Thursday, December 23, 2010

A QNY Interview With Joel Derfner

By West Village Bill

After Joel Derfner commented on my post about Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, the docu-reality TV show he's appearing in on the Sundance Channel, Tony A. suggested I interview him for QNY. Here's the resultant Q&A: 

How did you come to be on GWLBWLB? Did you have trepidations about being on a reality-TV show? And was it hard convincing Mike to be on it?
I’m a musical-theater composer, and a guy I know from that world e-mailed me and said, Hey, I’m the executive producer of this show about the friendships between gay men and straight women; you should audition for it. So Sarah and I went and auditioned, which basically consisted of having a conversation on camera. We thought it would at the very least be good exposure for our books (she’s the author of For All the Tea in China, the story of how England stole tea from China in the greatest act of industrial espionage in history, and I’m the author of Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Happened Instead and Gay Haiku, which are about what you’d think they were about) and for my music.

It’s interesting; when we started filming, we were told, this is going to be a different kind of reality show, more documentary, less manipulated that what TV audiences are used to. But then, as far as I understand, halfway through filming, Sundance Channel got bought by people who were interested in making a more traditional reality show, so it’s been fascinating to watch the changes that have happened and are happening.

Mike was actually incredibly resentful and hated being on the show. He was willing to do it because the exposure would be good for my book and my music, and every time they filmed him he was miserable. We’ve had some good sessions with our couples therapist, though, and everything seems to have worked itself out—but he’s not watching the show.

Have you gotten to know any of the other people on the show?
Yes, but only after filming was over; we met during the photo shoot, though we’ve also had a few other Sundance-related things since then. We did a Give a Damn video for Cyndi Lauper’s foundation together—I’m so pissed, I got there just after Alan Cumming left from filming his—and one of the cast, Nathan, is a party promoter, so he threw a premiere party. The rest of the cast is really terrific, and I’m really hoping somebody releases a sex tape.

I just watched the two latest episodes.* Do you think they portrayed Sarah more accurately than the first two?
Well, I think that they backed off the jealousy issue, which I was glad to see, but they substituted for it a suggestion that the reason she’s single is that she’s in love with me—which is no more true than that she’s jealous of me. So I’ll be very interested to see how she’s portrayed in future episodes.

Can we expect to see your wedding(s) in later episodes?
Well, I don’t want to ruin the suspense, but I will say that filming preparations for the wedding made me think a lot about needing to have two. There’s a great conversation Sarah and I had that didn’t make it onto the show in which we were trying to figure out, if there were two weddings, which one was the real one and why was I having another. Luckily, I can use the ideas we came up with as material for my next book, the working title of which is Queerly Beloved: How I Tried to Destroy America With My Gay Marriage.

*I e-mailed these questions to Joel after the second week's episodes aired. The third week of shows premiered last night.

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