Engaging And Relatable Web Series Has Us Clicking Voraciously For Season 2

There are so many web series out there that try to make gay life leap out through your device and into your hearts.  Some are very narrowly focused and cannot entertain a varied demographic, while others try to mix in too many sub plots but in doing so, just forces us to lose interest.  Give me something that I can jump into, something that pulls me in, something that makes me laugh and want to see more. 

Enter “Kissing Walls.”  Let’s have a look-see at the season 2 trailer. 

After that flash of what is to come, we’re hooked! 

We’ll get to see the 6-episode second season premiering on Open TV August 2nd, after its successful screening at Frameline Festival this past June.  DON”T WORRY!  Open TV is a free place to head over to and view as much as you want, not like one of those sites we have to pay to see funny things.  I may camp out at Open TV for a bit and look around.  Season 1 of “Kissing Walls” is there or you can head over to the Kissing Walls YouTube channel to see the first season (3 episodes).

Kissing Walls is a series that explores the romantic comedy/dramedy genre through a queer lens, with queer characters of color at the forefront of the narrative. This modern, refreshing coming-of-age episodic is told through a distinctly queer, Black lens.

The show follows two main characters: Cameron (played by Zak Payne, series’ show-runner, producer, writer, and director) the hopeless romantic and aspiring writer who lives with his best friend James (played by co-producer Nathaniel Tenenbaum), a once-promising singer who finds himself performing for empty rooms with his solo band, Pretty + the Man.

Payne on giving new life to Chicago-set romantic comedies:

The story takes place in Chicago, which remains forever captured in many beloved American rom-coms: My Best Friend’s Wedding, About Last Night, High Fidelity, and While You Were Sleeping, to name a few classics. Love is never simple in these films, and Kissing Walls follows this particular genre trope without flinching. Love has never been simple, and it seems to have only developed more complications with our ever-evolving dating infrastructure— the queer community leading the way in innovation as usual. It’s an entirely different landscape today than what could have been.

Tenebaum on being a black gay bear who’s not just cast for “comic relief”:

Our show really showcases a character who not only is based on me, but also looked like me, involved in real relationships and having a real sex life and wasn’t just comic relief or there to give advice to a white lead. I felt seen and I immediately wanted to portray that on film so that other folks can feel seen.

I fell in love with both personalities, the comedy, the realness.  I could relate to them and the live they were portraying.  As for the … have we seen these guys before … you may remember Mr. Tenenbaum from when Vine was a hot thing and his “Who you finna try CAPSCAPSCAPS” (WARNING!  it’s looped for 5 minutes but hilarious).

We’re definitely going to grope around the internet for season 2. If the other parts of the web series are anything like the season 2 trailer, we cannot wait!  For more information on the show as well as the minds behind the stories and the faces in front of the camera, here are interviews with both Zak Payne and Nathaniel Tenenbaum.

 

Zak Payne

Q&A with Zak Payne

What has been your creative journey as an artist/maker?

I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker ever since I knew that was a job a person could have. I was always a daydreamer, holding stories in my head— coming back to the same characters and plots, mentally editing scenes. My childhood coincided with the advent of the DVD, so I had access to all the special behind-the-scenes features. I would constantly watch movies with the director’s commentary.

I grew up outside of Phoenix, AZ. I thought I would move to Los Angeles after college, but after visiting Chicago with some friends I totally fell in love with the city—it seemed like a place that would inspire me artistically in a way that sunshine and palm trees couldn’t.

I’ve lived in Chicago for the past 5 years— it’s been home for the majority of my 20s. It’s the place where I grew up, or I guess the place where I’m currently growing up. I’m so thankful for the city for my most formative years—the place where I’m “finding myself.” As queer person, as a biracial person with a black father and a white mother, I’m constantly in the process of figuring out identity. And now I’m figuring out my identity as an artist/filmmaker.

What inspired you to create/take part in this project?

I fell in love with my life when I moved to Chicago. I loved the city and my friends, and I want to translate all of it to the screen. Everyone always says to write what you know and I was thankful that what I knew wasn’t in mainstream television. What developed was a romantic-dramedy.

What is your intention as a creative?

I find myself creating increasingly personal work as I move forward with my career. The more often I’m able to dip into my own well of experiences, the more likely I’m able to capture something authentic on screen, with the hope that what ends up on screen resonates with audiences. I want to create the television and films that I so desperately sought out as an adolescent— hungry for representation and a clearer sense of identity. I want to continue to do work that remains specifically me— specifically Zak Payne!

What has the creative process been like in making Kissing Walls?

It has been a very vulnerable process from story development to post-production. From the very beginning I knew this series was nothing without a sense of authenticity, and this required an immense amount of vulnerability. And then for close to 2 years I’ve had to watch myself in the editing process. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know I could be directing mayonnaise commercials somewhere, but instead I get to pour myself into something very personal and develop my voice as an artist.

What do you hope people take away from this series?

I hope people walk away with a feeling of being seen— there’s always that moment I have with a piece of art, whether it’s theater, or a book, or a film, and I think to myself: they get me, I feel seen. I hope there are people out there who watch the series and feel a little less alone in the world. They can see characters on screen that not only look like them, but also share many of life’s struggles— with romance, or body image, or career ambitions…

What themes of the series come from real life experiences?

