words of wisdom

Lee Daniels, Russell T. Davies and Jen Richards speak: The 2021 Queerty Interview Highlights

John Hoffman of 'Only Murders in the Building'

2021 has run the gamut from awesome to awful. For decades to come, art and entertainment will tell the story of how we all got here, how we survived, and where we're going next.

But don't take it from us. As the year winds down, have a look back at some of the insight and wisdom gifted to us by other LGBTQ artists. For from hardship and triumph comes the same thing: hope.

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[tps_header] [caption id="attachment_606544" align="alignnone" width="670"] John Hoffman of ‘Only Murders in the Building’[/caption]

2021 has run the gamut from awesome to awful. For decades to come, art and entertainment will tell the story of how we all got here, how we survived, and where we’re going next.

But don’t take it from us. As the year winds down, have a look back at some of the insight and wisdom gifted to us by other LGBTQ artists. For from hardship and triumph comes the same thing: hope.


Apparently Natasha Lyonne taught Lee Daniels how to smoke after sex. We should all be so lucky.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday — Billie Holiday, one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time, spent much of her career being adored by fans across the globe. Beginning in the 1940Õs in New York City, the federal government targeted Holiday in a growing effort to escalate and racialize the war on drugs, ultimately aiming to stop her from singing her controversial and heart-wrenching ballad, ÒStrange Fruit.Ó Louis McKay (Rob Morgan), Billie Holiday (Andra Day), and Director Lee Daniels, shown. (Photo by: Takashi Seida/Hulu)

On directing a graphic scene of a lynching:

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever directed.It is in one take, one shot. And it was emotionally draining. The crew—my assistant director, my production designer, my cinematographer—mapped it out a week beforehand. We had everyone walking through it so they knew what it would be. The actors didn’t really step into it until the day of. And what you see is the first take. We were in it. I did three takes, and that was the take we used. I think the hardest part for me was watching the kids cry. They genuinely were traumatized by seeing a woman hanging from a tree, and [a burning cross]. God was on my side with that one. We literally got off a bus, and I followed [Billie Holiday]. The camera pans around to what she’s seeing. I get chills thinking about it now.I wanted you to feel like what it was like to see a lynching, what it was like to experience jazz in that time, and what it was like to experience the high that [Billie] was on.”

Elton John confronted Russell T. Davies over ‘It’s a Sin.’ Now, Davies tell us what he had to say…

On how personal loss fuels artistic depth:

“Hugely. It’s an experience. It deepens you. Like I said, I’m here all day and sit here thinking about it. It’s not a pit you sink into. It also allows me to say “let’s be joyous.” My husband was so funny, I wish he was alive to see this. He was so funny. And he would have taken the piss out of it so much. I was on the network news the other night with my head on a giant screen. And he would have thought that was hilarious. He would have fallen over laughing. He would have never let me forget that time I was a giant head on the network news. So it’s good and bad, but that’s what writing is. It’s all those experiences.”

Christine Vachon, mother of queer cinema, on ‘Halston,’ ‘Pride,’ and gaying up Hollywood

On being one of the most important producers of queer cinema in history:

“I think it’s really important to put in context that I started my producing career in the 80s. It was right in the middle of the AIDS crisis. I think what that did was cause a great acceleration. There was a sense of urgency that if we didn’t tell our stories, nobody else would. And nobody cared what was happening to our community. I try and describe that time to young queer people, and it’s hard for them to grasp the disenfranchisement we felt. It felt like our community was dying this horrible death every day, and there was no sense that it mattered. So especially the first few movies I made came out of we are going to have a legacy. We will tell our stories by any means necessary. As time went on and I developed relationships with Tom Kalin and Todd Haynes and Rose Troche, I started to realize the kind of movies I wanted to make didn’t necessarily all need to be queer-themed. But they did need to feel like they were telling stories that were fresh and provocative that no one else would tell.”

Blake Lee describes going from Christmas hunk to psychopath in ‘Cruel Summer’

CRUEL SUMMER – The cast and crew of Freeform’s “Cruel Summer” attended a screening event at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles to celebrate the premiere of the highly-anticipated series on Thursday, April 15. “Cruel Summer” premieres TUESDAY, APRIL 20 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform. (Freeform/Matt Petit)

On performing violent scenes opposite a younger co-star:

“[Olivia Holt] and I got extremely close. The way she and I work is very similar: we needed to build a friendship and trust to go to those dark places. I know there are actors that would be an *sshole or be very standoffish to another actor if their characters had that kind of relationship. But that’s not me. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible so that we could build trust and open dialogue. Before we did any scenes that were heavy or emotional, we would spend a lot of time dissecting the script together and working with Tia [Napolitano], our showrunner. It was constant asking questions and answers. A lot of the [violence] isn’t necessarily shown, but are implied. So we would discuss what those were, what had happened. It was an amazing experience working with Olivia. She’s fearless.”

