Thursday, September 21, 2017

Seasons one and two of the beary TV show Skeleton Crew are currently streaming here on Bear World TV, and Josh the creator is now in full swing for Season Three. CEO of Bear World Media, Richard Jones, caught up with Joshua and some of the cast to delve behind the scenes. 

First up Joshua Pangborn

Richard Jones: Why did you make skeleton crew?

Joshua Pangborn: A lot of factors came together at the right time to inspire me to pursue Skeleton Crew as my next project. Since college, I was exclusively a playwright, but I’d been curious and eager to explore another medium. However, I didn’t feel I had the right story in my head. Then, in 2014, I finished my dissertation and received my doctorate, which freed up a lot of my time and made me want to pursue performing again. At the same time, I was wrapping up a new play, The Skeleton Crew, and after reading through it with a few friends, I realized this piece was really the first thing I’d written that felt like I had more story to tell. And then the story started taking shape in my head, and I realized I had a whole season of stories to tell.

Then in February 2015, I met with some of the main cast from Season One (Kat, Ellen, Stuart, Nick, and Dane), we discussed the concept of making this independent television series (since it really is too long to be called a web series, I’ve been told), we dropped the “The” from the title, and from there, well, the ball just started rolling. My friends like to joke I’m a crazy train and they’re just along for the ride (something which inspired a scene between me and J. Cerio in Season Two). But really, I am only able to make this series because of these amazing people, because of Paul, Stuart, J., Ashley, Maggie, Yolanda, Andrew, Kat…these people are the reason I can do it, why we can do it.  

RJ: What inspired you to make it?

JP: Most of the things I write have some inspiration from a piece of classical literature. For instance, when I started writing the play version of Skeleton Crew, I knew I wanted to work with the story of Medea. And obviously Season Two we play around a lot with classic cult films as inspiration. However, with Skeleton Crew, something larger is at play than in my previous work. And I love playing with genre and tone–that’s why I call this series a melodra-gomedy (melodramatic tragicomedy). We bring in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, drama, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

While LGBT characters are present in today’s television and film, they are generally all depicted as thin, muscular, and beautiful (in a mainstream sense). On the rare occasion, a bear or chub appears, it is generally for a laugh. And regardless of appearance or shape, the average LGBT character is generally sanitized and sexless. There are a few exceptions, of course, but ones which would rarely reach a mainstream audience. My production company, SideKick Productions, always attempts to employ “size blind” casting whenever possible and making Skeleton Crew provided us with an opportunity to take this further. So, when fleshing out the world of the series, I knew I wanted to work with “normalizing” issues of body type and sexuality, presenting sexually active LGBT and heterosexual characters of diverse shapes and sizes without making it about these points. I didn’t want a scene where a character goes, “you’re so brave to dress that way with your size,” or “do really think he’d be into you given that gut you have?”

The other key ingredient in the show is the exploration, and for some audience members, introduction, of a range of fetishes and sexual proclivities. I wanted to include people enjoying their sexual appetites without making a “very special episode” about it. And more importantly, the other characters don’t overreact (generally) to these interests. For one character, gaining is just part of who he is, for another, it’s the world of BDSM. There are enough bizarre moments in this series for our characters to react to, their body shapes and their sexual interests are just part of who they are.   

RJ: You appear in it as well as produce and direct? – do you find that hard or easy – as you have ultimate control?

JP: As the writer, one of the main characters, producer, and co-director, I suppose it is safe to say I wear many hats, but other than scheduling, I don’t find it very hard at all. There’s a lot of work to do, of course, so I wouldn’t call it easy, but it’s such a joy to do this work that I can’t really refer to it as such. I tend to work collaboratively with the people on the show–I surround myself with people I trust and who aren’t afraid to give their opinions, and I know my ideas are not always the best ones, so I know when to listen to them. 

RJ: You are now in season three – how have people responded to seasons 1 and 2

JP: When we produced Season One, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was going to be happy if a few hundred people watched. Now, not even two years later, over 11,000 people have seen the pilot episode. We have hundreds of followers on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, and the numbers go up every day. I’ve received fan art after the Season Two finale, another fan wrote a short script between the characters of Anthony and Hunter which we are considering filming as a mini-episode between seasons. And I’ve met some of the nicest people who have messaged me to talk about the series, from all over the world. My friends have been very supportive (many of them are in the series in fact)–some, in fact, have even let us use their apartments for filming.  It hasn’t been all positive, of course (there is one person in Norway who really seems to dislike the show), but any criticism we receive is helpful for us to consider when we look forward to the next season. It’s entertainment, it’s never going to please everyone, but as long as people keep watching, we will keep working.

RJ: How will season three be different to the other seasons?

