Interested in web series? AKA short (4-10 min per episode), fun sized series on YouTube that cram as much story into one episode as an hour-long show would. Looking for suggestions? Seek no more. We’re bringing you Talk Web Series With Us, featuring a new web series every week! Sit back, relax, log onto YouTube, and explore the stories web series have to offer!
This week: The Leslie
Kate Johnson, maneuvering through her own “failed attempts at dating after coming out,” realized she has a growing collection of the entertaining, the amusing, and the straight up awkward. One night, talking to her friend on the phone, she was compared to Jenny Schecter from “The L Word-” both being writers, in previous relationships with men, and moving out to LA where they finally admit their true sexuality. Laughing about it, Johnson made a joke that, “now I just need to write a movie about [it] and call it a day.” The more she thought about it, though, the more she realized “that’s exactly what I should do!”
“And so was born Leslie.”
Based on Johnson’s own experiences, The Leslie is a new web series following Leslie Clark’s journey of what actually happens once you come out. The show nails the authenticity of the stories told, the conversations had, and the emotions felt, creating honesty and understanding for any viewer to relate to. Johnson, playing the character of Leslie Clark, wanted to bring truth to television. She wanted to tell a story that is lacking in media and unapologetically candid. Johnson explains that when she came out, she was “focused on the coming out and not at all what came after it.” This new series highlights that- the confusion of navigating a new world, the joy of accepting your true self, and the overall hilarity that follows. She’s come out; she’s accepted herself, but now what?
Luckily for her, Leslie has an eclectic bunch of straight friends who claim to be experts on lesbian dating. Paulie Abrams (Ruby Goldin), the opinionated token roommate who has something to say about anything and everything, is Leslie’s sidekick, attempting to help carve her way through this new lifestyle. Next, we have Jen Hammond (Samantha Sutliff), the friend whose innocent flirtation with Leslie is stirring up unwanted feelings, but there’s also Alex Whittle (Diana Spieller), the girl next door that can’t go ignored. Luke Haas (Chris Hallett) and Nick Ramirez (Daniel Luna) play the well-meaning, yet confused guy friends. This gaggle of amusing characters creates a solid foundation for storytelling.
Along the journey, Leslie deals with typical lesbian stereotypes. Johnson notes, “I think one of the things that I really wanted to do was not just include the stereotypes but really look at them.” One of which was the characteristic snapback, something Johnson personally struggled with, explaining, “Leslie’s struggle with the snapback? I did that. I was out, and I saw a snapback and just… wanted it. I needed it, and I can’t tell you why. I’ve never worn it- ever! It’s not me, it’s not my style, but I felt this utter compulsion to buy it because I’m a gay lady, right? So I need one.” Not only does she want to address these stereotypes, she wants to understand them, and she wants to portray that on screen.
Feeling a shift in her own behavior after coming out (dressing differently, talking differently, sitting differently) but knowing this new behavior wasn’t who she really is, Johnson understands these stereotypes can be harmful and untrue for most people. She claims she felt ridiculous trying them on, and she acknowledges they’re not for everyone. “I think that’s the important thing to remember about stereotypes, even for us in the queer community- while they do exist, not everyone is them, and some people are one, but not all, and they manifest in different ways. That’s sort of what I wanted to explore with Leslie,” she explains. A quote from “The L Word” sticks with her when exploring this topic- “Don’t worry, you just don’t know how to be gay yet.” Johnson responds to that with, “I’m a woman. I like woman. I’m gay! That’s it, right?” Well, society apparently doesn’t agree- wanting these women to fit into a certain mold, thrown into a group of flannel wearing, snapback sporting and short hair rocking clones. Johnson is aiming to change that.
She’s also adamant that LGBTQ+ stories aren’t just for LGBTQ+ people. Johnson wants to open a dialogue where everyone can enjoy this story and this character, and even though they identify differently than each other, it’s still entertaining. Goldin, playing the token straight friend, Paulie, added her own thoughts here- “It has been [interesting] for me, a straight girl, to see the reaction to the show so far. […] I’ve never needed to worry about looking/dressing a certain way so that a guy will know I’m straight, or going to a specifically straight bar.” She mentions that she lives “in this oblivious bubble of straightness.” Johnson blames this on the lack of dialogue and understanding between communities but wants to bridge that gap with The Leslie.
With six episodes released and six more dropping in the next three weeks (every Monday and Wednesday at 5 pm EDT), the cast of The Leslie would love to continue with a Season 2. It comes down to budget and reception but “you can bet your tush that we’re going to do everything in our power to get a season 2,” says Johnson. The entire cast acknowledges the potential behind this story and wants it to go for as long as it can.
The Leslie was created so LGBTQ+ women could finally have good representation, where they don’t need to fit any mold and where their stories matter. Johnson is well aware of the outrage that “The 100 debacle” caused and is happy to be avoiding that trope. “I’m not a tragedy,” she says, “I can live and be awkward and fail and try and do all these things, but I can live. My existence matters and is valid.” She is using her platform to expose issues, destroy labels, and ultimately, prove that these characters don’t always end in catastrophe. Leslie Clark and Kate Johnson, alike, are bringing hope back to the queer community.
*Featured image was taken by Gena G Photography.