You know how people say “the kids are going to be alright”? Well, let this new Seattle-based web series be proof that the aforementioned sentiment is indeed true.
“Hetero” is a new queer series dreamed up entirely by a youth-run production company, and it just wrapped season one.
The tagline for the series is “Everyone is gay and no one dies.” Why is that so significant you ask? Well, while LGBTQ+ representation has certainly grown in the media in the past decade, the characters and stories portrayed often fall into two-dimensional tropes. If there is a gay character, they’re in a supporting role, and their whole personality is defined by being gay.
It’s a frustrating truth that the queer community faces when they look for stories that reflect their own. That’s why KJ Kieras and Bentley Eldridge made “Hetero.” The two 18-year-olds are local to the PNW, just like everyone else who’s a part of the cast, and co-directed and produced the series together. Kieras is credited as the writer and Eldridge as the director of photography.
While the first season has yet to be fully released, the cast and crew are currently fundraising for season two of the series. You can support the project by donating here.
We sat down with three members of the cast to discuss why they wanted to be a part of this project, their own high school experiences, and more.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Jubilee Lopez plays Sarai Mendez “the enigmatic and lovable lesbian in our wonderfully gay show. Witty, feisty, quick with those comebacks. Outwardly energetic, proud, and always there for her best friend Quinn. The relationship with her family is another story.”
What initially drew you to this project?
Jubilee Lopez (plays Sarai Mendez): I was really excited because it was one of the first listings I’d ever seen that was really specific about having a Hispanic woman. I truly had never seen that in the Pacific Northwest for a character role, it’s always “ethnicity open” or “POC” or just something very vague. I was really excited to have a character specifically written like that. And then also, the writing is really good. You just see so many different things on Backstage and it’s kind of hard sometimes to suss out the quality of the project, but as soon as I saw the script, I was really excited.
Adriane Watson (plays Zel Amari): When I was first talking to Kendall about it, I was just coming to terms with my sexuality. For the longest time, I thought I was an ally — as most people do — and that ended up not being the case. I think the reason I struggled with [my sexuality] for so long was because I never saw representation in the media. I never saw anyone who looked like me. And so I always distanced myself from the LGBTQ+ community because I never felt like I was part of it, because I didn’t see myself in it.
When I was first thinking about doing makeup instead of auditioning, I thought there must be other people who feel the same way I do who feel like they’re under-represented or not represented at all, and if I have an opportunity to change that, I’m going to take it. That’s why I was so interested and why I got involved with the acting portion of it.
Jonah Blue plays Cohen who is described as believing “eyeshadow is everything so is the Communist Manifesto. Dawns the trench coat in the hot sun. They’ve got the flair, the stoicism, and the Soviet anthem down to a tee. Carefree but ultimately sorrowful under the veil.”
Why is having representation like this in a TV show of such importance?
Jonah Blue (plays Cohen): I think that a lot of the time big media is trying their best to appear inclusive, and sometimes they actually do have good intentions. But often, it’s not like that in the writers’ room. It’s not like that in production and the directing. I think it’s important that you get to see it through more than just a couple of lenses and couple of views of what it means to be queer.
Adriane: I feel like a lot of the time in mainstream media when they do have a queer character, they’re always made to be the rambunctious one, the crazy one, or the one character that’s designed to be killed off. I think in this show we are still people, we still have feelings, we still are allowed to have our own emotions, and it doesn’t always have to be peak happiness or peak sorrow. There’s an in-between, there’s always a gray area with everyone, and like just fluidity in every form. And I think this show gives us the opportunity to feel like we’ve all been saying: represented in a way that suits us. Of course, there’s always room for improvement and it’s great to work with a group of people who don’t waver on their main goals of inclusivity. I really appreciate that.
Adriane Watson plays Zel Amari “the most consistent voice of reason at Far Water High. She’s dependable and responsible, the mom of the group. Not everyone follows her advice (which they certainly will regret). Sometimes she feels like she’s just in the shadows.”
What about your characters did you connect the most with? Did it change your perspective on your own high school experience?
