terms of really trying to go over with good ideas but failing pretty miserably. He's easily overwhelmed and surrounded by geniuses.
WCT: Will you be in season seven?
Kit Williamson: I don't know. They keep everybody a little bit in the dark about what's going to happen episode to episode.
WCT: You are currently attending UCLA studying for your master's of fine arts in playwriting. Why is it important for you to continue your education?
Kit Williamson: I view education as a life-long pursuit. The life of an actor is an inconsistent thing creatively and you can go months and months without any sort of real creative outlet and your life is auditioning and that's the norm. It's pretty rare that anybody gets to work consistently. Even very successful people have long stretches where they are just pursuing work. And I wanted something to ground my creativity. It's really important that my creativity is something that I'm in charge of and I wake up in the morning and decide whether I want to do creative work as opposed to wait for somebody to hire me.
WCT: When will you be completing your master's?
Kit Williamson: I'll be finishing in the fall of 2014.
WCT: You are the creator, star, producer and director of the Web series EastSiders on Logo TV. The show is about the aftermath of infidelity of a gay couple when Thom (played by Van Hansis) cheats on Thom, your character. What inspired the show?
Kit Williamson: I wanted to explore a gay couple with a really complicated relationship. When you see gay characters on TV, they are depicted as idealized versions of a relationship because people want to support positive representations. While I am all for that, I think that it is important that gay people are allowed to participate fully in storytelling traditions.
I wanted to explore flawed gay characters and see them struggle trying to be better people and I wanted their sexual orientation to be incidental to that struggle. We're seeing more and more depictions of gay characters now and I think we live in an exciting time where people are actually turning to television and the media more than it's ever been. People look to film and TV as something that is reflective of the rest of the world.
WCT: You raised $25,785 on Kickstarter, which funded episode three through episode nine. How proud were you of reaching that goal?
Kit Williamson: I was so excited that people responded in the way that they did. We actually met our initial goal of $15,000 in just four days. We were really going to shoot this on a shoestring budget with everybody volunteering their time and all of our equipment donated and that was going to be $15,000. We ended up really being able to increase the production value of the show and shoot it for $26,000.
WCT: You talked about doing a comic book of EastSiders if you raised $25,000.
Kit Williamson: We will make an announcement about all of that in the coming months. We just need to focus on getting the series finished and out there. We starting airing the episodes on Logo while we were in post-production on the second half of the season, so we've been doing this as fast and that is as humanely possible.
WCT: You made the show specifically for the Web. Would there be too many compromises if you had made it for TV?
Kit Williamson: I think that there are always going to be compromises when you are working with a network or studio because you have a boss. In this case, we shot the entire season independently so I was my own boss. I'm not a lone wolf though and one of the reasons that I got into filmmaking and theater is because I love the collaborative process, meeting new people and putting our heads together to make something cool.
WCT: After the success of Queer As Folk, did you think that there would have been more gay-themed series?
Kit Williamson: That show broke a lot of ground and I think that we are in a time now where an LGBT story does not just have to be a story for gay audiences or a story about being gay. That's an exciting thing for me as a writer because I really enjoy writing about gay characters and putting gay characters in my stories. I feel like you don't get boxed in quite as easily and that is exciting.
WCT: Will there be a second season of EastSiders?
Kit Williamson: We're still formulating what the best approach would be to a second season if we do one. It has to feel right, first and foremost. I don't want to do it just to do it, I want to do it because the characters need to continue the story. As far as financing goes, we are keeping our options open and seeing what opportunities are out there. It's tricky for an LGBT series because there is not really a financing model in place so almost everything is financed differently.
For more info on Kit Williamson visit www.kitwilliamson.com . For everything Mad Men, visit www.amctv.com/shows/mad-men and to watch episodes of EastSiders go to www.logotv.com/shows/eastsiders/series.jhtml.