Jen Richards battles the problematic, transphobic legacy of Buffalo Bill in ‘Clarice’

“Silence is Purgatory” – After ViCAP links the River Murders to a pharmaceutical company, Clarice seeks help from Julia Lawson (Jen Richards), the corporate accountant for the company, who refuses to work with the FBI, and with Clarice specifically. Also, Catherine goes outside for the first time since her rescue from Buffalo Bill, and Ardelia and Agent Garrett connect with a lawyer they hope will take on the Black Coalition’s case against the FBI, on CLARICE, Thursday, May 13 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
On making peace with the transphobia associated with The Silence of the Lambs:

“It really does heal it. It closes one chapter so I can move on. It’s truly cathartic. I’m such a fan of the movie. I love the characters. I love Clarice. I love women characters trying to overcome social oppression and discrimination. I love everything about [The Silence of the Lambs], except this one part which stings. And as a transperson, I’m pretty accustomed to media that kisses me on one cheek but then stabs me on the other side. It’s just something you come to live with. But it’s such a personal thrill to get to take the knife out and show that up. It really was profound.”


Tig Notaro spills her secrets on wisdom teeth, Kool-Aid man and finding humor in tragedy

On turning tragedy into comedy:

“It’ll be nine years since all this started. I’ve had different setbacks and complications in life. But I feel very driven to maintain joy and health. I know what it’s like to feel happy. I know what it’s like to be healthy and well. I just feel so grateful for what I have. Honestly, things like the surprise of doing an action film at 50 has given me an awareness that I can do more than I think I can. I didn’t think I’d be in an action film at 50, or even alive. I just feel so lucky to have Stephanie and our kids and the ability to do what I love doing. I just want to maintain that. I want to see what’s next. My life has proven over and over there’s so much to stick around for, stuff I don’t even know is coming.”


What’s really going on in ‘The White Lotus’? Mike White tells all…

On how social media erodes relationships:

“I think that social media adds unreality to our lives. We think we’re plugged into what’s going on, but it becomes a dissociative addiction. Especially when you’re on vacation in this disembodied place—these resorts are designed to feel like an “elsewhere” place. But you’re living in a bubble, and your only connection to the world is through your phone. But really you’re living in an alternate reality that social media and your news feed creates. I think it’s a very common feeling. Social media leads to this kind of existential anxiety people feel on vacation. They can’t really escape the thing they should be escaping from, which is this nonstop dialogue on social media.”

‘Sort Of’ creators Bilal Biag & Fab Filippo on bringing nonbinary realness to TV

On the role of queer people in Islam:

“I know a lot of people in my life now who identify as I do, or similarly. That was one thing I had to discover. I didn’t think anyone else in the world felt as I did. But I think there actually are. And I think the world is changing. People are examining their own relationships with gender and faith. Those relationships are changing. But on a larger level, it’s a conversation within the community. I think queer and trans-Muslims are finding within the Koran language that works for them that says God loves us all. That is helping them marry faith and queerness. So, it’s complicated. I think we find our ways. I feel pretty at ease with myself. If you can’t find it in your own family, there is a community out there.”

Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman on representing his chosen family in ‘Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.’

On separating personal and celebrity life: 

“It’s funny, my partner said to me a couple of weeks ago—someone recognized me on the street. And he said, “It’s so funny. I don’t think about that side of you. You’re just Jeffrey.” And I’m the same way. I don’t think about it until somebody brings it to my attention. I didn’t even think about the fact that I was queer or black until somebody brought it to my attention. I really just work hard on integrity. Part of that is integrating all aspects of my life into one. I spent a lot of time compartmentalizing. It’s something that seemed natural for me to do. I think it came from seeing people in this industry let their public persona become all that they were.

It’s unsustainable. I saw how it changed people. I saw how they put their worth on their followers and their work. In this industry, we put our well-being in the hands of other people. I don’t want to put my worth or power in the hands of others.”

Derek Simonds on queering a detective story with ‘The Sinner’

On his desire to tell a story through a character’s trauma:

“I think this is where being a cis, gay man comes into play. To me, the trauma I experienced in coming out and finding my place in a world that’s not always welcoming to me, in addition to my personal stuff—I’m really attracted to the idea of real intimacy. How can we be authentic with each other? How healing are those bonds? I certainly felt that in my chosen family and friends. So to me, the group therapy model of shame shared is shame halved—the idea that through authentic connection we heal—is so important to me. Harry Ambrose—in development, executives would be like what’s his superpower? I wanted to resist that. I didn’t want to create another superhuman detective in the pantheon of “they can solve anything” like Sherlock Holmes. Really, I wanted to subvert that and make this detective’s superpower empathy.”

