Actor, producer, director and screenwriter Jason T. Gaffney chatted with #Powerjournalist Markos Papadatos about his new comedy series “Marriage of Inconvenience,” which is streaming on the streaming service Dekkoo, as of April 6.
What inspired you to co-write “Marriage of Inconvenience”?
I’m a huge believer in the uplifting power of comedy. This world can be a very harsh place to live and exist in, and if you’re LGBTQ+, it can be even harder. There are terrible things happening, constantly in the news, and even more so in our community.
Which is where I like to think I come into play. We need laughter more than ever.
Add in the fact that there is a very small amount of LGBTQ+ led and driven content, and even less LGBTQ+ comedy content where the conflict for the main characters doesn’t resolve around their sexuality.
So I found my niche: Post coming out LGBTQ+ comedies and romantic comedies with gay romantic leads who encounter classic romcom tropes as they win their happily ever afters.
I’ve been writing this kind of gay romcom for years, with my feature films The Perfect Wedding, Analysis Paralysis, and Out of Body.
But in 2019, I started brainstorming ideas for an LGBTQ romcom TV series with my longtime writing partner Ed Gaffney (who also happens to be my dad in real life). We came up with the idea: what if people going into witness protection were paired up as couples, to help them hide their real identities?
What if those two people were polar opposites…? What if one was a college professor, and the other was a low-level, kind of townie drug dealer…?
Then we started thinking about casting and we immediately though of my good friend David Allen Singletary. He could bring both the funny and the drama! He would be brilliant as the college professor!
Then we realized this storyline was becoming a modern twist on The Odd Couple. So we leaned in!
And with that Marriage of Inconvenience was born.
What did you love most about your character Owen?
The biggest thing I love about Owen is that he is way more three dimensional than we think when we first meet him. We first see this former drug dealer now in WITSEC (Witness Protection) who is a rude slob and a hot mess. He puts on a tough guy attitude as many men in our world are taught to do, but deep down he has a giant heart and just wants to find love and be loved in return.
Then you add in the fact that Owen is different from the roles I usually play (I’m normally the boy next door). Playing this character allowed me to bring different bits of my actor self to the table.
And in terms of playing roles outside of type, it’s been a bit eye-opening to see how many people assumed, after hearing the premise of the series, that I’d play the college professor and David, a Black man, would be the drug dealer. David, who’s a big guy, has been cast way too often as a convict or a criminal, which is frustrating. Hollywood still has a long way to go when dealing with racial stereotypes and the truth is, I wrote the professor role specifically for David—it’s right in his wheelhouse. It was also very important for me to show the world a high profile, academically accomplished Black man, which is exactly what David is in real life!.
There really is still a huge problem with sticking actors in roles based on their race, gender, sexuality etc. that needs to be challenged. Hollywood can help change people’s perspective on those stereotypes, and as a writer/director/producer I feel an obligation to help move the world and the public in a more inclusive direction.
What motivates you each day as a filmmaker?
Making high quality content featuring LGBTQ+ people (and all minorities) in roles that aren’t defined by stereotypes. To show the world that we want the same fairytale romcoms and comedies as heterosexual people.
Being able to make films where we get to live in a world that loves us for us, and shows us as the well rounded and complicated diverse community that we are keeps me going. If I can bring a smile to one marginalized person, or tell a story that allows someone who’s often unrepresented to see themselves on screen in a flattering and honorable way, then I’ve done my job.
Getting to make content that attracted the attention of great sites like Dekkoo helps me bring these stories to the table.
How does it feel to be an actor and filmmaker in the digital age? (Now with streaming and technology being so prevalent)
Pretty awesome! There are more avenues than ever to get indie content out there and allow for same-voices representation.
Getting to work with Dekkoo has been a dream for me as a gay filmmaker. They want me to tell my story unapologetically. Without platforms like Dekkoo, it’s a lot harder for marginalized people to be able to get eyes on their films and shows and for LGBTQ+ people to be able to see themselves on screen.
It also allows for niche stories to find a solid core audience of support—so that indie filmmakers like me are able to keep telling these stories!
What do your plans for the future include?
Hopefully season two of Marriage of Inconvenience is next on the list for me! (I’ve actually got seasons two and three already mapped out, so fingers crossed!) I’m not gonna give much away, but in season two can we say book club episode?
I also have a few other projects in the pipeline. I’ve been doing some brainstorming with my writing partner about several potential new series, plus we have a few feature films we’d love to make in the next few years.
The features are Everyday’s a Holiday with Eddie, a lighthearted buddy comedy about suicide (yes, I know that is a super weird combo, but it works, I promise!), and a comedy called Dead Nazi in a Bathtub. Basically a diverse group of friends find, well… Think Snakes On A Plane. The title says it all. But in this case it’s a comedy! Last but not least, we’ve just started working on a new TV show with the working title Hat Box. It’s a feel-good show like Ted Lasso, except it’s set at a youth mental health hospital. We’ve been mapping out the first season and I’m already excited for the characters’ journeys.
What does the word success mean to you?
Being happy and finding joy all around you.
What would you like to tell our readers about “Marriage of Inconvenience”? (What’s the one thing you want them to get out of it)
Frankly, I hope MOI makes people laugh. (And I hope they want to see what happens next with Owen and Franklin). In addition to that, I hope people are able to embrace the themes of the show and be themselves.
Life is too short to try and be something or someone you’re not. Owen and Franklin are thrust into what appears to be a terrible situation, but they’ve actually been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to figure out their real wants and dreams, not just accept what society has decided for them. So I hope that people watching get inspired to go after what they want as well.
To learn more about Jason T. Gaffney, follow him on Instagram.