Is DTLA a new and improved Noah’s Arc?
DTLA is a self-financed, gay scripted drama series, best described as a cross between Queer As Folk and Swingers. Financed mainly through Kickstarter, the series raised over $33,000 – then was eventually picked up by Logo. I got opportunity to talke with the show’s Creator and Executive Producer, Larry Kennar, whose producing credits include 50 First Dates, Barbershop, Spring Breakdown, The L Word, and HBO’s Funny Or Die!
The show depicts the relationships of seven friends with varied ethnic, cultural, and sexual orientations who work and live in the vibrant community of Downtown Los Angeles. It’s a story of love, friendship, loyalty, and being true to oneself – no matter what the cost.
“Darryl Stephens (Noah’s Arc) stars with a supporting cast that includes Melanie Griffith, Sandra Bernhard and Jeremy Jackson.”
The series also stars Danny Roberts of “MTV’s Real World,” Erin Daniels of “The L Word,” Tiffany Pollard of “VH1′s I Love New York,” TV/Radio personality B. Scott, Luenell of “Borat,” Julie Goldman of “Big Gay Sketch,” William McNamara of “Doing Time On Maple Drive,” and Leslie Jordan of “Will & Grace.”
Larry shares with us some exclusive information on the making of the series.
Carlton Jordan: Tell us why you created DTLA series?
Larry Kennar: For a few reasons – I really wanted to try my hand at making an indy soap opera under this particular type of new media format and structure. I wanted to portray characters who “happen to be gay” and how they live their lives. I wanted to tell unique, personal and yet relatable stories in the most realistic way possible.
Carlton Jordan: What is the significance of DTLA right now? Why choose this setting?
Larry Kennar: DTLA is an area I know well because I’ve lived there for several years. It’s a great intersection of all types of people. I find the diversity there fresh, and it’s a setting that no one has yet seen on television.
Carlton Jordan: What made you pick the cast for the show? Why Darryl Stephens and Tiffany Pollard?
Larry Kennar: I spent over two years trying to find the right cast members for this show. I chose people based on who could pull off improv and who moved me on different emotional levels. Darryl was chosen because I felt he had so much more to offer than what we had previously seen on Noah’s Arc. Tiffany just tickles me in so many ways. I also discovered her to be an insanely amazing actress.
Carlton Jordan: Tell us about the kick starter campaign and how you began. What are some tricks you used to get funding?
Larry Kennar: My executive producer, Mike Palmieri is a social media (and kickstarter) genius. He got us up and running in ways I could never begin to explain. There are no tricks. It’s very hard. All I can say is you must have a project people believe is significant. I spent every waking hour pounding the pavement by making calls and pushing people beyond comfortable levels to support this project. I hope to never do that again. It has to be a trump card kindof thing in my opinion.
Carlton Jordan: How did you get the legendary Melanie Griffith and Sandra Bernhard involved?
Larry Kennar: DTLA was shot independently because I wanted to control the vision and move past any potential network steps to get a whole first season accomplished.
Carlton Jordan: Are you trying to make DTLA the new West Hollywood? What are the differences in the lifestyle and people?
Larry Kennar: Not at all. DTLA doesn’t have the steortypes of West Hollywood, and I wasn’t looking for that.
Carlton Jordan: Besides some of the explicit content being censored, why is there a difference between the cut we see on LOGO and what is on ITunes? Why is there a difference?
Larry Kennar: Director’s cut is the version on iTunes – the full un-edited way I intended it to be viewed. I did not originally make this show for Logo, so the content didn’t fit the time constraints that Logo requires. It’s very simple. Unfortunately they need to cut 10 min out of each episode to fit their schedule. Season 2 will not have that problem.
Carlton Jordan: How do you avoid stereotyping your characters?
Larry Kennar: I think it’s easy for me since these characters are based on people that I know. I do whatever I can to avoid stereotyping. When it comes from an organic place, honesty trumps stereotyping every time!
Larry Kennar: DTLA is composed of Four Exec Producers and we are all partners: Darryl, Michael, Myself and Helene Shaw. Mike and Darryl are my only other writers, and our Crew is extremely lean…around 10 people who cover every single department imaginable…Talk about a tight ship!
Carlton Jordan: What shows did you watch as a kid that inspired you growing up?
Larry Kennar: Ok, here we go: Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, My 3 Sons, Bewitched , I Dream of Jeannie, Beverly Hillbillies, Sesame Street, Electric Company, Zoom. Charlie’s Angeles, Starsky and Hutch, Love Boat, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, All in the Family, Jeffersons, Good Times, Maude, thirtysomething, China Beach and A Year In The Life.
Carlton Jordan: When pitched to the network did they want cast changes? How did you fight that?
Larry Kennar: Logo and OutTV loved everyone
Carlton Jordan: What is a major DO and major DON’T when tackling a project like this?
Larry Kennar: DO’s: take risks, think outside the box, surrounded yourself with like-minded people who support your vision, use every single person as a focus group. DON’TS: Don’t limit yourself and Don’t listen to what people on the outside are saying (both good and bad). Don’t be controlled by “the network would never buy this” – kind of thoughts.
Carlton Jordan: Do you look for gay actors for gay roles? Do you feel that straight people get cast in too many gay roles in Hollywood?
Larry Kennar: No and No. I don’t ever ask if someone is gay or straight. I just see who feels right for the character. My hope is that we are beginning to live in a world where it doesn’t matter if a gay person or a straight person is playing the role.
Carlton Jordan: What are some of your favorite web series out there.
Larry Kennar: “THAT’s VERY MARY-KATE”
Carlton Jordan: What other projects are you working on?
Larry Kennar: The next hot lesbian series and a hundred million other things:)
Carlton Jordan: Do you feel a show like this could be on BET if the cast were all Black? Why or why not?
Larry Kennar: Well the cast is almost all black! LOL! And it’s not on BET…so there’s your answer! Actually BET spoke with me about doing a gay reality series. I love how they are open to that. It would have to be a little tamer than my show.
Carlton Jordan: What is the most unforgettable lesson you’ve learned about this industry since you first started?
Larry Kennar: That at the end of the day: Nobody knows anything, people lie, and You are the star of your own movie – if you don’t like a “scene”, you can always figure a way out of it or bring in a new day player
Carlton Jordan: How much skin, sex, and man meat will viewers get to see in the upcoming seasons?
Larry Kennar: OODLES and OODLES, but you must watch Season One first. Check It out on Itunes HERE. Meanwhile, tonight [Friday] you’ll get TWO new episodes of DTLA starting at 12a/11c on LOGO. Share the news!