Friendship is an important theme within the series, and it mirrors the real-life friendship between Nathaniel and I. Deep friendships have always been at the center of LGBTQ lives, where friends become our chosen family and the most important relationships in our lives. Nathaniel and I refer to each other as sisters, and I can’t imagine the process of creating this series without him by my side, pulling me away from the metaphorical ledge.

What can we expect from the new season?

It’s just all around a much bigger season than the first. We shot all of season 1 in my apartment over a weekend (except for the one opening scene at O’hare airport). But with the newest season we were able to explore more of Chicago—meet-cutes in flower shops and on trains, confrontations on rooftops, romantic strolls downtown, all shot beautifully once again by our cinematographer, Mike Weldon. This season dives deeper into the lives of the characters we introduced in the first season. For example, with James, we were only able to briefly touch on the fact that his character was a performer. We had filmed Nathaniel sitting at the piano and recreating a song that he originated on Vine, “Everybody Gets Tired, but specifically today I’m just tired of you. FU—!” But with this season, his career takes on a much larger part of his story, culminating in a very fantastic cover of an Annie Lennox song. We also see an expansion on Cameron’s character and his career ambitions as a writer, which culminates in a rather embarrassing scene between him and a high-profile magazine editor-in-chief (who also happens to be 17).


Nathaniel Tenenbaum

Q&A with Nathaniel Tenenbaum

What has been your creative journey as an artist/maker?

I’ve been creating since I can remember, whether it was routines in my living room, or forcing my cousins to sing backup for me, or firing my sister from sketches as a 8 year old because her performance wasn’t “believable enough.” I think I’m still that same kid, just with a bank account and resources to make everything I dreamed about a reality. I think one big difference and that has happened within the last 4 months is, because I’m starting out a bit later than I’d like, I’m slowly shedding my impostor syndrome and really stepping into my abilities and not apologizing for anything I create, trusting my intent and my powers and abilities to just freely create.

What inspired you to create/take part in this project?

Well apart from the character “James” being based on me, I think what really sparked it was the fact that the show really showcased a character who not only was me, but also looked like me, involved in like real relationships and having a real sex life and wasn’t just comic relief or there to give advice to a white lead. I felt seen and I immediately wanted to portray that on film so that other folks can feel seen, all layers. Also Zak is truly brilliant and we’re simpatico on so many levels so it was just a given. “Why not us?” is the ongoing theme in my head whenever I think “People aren’t going to respond to my body type in a sex scene, or making out on camera, or even having the show follow my story line for more than 3 minutes at time” Why not us? Why not me? I think it’s time, past time.

What is your intention as a creative?

Honestly the LGBTQ+ community still has a lot of segregation among itself and it’s disheartening when we find this parameters within our community. That’s my entire motive, bringing awareness to that fact and really spurring change to TRULY be all inclusive across all boards. There is no “right” way to look, speak, fuck, kiss on screen, or on stage. My goal is for normalization of our personal norms, and that one day in the arts for it to no longer be shocking to see people of all existences in leading roles. Did you feel something by this particular performance? Good, then the actor has done their job, doesn’t matter what they look like. I also want to dismantle how we as a species ingest the concept of “Celebrity” but I’ll save that for another panel lol!

What has the creative process been like in making Kissing Walls?

EYE OPENING to say the least. I think when Zak and I started down this road with Kissing Walls we had no idea what we were doing. We had raw talent, an eye and a credit card. We’re flying this plane with one hand on the wheel and the other grasping a “how to” manual and it’s been hysterical, terrifying and exhilarating simultaneously. It’s a very surreal and proud moment to see things successfully go from your head to the page and then in real life, it’s almost spiritual. If you aren’t careful it could kinda give you a g-d complex for sure, it’s a powerful thing but also very humbling. I’m excited to take the process to the next level.

What do you hope people take away from this series?

I truly hope our message of “Let’s see what happens when we follow traditionally secondary characters for an entire series” comes across, Our stories as queer poc’s are so nuanced and full that there’s no one more qualified to give the world a peek into what it’s like than us. That it can still have all the flair of a Reese rom com or a David Lynch series, having our identities at the forefront isn’t the exception it should be part of the rules in fact there just shouldn’t be rules. Do what you want, it’s art. I’m hoping that comes across, that there’s no rubric, just pure creation.

What themes of the series come from real life experience?

From season 1 a lot of dating experiences are derived from real life experiences, as well as the “meet cute” in season 2. A lot of the arguments are verbatim… that’s all I’ll say without divulging too much haha! Let’s just say i’m sure Zak and I will have a couple emails from exes in our inboxes after the premiere (they should know better though.)

What can we expect from the new season?

Get ready to really TRULY be introduced to James and Cameron. Season one was a little peek but I think we really get to explore James and Cams relationship with each other and their insecurities and their love lives, you’re catching them in their “hustle” phase, broke but hopeful phase! No one has anything figured out and no one feels like a real adult despite legally being adults… We’re headed into a big transition and this is the start for both characters. It’s a ramp up in the best possible way, a “you should get used to seeing these faces” sort of thing.

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