Everybody loves a good workplace comedy!. These days, finding one with unique ideas and diverse characters, especially LGBTQ+ characters, can be hard to find. Look no further than Grosse Misconduct, a six-part queer digital webseries and workplace comedy that veers from the dramatic to the absurd and features not one, but two leading LGBTQ+ characters. After learning about Grosse Misconduct, I got the opportunity to sit down with the cast and talk about the show and it’s origin, what makes the characters so special, and LGBTQ+ representation.
Gretchen: Hey everybody, thanks for being willing to let me interview you! To start off, tell me about where Grosse Misconduct came from. What was the inspiration behind the show and/or what drew you to being involved in it?
Colby: Anne and I met in an acting workshop and discussed creating our own work, which led to the idea of co-writing a web series featuring these offbeat characters. I suggested the HR setting, as I’ve had an alternate career in Human Resources and thought it was a rich environment for story ideas.
Pooya: I was approached by Colby about Grosse Misconduct and he told me about Alicia and asked me to read it. I read the first few episodes and loved her strength, wit and sass and also that she was nothing like any trans roles I had seen before and I said: “When do we start?!”
G: It seems like a lot of the focus recently has been on gaining more LGBT+ representation in genre films or dramas—superhero movies, Star Wars, etc. What made you decide to make/work on a workplace comedy web series?
C: Yes, it’s been great to see more of a spotlight on LGBT+ characters in film and TV recently—we’re happy to be part of that movement. I like the idea of continuity that a web series offers—there are many potential stories to tell, and a workplace setting means we can focus on multiple narratives and be more fully representative of the audience. We’d like to think there’s something for everyone in Grosse Misconduct!
G: Do you think that comedies in general and workplace comedies in particular offer a unique perspective on telling the stories of LGBT identity and experiences?
P: Comedies allow us to see reality, while softening the harsher edges with laughter, which is why we can show things that would be unthinkable outside of comedy. A workplace comedy shows different people, side by side, in a closed environment, and how they interact. This offers a unique opportunity to introduce LGBTQ characters into everyday life and create a world that can be, like a glimpse into the future, or an aspirational alternate reality.
G: Speaking of telling LGBT stories, Colby, why do you think that writing LGBT stories that aren’t “coming out stories” is important for representation?
C: Coming out stories are still vital, since the process of coming out remains very difficult for a large number of the LGBT+ population, but we don’t often see leading LGBT+ characters in narratives where sexuality or gender identity is not the focus of their existence in the story…..or stories that show an LGBT+ character long after they’ve come out and are dealing with the same everyday issues as others. Showing how alike we all are, and how we all really want the same things out of life, can only help to bring understanding and acceptance from parts of the audience who may be reluctant to embrace LGBT+ characters otherwise.
G: On the topic of representation, what do you all want to see more of when it comes to the representation of LGBT characters and stories?
P: I would love to see more diversity shown in the community. That diversity can be in age, race, temperament and socio-economic background. What do I mean? Does the gay character also have to be snarky? No! Does the trans character have to be a certain race of be from a certain socioeconomic background? No! This community is as varied through all the mentioned categories as any other group of people. The more diverse our portrayals become, the more opportunities our audience will have to find characters they personally identify with, and the more we can break down the old stereotypes.
G: In a similar vein, Pooya, I would love to hear your thoughts on creating lead roles for transgender characters and hiring transgender actors.
P: I believe we are living in very exciting times in regards to transgender representation. For one, we actually have positive representation! But it is still very new. With shows like Pose that have their trans characters front and center, this sends a signal that it can be done. As more and more shows, network shows and alike, are introducing trans characters, played by trans actors, I believe that we are going to see trans doctors, teachers, parents and more, being played by great trans actors and slowly fading out the old, sad and victimized stereotypes.
G: Pooya and Colby, what have been the biggest challenges you have had to face being members of a marginalized community, or in Pooya’s case communities, in the filmmaking industry? Benefits?
C: I’ve always been “out” in my life as an adult, and I’ve been fortunate to work in creative industries where my sexuality was never an issue, and I live in New York City, so I’ve led a privileged existence compared to many others in the LGBT+ community who live in environments where they feel they must hide their true selves from others. Early on as an actor, I was advised to keep my sexuality under wraps within the industry, and that was a blow to my own self-acceptance. It’s easier now for actors to be more open—we’re slowly seeing both established and new artists who feel they must be fully authentic to live their best lives. The biggest benefit for me now is to be an openly gay actor who feels confident in pushing the progress we’ve made to new levels, and to see how it benefits the LGBT+ community, both currently and in the future.
P: For the first few years of my return to acting, I was not out, as my previous experience of being a transitioning actor had led to doors being closed in my face from all sides, and feeling very isolated. About 4 years ago, as people started talking about transgender issues, inside and outside the industry, I kept wondering if I should come out publicly. Something I would have never thought possible 15 years ago. When I did publicly come out, through a Facebook post, I thought it was going to end whatever career I had, but I knew it was the right thing to do, for me, as a trans immigrant, and my community. I’m glad I did, because it gave me a voice I didn’t know I had and it has allowed me to be a bold force in my community, as a trans person and a person of color. I also feel my skin color and its placement in the industry still has long ways to go, but I am confident that in the years to come, people who look like me, women who look like me, will get to explore more nuanced characters and be thought of beyond the stereotypical fodder that most of us have become accustomed to. I know it will happen, because WE will make it happen.
G: To everyone, I love interesting characters and challenging people to distill them into as few words as possible, so, describe your character in one sentence of 20 words or less.
C: Mitch Grosse is a self-centered, insecure, childish man who struggles with utter thoughtlessness, but deep down, has a heart.
Anne: She’s the Office Mom
and problem solver with a
secret kinky side.
(Not only is that less than 20 words, it’s also a Haiku.)
P: Alicia is a fighter, a survivor, a loyal friend and underneath it all, she loves people and wants to be accepted for all that she is.
G: What do you hope that audiences watching Grosse Misconduct walk away with?
A: Everyone has to put on their shoes one at a time, regardless of their gender identification or sexuality. Whether it be getting engaged to the person of your dreams or covering your boss’s ass at work, we all have similar wants and struggles.
G: What’s coming up next for you all? Any exciting news for Grosse Misconduct coming down the pipeline or other interesting projects you’re involved in?
C: Anne and I have started plotting season two of Grosse Misconduct — lots of cliffhangers to resolve! I’ve also completed filming two independent films, “39 and a Half” and “Batsh*t Bride,” and you can follow me on Instagram/Twitter for updates @colbyryanactor.
A: I do standup and improv around NYC to keep the creative juices flowing. I’m also writing a play and finding new ways to reduce my carbon footprint.
P: I can’t wait for Season II of Grosse Misconduct, but in the meantime, I’m collaborating with other writers in telling stories of trans and gender non-conforming characters and just shot an indie pilot where I play a ghost of a pop diva! It really never stops, as I also have a feature film that I was the lead in and a tv series I’m a recurring guest star in and they should be out later this year. To stay connected, follow me on Instagram/Twitter @pooyaland or my website www.pooyaland.com
G: Anything else you want to share with us before we go?
A: What we see in movies, television, and web content manipulate our perceptions of other people, particularly those different than ourselves. It is so important now more than ever for people from all walks of life to share their stories and points of view. Thanks greatly to social media, it’s never been easier to do so. Get out there and create! The world will be a better place for it.