JP: Each season starts with a goal of going bigger and better than the previous one. This season is no different. We have new characters to introduce, and some fan favorites are returning. There will be more flesh, more fur, and more fun, which are all staples of the show by now. But at the heart of each season is an idea. In Season One, we explored the ramifications of secrets revealed. In Season Two, we looked into the cost of dreams. Now, for Season Three, we focus on consequences and the intervention of reality. 

Next we caught up with J. Cerio (Hunter Wolf)

RJ: How do you like playing the character you play?

JC: Hunter is awesome.  He’s strong and protective and an overall good guy.  I really enjoy that he is comfortable in his own skin, and happily sexually active and experimental without being ashamed of it.

RJ: How have your friends and family reacted to you in the project?

JC: Everyone has been really supportive, even with the more outlandish storylines “She’s going to eat her baby!?”. Reactions from family and friends have both been really positive and supportive.

RJ: What do you think makes it different?

JC:  We handle what one could call “deviant behavior” with nonchalant style.  There is definitely a theme of “Be yourself no matter who you are or what you like!” threaded through every episode, that is a great message to be a part of.

RJ: What is your favorite scene in what season?

JC: That Hunter is in: In Season 2, the kitchen scene between Hunter and Anthony at Thanksgiving.  It was the first time I could really step outside the project and really relate to the pain these two guys were going through. I’ve gotten a lot of very personal feedback on that scene. 

That Hunter is not in: It’s a tie for two. In Season Two, the Anglicus/Anthony scene where Anglicus convinces Anthony to cut off the chastity device. AND the Anthony/Horatio scene spoofing Baby Jane. Great stuff.

Next up, Stuart Kiczek (Father Anglicus)

RJ: How do you like playing the character you play?

SK: I absolutely adore Father Anglicus or just Angie for short. Anglicus is a very devoted friend who’s relentlessly supportive, and at the same time tells it like it is in such a way that it makes it incredibly fun to portray him. 

RJ: How have your friends and family reacted to you in the project?

SK: Yes! I can’t tell you just how satisfying it is when a friend of mine who follows the show gives me their reaction a day or two after a new episode airs. It makes me very happy having those water-cooler type discussions about what’s going on in the show knowing people are engaged and enthralled by the show. Friends often compare the similarities between me and my character and the ways they can relate the show to their own lives. 

RJ: What do you think makes it different?

SK: Our fearless leader Joshua Pangborn, who plays Anthony, writes the show, and wears many hats on the production side of things, always sets out to do what he considers “size blind casting” and one of the ways that Skeleton Crew distinguishes itself from other shows is that it helps to normalise people who don’t fit the average size body type. Bigger people playing characters who are comfortable in their own skin, who are sexual, and who’s main focus is not entirely on them struggling with their weight is a very important narrative that I think we need more of in the world for people to see and identify with.

RJ: What is your favorite scene in what season?

SK: My favorite Non-Anglicus scene, was in season 2, during the reading of the will, when Hunter and Anthony get into their fight over Horatio. It’s a powerful exchange with a lot of raw emotions when I watch it I forget about everything else and just empathize with them both. My favorite Anglicus scene has to be in the season two finale, it was a brief exchange at the end of the episode between Anthony and Anglicus but it was so sweet and sentimental. It encapsulated everything those two had gone through throughout the season.

And lastly, we asked the same questions to Ashley Monique Menard (Appolina Zogrofos/Piper Zogrofos)

RJ: How do you like playing the character you play?

AMM: I am in heaven living the actor dream of playing multiple roles in the same world. Appolina (Polly) is confident, quirky and brassy. I also play her twin Piper, who is a spitfire who seriously should have her own evangelical home shopping network show.  She’s bossy, judgmental and fierce.  Both women don’t take anyone’s BS. Too bad they can’t get along.   Oh and then this season I also get to play the Australian ice queen doctor Regan Strode. Like doesn’t cover it! I LOVE IT!!

RJ: How have your friends and family reacted to you in the project?

AMM: I come from a conservative town so it’s a bit shocking for a lot of them but my Aunt is Piper’s number one fan! My friends love the show!!!

RJ: What do you think makes it different?

AMM: You don’t see us on mainstream TV. For every Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCartney, you have a thousand twigs playing the “friend” roles. Not to mention I am playing a leading lady. Those are few and far between. Same goes for the guys on the show. People coming in different shapes and flavors. 

This show features that. Real people with outlandish behavior but not completely uncommon.  Taboo. Yes. Weird. Yes. Fun. Yes!  

RJ: What is your favorite scene in what season?

AMM: My favorite scenes are with Piper. I really love when she is getting ready for Polly’s wedding.  

I also love every scene with Kas. He’s gorgeous so any chance to touch him made me so happy.  #butterflies 

Fave scene I was not in Anthony/Horatio scene spoofing Baby Jane. But cha are Blanche. Cha are!

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