In 2007 Deondray Gossett and Quincy LeNear launched their ground breaking series called The DL Chronicles on Here! TV. The DLC tells stories of men of color who lead secret lifestyles… namely being gay or same gender loving or men who sleep with men; whichever title you prefer.
ME: Talk to ME about what happened at here! TV and the series?
Q: Here! TV picked up the show for 2 seasons. We only finished a partial season before the network ran into major financial issues during 2008/2009. It was bad timing for us because we were new to the network and our project was one that was put on the back burner. Because the network allowed our contract to expire in 2011, we regained the rights to produce the series.
ME: So how are you getting the word out about the upcoming season?
Q: Once the season is completed information will be released to the traditional entertainment news media, press, and through our social networks. The DL Chronicles has always survived as an underground sort of cult hit and it’s been through the word of mouth of fans that has continued to inform the audience. Although we have been off the air for 3 years now, the online audience has grown tremendously. The show never reached a saturation point when it was airing, and now new online viewers are discovering the show every day.
ME: Any thoughts about working with another network? Is there a network on your wish list you would like to work with?
Q: So many networks are now creating amazing and cutting edge shows, especially cable networks. HBO and Showtime have always been at the top of my list but A&E, TMC, FX, Starz and many more are pushing the limits of storytelling. So I'd be happy to be able to work with any of them.
“It is very difficult to cast black men in gay
roles because of the stigma it holds in the african-american community.”
ME: What are some stories lines we can expect in Season 2?
Q: You can expect a more mature take on the direction of the show. I think we've grown as people and as artists and have the opportunity to really push the storytelling, the visual aspect of the show, as well as the performances; a more filmic take on the series vs. the formulaic TV take of Season 1.
D: Some stories in the upcoming episodes involve a questioning teenager and his intriguing new next door neighbor; a sexually ambiguous pastor who takes in a homeless stranger; two DL star-crossed lovers who also happen to be famous Hip Hop artists; and an interracial DL love story that tries to survive in-spite of dramatic cultural differences. These scripts are now more than 6 years old, but we've revamped them to fit the current times. It's amazing how relevant some still are while others are no longer as controversial. I call that progress.
ME: Will we see any of the previous characters from Season 1?
Q: Hmmmm. There may be some Easter Eggs in the episodes but no significant moments. Each episode is a unique new story. We haven't revisited old stories.
D: As with all the episodes, we always place Easter Eggs from the previous episodes into the new ones. There is definitely a connection to all these characters, but you won't find that out until the very last season. We do, however, drop a tremendous amount of clues in the spinoff web version, The Chadwick Journals, starring Damian Toofeek Raven (Chadwick), Nic Few (Donovan), with a special appearance by Ulrich Que (Mark of DL Chronicles, Episode, Mark). Some age-old questions about the series are answered, like why Chadwick is writing the chronicles. Fans can check it out on YouTube link below.
ME: Briefly describe The Chadwick Journals?
D: The Chadwick Journals is a web spinoff of the original series that was created as a tool to re-energize our fan base before the release of the new batch of episodes. We had no idea it would take on a life of its own. It was our intent to create a provocative web version of the show that could be self-sustaining and have very low budgetary requirements. We knew it had to be a 'two-people-in-a-room' approach so that we could get them done very fast and complete an entire season in a weekend. What was simple on paper turned out to be a lot more complex in the execution as we had to find a very skilled actor to play the role of Donovan who had to have so many nuances that he could be classified with Dissociative Personality Disorder. We had an actor friend who was schizophrenic in his everyday life and has an amazing dramatic pedigree, so we thought, let's ask Nic Few. It was the best decision we could have made. He brought so many layers to Donovan. He has a glare in his eyes while in character that makes you feel completely intrigued, frightened, and turned on by him all at once. We are so incredibly happy with his performance. We’re also extremely happy to bring Damian Toofeek to the forefront; a phenomenal actor who is rarely seen in the TV version of the series as the mysterious Chadwick. Chadwick was originally cast in the first Episode as Wes, but Quincy, the Executive Producer, and I decided that Damian was too strong (and good-looking) to have him in just one episode. He is the face of the series, but many don't know how skilled he is as an actor. We are so happy to provide this platform for him, and he is a more complicated and multi-dimensional version of Chadwick in the spinoff. The fans want more and we're going to give them what they want. Stay tuned...
ME: Tell me about the casting process. How difficult or is it difficult to get Black males to play gay roles?
Q: It is very difficult to cast Black men in gay roles because of the stigma it holds in the African American community. We put out a SAG casting notice through the Actors Breakdowns. Agents and managers submit their clients. The casting director makes picks and then we audition the actors. We have to include a disclaimer that the show deals with male to male intimacy and sexuality. There is also nudity and simulated sexual acts. Do not submit your clients without their knowledge and do not submit yourself if you are not comfortable. Yet it still happens and is a great waste of our time when an actor arrives and suddenly is afraid to take the role. It happens a lot and is very annoying.
Quincy LeNear and Deondray Gossett
ME: Are any of the actors actually gay?
