When you weave in honest and hilarious storytelling about polyamory and showcase a cavalcade of stunning drag performers throughout it, it is no surprise that Frank Arthur Smith’s OPEN TO IT was chosen as an official part of the OUTFEST 2022 lineup! Smith (who also is one half of the gay writer couple from Netflix’s Tidying Up With Marie Kondo) has created a sex positive web series that showcases truly what it means to be “open”.Representation remains crucial, and that could not be more true on OPEN TO IT, with the show boasting a 50% female, 50% BIPOC, 67% queer cast and crew. I sat down to chat with Smith and he gave me a peek into the creation of OPEN TO IT, what it was like working with drag superstars, and his own roots in LGBTQ advocacy.
Michael Cook: Tell me about your fantastic new web series OPEN TO IT & the story behind it.
Frank Arthur Smith: OPEN TO IT is about a loving gay couple, played by Tim Wardell and me, who experiment with becoming a hot gay throuple, the third being played by Jason Caceres. But threesome sex and open relationships come with more complications than limbs! As to the story behind it: I’ve watched a number of excellent queer webseries over the years, and polyamory is consistently portrayed as this downtrodden, apocalyptic relationship format. I wanted to make a show with a more upbeat, joyous take on non-monogamy. The queer experience is vast, and we deserve to showcase more than one perspective on the topic (especially because having multiple partners is not wholly exclusive to our community!).
MC: You’re working with some legendary Drag Race performers on OPEN TO IT. Why was it crucial to include these particular queens and what was the experience like?
FAS: Drag queens are at the forefront of cultural movements. Drag is joy, drag is art, and drag is political. I knew that uniting these tremendous performers with our message of radical acceptance and sex positivity would create an entertaining, and informative piece worthy of notice. And honestly, they could not have been nicer, more talented, or more professional. People say don’t meet your heroes, but I feel so fortunate to have met, and worked with, some of my beloved queeroes and sheroes
MC: What made you choose these queens in particular? Any dream queens you would love to work with and any particular kinds of roles?
FAS: Laganja Estranja has such excellent comedic timing, and honestly, I wrote the show while watching her “Physical” lip sync on loop, so seeing her dance up close and personal was a dream come true. Pandora Boxx is an outstanding actress and melted right into the role of Laganja’s drag-mother. Also, just a very sweet person to be around. Manila Luzon is HILARIOUS and absolutely goes for it every time. Her husband Michael was also a very positive addition to set. And Honey Davenport! When she showed up in that towering yellow wig, I was over the moonl I ruined a few takes laughing out loud at several of her acting choices. Also want to give a shout out to my publicist Matt Rivera who is an actor as well, and played a drag queen in Ep 6! Quite the gayvengers we’ve assembled here.
Dream queens. I mean…am I allowed to say RuPaul? She could play a wonderfully unforgiving drag maven for the character of my boyfriend, Cam, played by Tim Wardell. My real-life boyfriend was in a short of Trixie Mattel’s, and I would love to return the favor and cast her in OPEN TO IT! I could see her being someone who’s very much done with drag, but onstage, she nails it. Just couldn’t be more over it offstage, and in her everyday life. I’d love to work with Katya as well, a) because she’s hysterical, and b) we’re both from Boston. A drag queen trying to sabotage Cam feels right for what she can do. Got to use her Russian villain status for comedic effect! Last, Pangina Heals I am OBSESSED with after watching UK vs. the World. What a dream it would be to work with such a talented, consummate professional. I’d love it if Pangina could play a drag queen family member of one of the main cast, surprising them with the reveal of being a queen. Truly, there are too many fantastic drag actors.
MC: How did Boston shape some of your own queer sensibilities?
FAS: My uncle was a gay rights activist in Boston in the 1990s. He had a queer radio program, One in Ten where he spoke to LGBTQIA+ issues of the day. At Boston Pride, his show would always draw a young crowd, rockstar-style. Queer kids, sure, but straight kids, too, who loved his program, felt for their queer peers, and wanted to be allies. While I went away for college and didn’t experience much of Boston’s gay nightlife, I am so influenced by my uncle and his positive work, that Boston always feels like a place where good gay work can and should be done.
MC: What was it like writing for Raven’s Home, which was getting a great deal of attention due to Raven-Symoné herself embracing her true self?
FAS: A lot of the writers had come from difficult workplaces, and by contrast, the experience of working on this show was so healing, that I jokingly called the show “Raven’s Home for Broken Birds.” It truly was a wonderful team of people who cared about children, and the content they were creating for them. Being around Raven, who was so comfortable being herself, made the experience all the more rewarding. I hope Disney features more and more openly queer characters living as their authentic selves. And the writers remain wonderful friends and supporters to this day! Almost everyone has seen OPEN TO IT, and said nice things – to my face and behind my back!
MC: What inspires you the most to keep writing intelligent and well-thought out queer stories?
FAS: So few people get to tell them! My fondest hope is that the issues OPEN TO IT explores are passé 10 years from now. It would be the greatest honor to influence the next generation of storytellers, and swiftly become irrelevant.
MC: Let’s manifest; what story would you love to tell and what performers would you love to work with?
I would love to tell the story of SECOND GENERATION, my feature drama about an Indian American family that’s a mix of Ordinary People and Bend It Like Beckham. If I could work with the likes of Priyanka Chopra, Archie Panjabi, Rizwan Manji, Omar Maskati, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, and Dev Patel…what a lucky person I would be.
MC: What is giving you the most pride right now?
FAS: Gen Z! The way they fight for what they believe in, and support one another. The way they perceive gender and sexuality in a more nuanced way. The way they want to make life easier for others, not harder. I’m inspired and encouraged by what this world will look like under their leadership.
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