The pioneering hit comedy web series Drama Queenz turns 10 years old this month. This acclaimed web series is about three friends and roommates dealing with life, love, and auditioning in New York City.
Each webisode focuses on Jeremiah, a dreamer with ridiculously poor audition luck, Davis, a perfectionist whose hard work produces uneven results, and Preston, a realist whose inhibitions stir-up delightful “drama” for all to enjoy. Through madcap auditions, burgeoning romances, and heartbreaking realizations, the trio from Queens takes viewers on the zany roller coaster ride that is the actor’s life.
Since premiering in 2008 and running for three seasons, Drama Queenz has accumulated a host of honors, including being named one of the top gay web series by Web Entertainment Guide; named an official selection at Reeling: the Chicago Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, and Great Lakes Film Festival; and featured showings at The Homo Harlem Film Series, New York’s Queer Black Cinema, In The Life Atlanta Pride, D.C. Black Pride, St. Louis Black Pride, Nashville Black Gay Pride and Detroit’s Hotter Than July Pride, among other festivals and events.
On reaching their 10 year milestone Kinkster MAG caught up with the show’s writer, director, and actor Dane Joseph and Dwight Allen O’Neal, creator of another pioneering gay black web series, Christopher Street.
The idea for the series came from real life. Joseph’s co-stars were his roommates and they were all actors who moved to New York City. He mentioned they had a lot of fun and were best friends. One day when Joseph had a call back for a Broadway show, he was supposed to be there at 10:00 am but didn’t even wake up until that hour. He arrived at noon and ended up getting into a dance routine, with no real dance experience, with a friend which was a real call back for the friend. Joseph decided there was something to share with his life and auditioning experiences and the rest is history.
When asked if he thought the show would be around 10 years later, Joseph responded, “We had never thought. We initially thought it was going to be fun to do on YouTube. As it grew over time we were more excited.” The team initially thought they could do a series on the newly developing YouTube in hopes to get picked for a TV show. At the time there weren’t many web series especially ones devoted to issues and experience of gay black men. The Drama Queenz team regularly received feedback from gay people of color who were heartened by the series and felt they were being represented.
Even with the success of shows like Drama Queenz, Joseph and O’Neal both agree there needs to be more representation. There are stories to share, stories of people of color (POC) who are gay. And while it’s important to represent POCs who are LGBTQ, it’s not always necessary to depict them as struggling with their sexuality. Shows like Will & Grace represent two different types of gay men who are struggling to be adults and dealing with life’s issues. O’Neal mentioned that when it comes to depicting gay black men they are often portrayed along the lines of a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant or coming from ballroom culture. There is little differentiation with LGBTQ POC in media and they are often struggling with their sexuality as opposed to simply dealing with regular life issues.
In reflecting on their 10 years we asked what they would have changed. Joseph said, “We didn’t study film. The production quality increased over time from season one. People embraced it anyway.” He also shared that if they were to do over, the actors would likely be more fearless in sharing their stories.
We asked what they learned along the way. Joseph said, “I have a voice that people would like to hear and see the story and will support.” O’Neal said, “Don’t be afraid to collaborate. When producing my work I wear so many hats. I’m curious to know if i had collaborated earlier with like minded individuals where I would be with my projects.”
And when it comes to the best advice they’ve been given, O’Neal shared a story about a producer who was his mentor who forced him to get out of his comfort zone by saying “No one has a shy gene.” You weren’t born being shy and there is no shy gene that determines how you are. The advice Joseph received was to always stay nice and be humble with everyone. You never know what you can do for other people.
We also asked what topics were not covered that they wish they had covered in the show. Joseph responded they are looking into a new series in the future and would like to touch upon marriage and gay culture and black love; race; body shaming; and other issues endemic to the culture. Class shaming is another interesting topic to explore. O’Neal added that touching upon issues that are taking place with hookup apps like Grindr’s Kindr campaign would be appropriate for the community.
Why are shows like Drama Queenz important you might ask? They are affirming said Joseph. And O’Neal added “We as a community deserve to see ourselves in what we are watching. I deserve to tune into a sitcom and see myself. What Dane did with Drama Queenz was create something we can tune in to and learn from…We deserve to have this outlet.”
Both Joseph and O’Neal shared some advice with others who are endeavoring to succeed. Joseph shared, “Just go and do it. Don’t make excuses for it, you can always find the tools to get things done.” and O’Neal was just as motivating by saying, “Don’t take no for an answer. Reflect on why you got that no but use it as fuel to keep going.”
Congratulations to Drama Queenz for reaching 10 years and still being relative and necessary. If you’re wondering about a reunion episode, Joseph said, “Stay tuned. We’re cooking up some things.”