Philemon Chambers on queering holiday romance in ‘Single all the Way’

Single All The Way (L-R). Philemon Chambers as Nick, Michael Urie as Peter, in Single All The Way. Cr. Philippe Bosse/Netflix © 2021

On the feeling of gratitude for starring in his first feature film:

“I don’t take myself too seriously, nor do I think about [what I’m going to do next]. When I actually get to have a voice, I feel it the most. Also, the effect it has on you…it means a lot to me. Thank you, Queerty for taking the time to talk to me. And I feel it when I wake up every morning. The past two years have been trying for a lot of us. To have a gift that keeps on giving like Single All the Way is amazing.”

We investigate queer comedy with John Hoffman, creator of ‘Only Murders in the Building’

On his enduring legacy from the kiddie show Adventures in Wonderland:

“You know who I talked to it about? My dear friend Jonathan Groff. We just hit it off on Looking. And a connecting point was Adventures in Wonderland. We’d been working two months together and at some point, I said I was on the show. Jonathan’s jaw dropped. He started screaming “You’re the Mad Hatter!” He had no idea.

It’s funny, because the producers and the art directors on Adventures in Wonderland were also on Pee Wee’s Playhouse which became our style guide in a weird way. And of course, Paul Reubens had his whole story. But it’s funny, it never came up on set. There were other gay actors on that show, and yet it never came up. It was never present in our minds.”

Ry Russo-Young, child of queer parents, details her explosive family history in ‘Nuclear Family’

On confronting and making peace with a custody suit between her mothers and donor/father:

“I think when we watch something as heated and passionate as this, we do look and want to establish blame. To me, the thing that has become more clear as to who to blame, it’s the system. It didn’t allow for more nuanced relationships. It pushed my mothers to not be protected and therefore be very defensive, and it pushed Tom to go to this nuclear place as a result of feeling he had no other way. It pushed everyone to the extreme.”

Director Ebs Burnough hunts for Truman Capote’s lost masterpiece in ‘The Capote Tapes’

On why women loved Truman Capote, a flamboyant gay man:

“He was brilliant. He was someone you wanted to have at the dinner table. Your husband can talk with him. Your best friend can talk with him. He cared about style. He cared about fashion. But I think he met a need—a husbandly non-sexual need—of someone to talk to, because their husbands didn’t talk to them much. Their husbands viewed them as an ornament. So they had someone they could trust. They had a male companion they could go to dinner with, and nobody thought they were having an affair. So he filled a lot of roles. As such, they gave him the leeway to bring his boyfriend around.”

Billy Porter on bringing queer realness to ‘Cinderella’: “Magic has no gender.”

Billy Porter stars in CINDERELLA
Photo: Kerry Brown
© 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

On the changing face of queer acceptance:

“In times of profound movement and change, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. It’s easy to focus on what is not happening, not to talk about what has and is happening. When I got into this business in the 80s, I, Billy Porter, was not possible. The way you see and receive me now, today, was an impossibility. There was no such thing as Poseor Pray Tell. There was no such thing, no space, no context for me to dream about playing the Fairy Godperson in anything. It wasn’t what happened. So thank you for bringing light to how much things have changed. Because they have. We have a long way to go, but they have changed. And I’m the result of that.”

Gabe Liedman on bringing animated full-frontal to ‘Q-Force’

Q-Force – (L to R) SEAN HAYES as MARY and GABE LIEDMAN as BENJI in Episode 5 of Q-Force. CREDIT: Courtesy of NETFLIX / NETFLIX ©2021

On how dark moments in life fuel comedy:

“That’s a great question. When I’m writing stand-up or developing a show, I’m usually taking up something in myself that is painful. So a lot of my early stand-up was about my sexuality because I was like, is the audience going to hear it in my voice? Will they ignore it? So I charged through it. And it’s therapeutic. It makes me examine things. Right now, my stand-up is about my body. I’m fat, and that’s something I used to hate about myself. But we’re in a new place in society, and so the jokes are about my trying to catch up with that and find love for myself about something I always hated. I’m always surprised in the writing process about what humor I can juice out of it. It’s just how I survive. In writing, I do feel better.”

Boxing, fame, secret abuse: Champion Christy Martin tells all

On how accepting her lesbianism helped her kick drugs and leave an abusive relationship:

“I got to the point where I had to step out and be who I really am. My boxing career was over, so there was less [ex-husband] Jim could hurt me with. I just knew that in order to really live—to have a life of any kind—I had to get away with him. Sherry had messaged me through Facebook, and we reconnected without knowing what was going to happen. I loved her like crazy in high school. When we got back together, we were still trying to find that first love excitement. At this point, I’m more in love with the idea of being me, who I really am. I’ve said many times: you can get on or get off the bandwagon. It doesn’t matter. By that point I was 43, and who cares? I wanted to be happy. I hope through this documentary that’s what we show. Sometimes, you have to dig deep. Let’s be true to ourselves.”

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