New Chicago-based web-series explores gay life after 30
Thu. April 24, 2014 11:03 AM by Anthony Morgano
ben burke (l), brian greer and shaun baer (r) in 'dudes'
'Dudes,' which follows the lives of friends/ex-lovers-roommates Tyler, David and Miles premiered earlier this month.
"At the end of the day, 'Dudes' is about three gay friends on the wrong side of thirty -- it really follows their lives and their journeys as they grapple with figuring it all out and being 'adults' before it's too late," Pemberton-Fowler told ChicagoPride.com. "The series isn't only about sex or dirty talk -- even though our tagline is "and you thought 'Girls' were dirty..." -- these guys are just trying to figure it out like everyone else at an age when they think they should have figured it out by now. Alas, life doesn't work like that!"
The jumping off point for "Dudes" came from a Slate article called "Meet the Gaybros" that first piqued Pemberton-Fowler's interest. He wanted to present three characters as "regular guys who happen to sleep with men, but they play sports, drink whiskey and loathe gay bars." For the creator and writer, "Dudes" was partially about showing the world that gay men don't all drink cosmos and denote everything to be "fierce." He also wanted to create something fun and light that didn't harp on "issues," something he sees other queer cinema as focusing too heavily on, but "celebrated life, love and friendship in its own way."
Thus, "Dudes" was born.
The show follows three friends/ex-lovers/roommates: Tyler, Miles and David. "Dudes" opens when Tyler, played by Oak Park-native Shaun Baer, discovers that his long-term boyfriend Jonathan is cheating on him. Tyler then moves in with his ex-boyfriend David, a well-bred socialite and party-boy played by Ben Burke, and Miles, an unemployed, but well-paid escort portrayed by current Chicago resident Brian Greer. As Tyler attempts to make another go at the Chicago dating scene, David and Miles also take a look at their lives and realize that their friends are moving on too -- "and no one's getting younger."
"All three find their status quo challenged, leaving them flustered and unsure what the next steps should be -- in many ways, even though they're in their thirties, there's an element of a 'coming of age' of a sort," Baer, who plays Tyler, told ChicagoPride.com. "I think it deals, pretty frankly, with the misconception that for gay men, thirty is the end. For these men, thirty is just where they are starting to put two and two together and making sense of the world."
"Whereas in our society there is very traditional path that straight men and women can follow, (though obviously that's another stereotype that many do not choose,) I don't know that there is such a path for gay men, at least not one that's been laid out yet," Burke, a native of Wheeling who plays David, added. "Gay men in society are somewhat viewed as perpetually young, or young-spirited. I thought it was really interesting for us to examine that, and look into what actually happens to gay men once we realize we're no longer the hottest new thing on the block and maybe there's more to life than just boys-boys-boys."
While the tagline compares the web-series to Lena Dunham's "Girls," Pemerton-Fowler says that "Sex and the City" and "Ugly Betty," two of his favorite shows, subtly influenced him in the way the writers and production teams balanced hard and light stories, never taking themselves too too seriously. For "Dudes," he wanted to keep things fun and light, steering away from a dramatic, heavy, issue-driven style and plot.
"I mean, stylistically we run the gambit with out comedy -- from the raunchy, to the visual, to the awkward," Brett Emanuel, the series' director, told ChicagoPride.com. "There should be a little bit of something for everyone. The show's kind of like Chicago's weather: if a particular moment isn't working for you, just wait. It changes pretty quickly."
The show also doesn't shy away from honestly portraying sex and the way gay men talk about and use sex to relate to one another. In fact, Emanuel and Pemberton-Fowler reveal that one of the biggest challenges for casting was finding actors who were comfortable with the subject matter -- even amongst gay men. The show is decidedly not vanilla and not like anything currently out there.
"Dudes is everything you can't put out there for mainstream consumption, but deals with topics in a language and manner that everyone in the gay community has dealt with at some time or other," Greer, who plays escort Miles, told ChicagoPride.com. "It's crass, it's dirty, it's sweet, it's funny. We are, by no means, making a statement about the community that we are portraying, but we are offering insights into part of the community that are awkward and therefore hilarious."
"Not to mention the great sex scenes," he added.
Pemberton-Fowler does stress that "Dudes" is not necessarily a "gay show." In his words: "'Dudes' is about 'being gay' like 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' is about a woman getting married." The characters are gay, so it's a factor of the show, but not, he says, its identity. While Pemberton-Fowler himself is gay, as are the actors who play the three main roles, director Brett Emanuel is straight, but being part of the crew has definitely helped increase his knowledge of queer sexual innuendo.
"As gay as the series is, it transcends that...I mean, you gotta be pretty gay friendly (and comfortable) to watch the show, but I think there's stuff in there for everyone," Emanuel said. "These gay men are doing nothing we haven't heard their straight counterparts do for years. I mean, other than men."
The director went on to muse: "The term 'gay' seems to define all aspects of a person, when in fact it merely is defining who they are sexually attracted to...So, to me, 'Dudes' is about exploring those variances. It's about discovering the pressure that some in the community feel to 'keep up.' It's about learning and accepting what kind of modern relationship is right for us."
As for setting the series in Chicago -- that was a no-brainer. Two out of three actors as well as director Emanuel are Chicagoland natives and all three actors as well as Pemberton-Fowler currently call Chicago home. From a directing standpoint, Emanuel says, Chicago is a much less costly and complicated option than New York or Los Angeles, the latter of which also doesn't offer the beautiful architectural variance you can only find in the Windy City.
There are also what he calls "the intangibles" -- saying that Chicago simply has a different sensibility, a feel or vibe that you can't quite quantify but can see working. Pemberton-Fowler agrees, wanting to showcase Chicago as a unique, more homey alternative to the gay shows set on either coast. He also wants to showcase and plug some of his favorite local bars, clubs, bakeries, parks and more to really showcase what makes Chicago so wonderful and dynamic.
"This is a great city and there's so much more beyond the Loop and the skyline," he said. "In future episodes, we'll be outside a lot more in order to showcase different neighborhoods and sights. Hey, if someone who's seen 'Dudes' comes to Chicago and says, 'I have to go to X bar or try this restaurant' then we've done our job."
You can find out more about "Dudes," get a sneak-peak of the show, check out a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and, of course, watch the first episode, "Have We Come To This?," by visiting dudestheshow.com. Production for the final four episodes of Season 1 resumes this June, with an expected end-of-summer release.
"'Dudes' mentions a lot of things in the pilot and later in the series that may make you gasp, smile, or smirk," Pemberton-Fowler says by way of promotion. "The first episode is 13 minutes long, but it moves right along. Moreover, the pilot episode was a lot of fun to shoot, the actors are in top form, and it's a preview of things to come. The journey Miles, David, and Tyler go on in Season 1 is a helluva good time. So, check it out and fall in love!"
Shaun Baer talks about what lies ahead in Season 1 of Dudes.
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