Q: Yes, some of our actors have been openly gay. However, we do not discuss our actors’ personal lives because it isn't our right to discuss that. It’s a privacy violation as an employer, furthermore it is a big legal No, No! Nonetheless, actors deserve to be able to portray a Gay character without that becoming and indicator of their personal lives. I feel it does the community a disservice. No one asks to see the criminal records or background checks of actors who play murderers and criminals nor do we question their sexuality when they play straight. So, as a rule of thumb, we don't want to contribute to the stereotype that anyone who plays Gay is Gay, which is very untrue.
ME: One would assume that your core audience is Black Gay Males. But do you know of any other groups that watch your series? What feedback have you received?
Q: We have a significant Latino audience but our second largest audience is straight Black women; then Gay White men. The series is also very popular in France and I've been told in Germany, where it's used in a Human Sexuality course at the University of Berlin.
ME: What challenges have you faced as two young Black men in the industry trying to get your work out to a mass audience?
Q: Well we are kinda exiting that "young Black men" category now. (Laughs) We have faced the systematic and institutionalized racism in the industry. People are participating in it without even realizing that they are contributing to it. The bottom line is dollars. Where is the money made, who is watching, buying, being catered to? On ad-driven TV, who will advertise to this community? Will this community watch? Will this community watch this subject matter? Often the answer is NO. You are not given the opportunity to develop the audience, to reach the audience. Someone like Tyler Perry already came in the room with a built in audience because of his plays and that's what they expect African American creators to do in many instances. Deondray and I also look much younger than we are and some execs think we are wet behind the ears, when in most cases we are older or the same age and have often been in the industry much longer.
D: I'd like to think that a lot of our difficulty has less do with being Black and more to do with the genre of films we produce. Gay-themed programming has very limited opportunity to make a profit. You want to create programming with quality actors, quality production, and to be TV or big screen-ready. But it requires funds to do it the way you envision; to do it in the way that would bring it cache and make it bigger than just another gay film, it requires more funds than it's statistically destined to bring in. We're determined to make a prolific Black film, with a leading gay character that will bring thousands of people to the theater regardless of race or sexual orientation. I believe we have the stories in us and the skill sets to bring them to fruition if only given the tools, and by tools I mean money.
ME: How long have you known each other and how did your working together come about?
Q: We've been a couple for 17 years. We met in 1996 as actors, through mutual friends, and eventually fell in love. We had only known each other for a few months before we officially began dating.
D: Us working together came about after our disillusionment with Hollywood as actors. We set out on a quest to create films that showcased our talents as actors. We literally pointed the camera at each other and edited short films with just the two of us in them. One summer in 1999, we shot a short film for a film contest called, "Had U" for $10 (to pay for parking and a carousel ride) about an unfaithful straight couple that ended with a homoerotic twist. That film, co-judged by Michael Rappaport, won the Showtime Network's Digital Media Festival's, Best Experimental Short Film and a $10,000 prize in 2000. It was after that we started to take film directing and producing more seriously. We invested our winnings into better cameras and equipment and have been doing it ever since.
ME: How do you divide up the work? Is one more of the business person and the other the creative person?
Q: We're versatile — pun intended. We play different roles depending on who wrote or is directing the story. Our duties can and do overlap. He or I will take on more of the business and producing role when the other is directing and vice versa. It works being a duo in that way because you need to be able to focus on the creative and not be too distracted by the craziness that is happening in the midst of production.
ME: Are there any other projects on the horizon?
Q: Yes. We have a romantic feature we are writing. We are always creating and pitching TV series — a couple of web series is in development; a few Reality TV series in traction; and maybe a surprise spin-off from The DL Chronicles. We keep busy doing a lot. Not everything is of the LGBT genre either. We want to tell stories and create the art that moves us, and they don't always happen to be black and gay, but we will always make sure we are represented.
ME: Now that we have a current President (an African American President) who supports same-sex marriage, DOMA his been deemed unconstitutional, Don't Ask Don't Tell has been repealed, and gays are slowly being accepted by mainstream America, do you think brothers on the DL will become a thing of the past?
Q: No. That's not addressing the core issues that Afro-Latino LGBT people face culturally and socially when it comes to sexuality and how it is perceived. Over time it will contribute to a more tolerant society but even that is trickle down and takes a while to spill over into our communities in a significant way. As long as intolerant Religion and Sexism remains a force in our communities, the DL will continue to exist. Homophobia is as much based in sexist views of our feminine counterparts as it is in religion. It's a much more multilayered socio-economic issue for people of color as well that requires a lot of consideration. Until we help people love one another and love themselves, to live in truth and without judgment, there will always be a closet.
ME: You know you have a strong, supportive fan base. Is there anything you need for us to do to ensure a successful Season 2?
Q: Join our Facebook page, our Twitter page. Subscribe to our You Tube page. Continue to like and share our videos and updates. Stay engaged. We will soon have something for you to enjoy and that's a promise. Continue to support the stories you want to see by flexing your dollar and tongue. Your recommendation means a lot. That's the only way independent creators survive, through word of mouth and supporters taking action.
Interview by Michael Peart