Culture Film & TV

Exclusive interview: ‘EastSiders’ creator and star Kit Williamson

Eastsiders creator Kit Williamson talks about creating the fan-favourite web series.

The final season of the critically-acclaimed, cult web series, EastSiders, will return to Netflix this summer. The inclusive relationship drama, starring the real life married team of Williamson and husband John Halbach, alongside Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu and Van Hansis (as Williamson’s on-screen partner Thom) has garnered an audience of loyal fans for its embrace of issue-driven storytelling, like substance abuse and infidelity. Fans instantly fell in love with Cal (Williamson) and Thom’s relationship, so much so, that the series only exists through Kickstarter fan funding. Williamson recalls his journey from frustrated student filmmaker to crafting this final season. 

The chemistry between the actors really comes through, how did you cast the first  series? 

Kit: I wrote most of the parts for my friends to play. John and I had been a couple for about four years and I met Constance Wu and Brea Grant in an acting class shortly after moving to Los Angeles. The only parts I really had to cast were Thom and Jeremy. It wasn’t an easy process, because we didn’t have money for a casting director and it’s hard to get seasoned actors to take your projects seriously when you’re first starting out.

We also had difficulty because of the subject matter—I had initially cast a straight friend who got cold feet about playing gay and bailed the night before we were supposed to shoot. Ultimately, it worked out for the best. But we’re not friends any more. We got really lucky finding Van Hansis and Matthew McKelligon. My acting coach introduced me to Van and we met Matt through an open call. 

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Wu (left), Halbach (right). Credit: Huffington Post 

When you studied film, theatre and television, did you have a lot of experience making films in college or did you mostly teach yourself?

I had a lot of experience acting in student films and micro budget projects that never saw the light of day. I found the experience incredibly frustrating: too often amateur directors would come in not knowing what they want, get 100 unnecessary shots for a scene that only needs four, waste everyone’s time and have no idea what to do in post-production. I had the distinct sense that people were over-complicating things. I didn’t consider myself a director, so I wasn’t precious about it. I guess I learned from their mistakes. 

What is your advice to student film makers looking to get started in the industry?

Just start making things. It’s the best education. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t be afraid to fail—you almost certainly will fail before you succeed. EastSiders wasn’t my first attempt at making something!

You and your husband John, both act and produce the series, is it hard working so closely alongside your husband? 

It can be, because we bring work home with us. Literally, we shoot the show in our apartment! But we’re a great team and it’s brought us even closer. 

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Williamson (right) with husband John Halbach. Credit: Xochitl Pena/ The Desert Sun

A common cliché is write what you know, how much of the series is based on truth? 

Not as much as people think. 

Parts of the States can be behind with a lot of topics like abortion and gun laws, would you say there is still a big problem with homophobia in the states?

For sure. But I think a lot of people from outside the states don’t understand that we’re more like the EU than a single country. I’m from Mississippi, and I feel like an expatriate living in California.

Eastsiders has come along way since series one, but have you had a favourite series to film?

Anything with Traci Lords!

Eastsiders is obviously massive across the states, how aware are you of a fan base in the UK?

I’ve definitely felt some love from the U.K. online but I’ve sadly not yet had the opportunity to go! If a festival or school wanted to bring me out I’d jump at the chance. 

What is your favourite memory from filming? 

Getting snowed out of Yellowstone shooting the road trip in season three, but getting amazing shots in the mountains anyway.

There is more and more LGBTQ+ content being made but when you were growing up, could you see yourself reflected in mainstream culture?  

There were just a handful [of films] that I could find at the local video store—and I would devour everything I could get my hands on.

Do you think it’s better now?  

There’s still work to do, but it’s amazing how far we’ve come in my lifetime. 

Series one to three of EastSiders is available on Netflix now; catch up before the final season comes this summer. 

 

 

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