Jubilee: Having graduated college, I was able to connect to Sarai by reliving these moments. Fundamentally, this show is about friendship and queerness — of getting back into that idea of these are the people that you spend so much time with, they know you so well and you are the most free around them.
I think Sarai can really be herself with the GSA friend group in a way that she can’t be with her family or outside of the group and other social situations. It’s so special to see someone in their element and really being able to contribute in a way that they feel really confident about. I totally relate to that, for me it was in soccer. I could just totally goof off and do whatever I wanted. That was the energy that was really fun to get back into.
Adriane: One of the things that really stuck with me is just that constant need to feel right and trying to prove that you’re smart, even when you don’t have to. I think Zel has a little bit of a control issue and when things are out of control, it seems like almost everything’s impossible. And I definitely remember feeling that in high school, I remember thinking that every inconvenience was earth-shattering because high school was all I knew. It’s great to see that even though she has those issues, she still has friends to fall back on that care for her and care about her and that’s never a question. I feel like sometimes, especially in high school, people question whether people like them or not, whether they’re worthy of respect or love. The answer is that you’re always worthy of those things and I feel that the show demonstrates that well.
What is your favorite high school movie or tv show?
Jubilee: I feel like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is just kind of iconic. Also, the way it was written is that the writer went undercover and was in fake high school for a year at least or more is so wild. But more recently — it reminds me of Hetero a lot — is “Booksmart.” I think it’s so fun and so contemporary in a way that “Fast Times at Ridgemont” is not.
Adriane: One of my favorite high school-themed TV shows is “Everybody Hates Chris.” I know it’s kind of old and we don’t support Terry Crews anymore. But I watch that and I’m reminded of my childhood because I grew up watching that.
Jonah: “10 Things I Hate About You.” I pulled as much as I could from Heath Ledger in that movie.
What song best represents your high school experience?
Jubilee: I’m gonna go with “Let Me Love You” by Mario because I had a lot of unrequited love situations in high school.
Adriane: “Hotel California.” Just the concept of purgatory — this might be negative, but I remember in high school being like this is never going to end, I’m gonna be here forever.
Jonah: Can I say something that my character would be thinking through school? I would say “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen.
Who was your favorite teacher in high school and why?
Jubilee: My high school was tiny so we called all of our teachers by their first name so I don’t even know her last name, but her name is Nicole. She was an English teacher in the English department which was very stuffy. But she was just so chill and funny and there to have a good time. I really appreciated that because that was not the department’s energy.
Adriane: Let me just say, I’m very artistically inclined and science is not my strong suit and I never attempted to make it my strong suit. When I was in his class, I was very straight up and I was like, ‘Mr. Rabanik I don’t know what’s going on, how does that serve me in my day-to-day life?’ and he understood that and I respected him.
He used to actually work with me and cared about me passing. He was a teacher where it was like, Okay, this isn’t everyone’s strong suit, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid. I feel too often the American school system teaches you that if you aren’t good at everything, then you’re good at nothing. He really worked against that and gave me the time. When I had issues with my school, whether it came to racism, or homophobia or anything like that, he was always there for me. He never tried to invalidate what I was saying, he never tried to defend people who didn’t deserve to be defended. I feel like that happens a lot in schools. I just really appreciate that man.
Jonah: Mine was Mr. Savino, my woodshop teacher in junior year. You could tell that he actually wanted to be teaching. He helped me build a case for my — this may make me seem like an egomaniac — but for an Oscar, I was trying to manifest. I still have it in my room so maybe I can fill it up someday. I remember he was like, so What’s this for? I said, Oh, it’s for an Oscar. He said alright.
You’re in high school and get to eat lunch with three fictional characters, who would they be?
Jubilee: Hermoine Granger and Mary Poppins…
Adriane: Julie Andrews from “The Princess Diaries,” Gandalf, and Kvothe from “Name of the Wind.”
Jonah: Ponyboy from “The Outsiders,” Heath Ledger from “10 Things I Hate About You,” and Paul Danno from “Little Miss Sunshine.”