Gwenlyn Cumyn and Karen Knox are the creators and stars of critically acclaimed award winning webseries Barbelle, a show that follows the story of a newly famous Toronto based pop-star duo, Veronica Vale and Alice O’Hara, whose meteoric rise to stardom has led to a blitzkrieg on their personal lives.
Barbelle’s second season just premiered last April 10th so we’ve thought that this would be a great moment to chat with them about the series, their experiences, future projects, and the work at Boss&Co. Don’t miss our new exclusive interview!
– Hi Gwenlyn, Hi Karen. For anybody who doesn’t know about it, tell us about Barbelle. What is it about and where can people watch it?
Barbelle is a short form digital series. The first season came out a little over a year ago, and you can watch in on the YouTube channel KindaTV as well as streaming platforms Revry, Amazon Prime and BellFibe. We like to refer to the series as the Gay Soap Opera of your dreams with good jokes, or if you prefer, a woke lesbian Spiceworld for 2019. Season Two is a hot, magic mess of drama & music.
– Why did you decide to create the series? What did you want to offer?
We love Toronto. We love queer culture. We love good jokes. Barbelle was the sort of show we wished we had been able to watch as young women where the pickings were slim when it came to nuanced queer characters/stories. We wanted to make a show that allowed the characters to just be gay, and operate in the world where that wasn’t the sum total of their existence. Queer representation is definitely getting better, but so often mainstream media makes the orientation of characters so central to their overarching narrative. Sometimes, lesbians just need to eat hamburgers, and walk their cats, and not have their forbidden love of a best friend dominate those experiences.
– Let me ask you about its reception. You have over four million views to date and it has been screened at a long list of important industry events. Were you surprised with such a huge success?
Yes and no! We were certain that there would be a fairly large audience base that would enjoy the show, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the critical success. We’re looking forward to everyone seeing how we’ve stepped up our game in this second season!
– Season two just premiered a couple of weeks ago. What’s in store for these new episodes?
Hot, new, messy music videos, more dancing, reality show magic, and a touch of a musical episode. In all seriousness, this new season has a bit more of a grown up edge, and handles some heavier topics, like the #metoo movement through a queer lens.
– Barbelle was nominated as Best LGTBQ+ series at the Cannes MipTv Festival. Tell me about the importance of representing the LGBTQ+ community.
Since the wee age of 15ish, we’ve been frustrated with the quality and quantity of queer content in the world. Fast forward a few years, the quantity has improved, and there are some incredible queer creators making great work, overall the quality of queer representation has a long way to go. So we wanted to make something that we would’ve loved to watch when we were a minute younger! The importance of seeing yourself represented in media cannot be underestimated. Seeing queer characters on your screens who are unapologetically themselves can really make a difference, especially for young audiences just discovering themselves and learning self-acceptance.
– What can you tell us about your work at your company Boss&Co?
Boss & Co is a Toronto based production company specializing in content creation for underrepresented audiences adhering to a solitary cardinal rule: Thou shall not bore. We tell stories you haven’t heard before. We like subversion, bold aesthetics, and good jokes. Our short film (and feminist horror fable) The Fates was an official selection at the TIFFxInstagram Festival, and you can watch it on the director Victoria Long’s Instagram.
Another highlight of the company’s is Karen Knox’s directorial debut, The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping, featuring Gwenlyn Cumyn. The film, a historical satire that takes a critical look at cinema’s use of the rape trope. It just played at the Canadian Film Festival, and recently won Best Short at the Venice Short Film Festival, as well as the Grand Budapest Film Festival.
– On that side, your latest project is called ‘Damaged Control’. You’re adapting the short film into a six-part half hour series. How is that going? Why did you decide to do this adaptation?
It’s an incredibly timely story that follows the women who manage/are married to a famous comedian accused of sexual assault. These stories are happening all around us everyday, but usually the only side covered in the media is that of the accused, while the women and survivors around them are bullied, harassed, then forgotten. We’re just in the writing stage of this project, and we can’t wait to see where it goes! There’s a new season of Veep currently airing that we are mega enjoying, and taking a lot of pointers from.
– Before we finish, would you like to tell us about any other future projects?
Keep your eyes out for our new short form comedy Slo Pitch, about a beer league slo-pitch team in Toronto. We’ll be going into production this summer/fall, and you can watch the trailer at the end of this interview.
An interview by Chris Patterson for Lovingseries.