On July 21, we will release ‘Stray’, a bromantic comedy series in which Jay, a brash gay dude, and Rich, a nerdy straight guy, talk sex and relationships while reconnecting in New York City years after college. We recently sat down with creator and writer Pablo Andreu to discuss ‘Stray’:
A quick perusal of gay pop culture websites and social media and its clear that gays have a fascination–if not fetish-like obsession–with straight, “bro” culture, yet there is scant evidence of the reverse, aside from homophobia. We always thought us gays were the curious ones when it comes to mos vs. bros, not the straight guys, so when we heard about “Stray”, we assumed the show was created by a gay guy, but you’re straight! What inspired you to create a show about a mo-bro friendship?
Personal experience. The show is largely informed by a close friendship of mine, and I didn’t see anything out there that quite represented the dynamic my friend and I have (even though he and I are quite unlike the main characters on the show). Some shows represent and cater to gay men, and some shows –”mainstream” shows, whatever that is anymore – tend to default to tokenism when incorporating gay characters. I didn’t see a show in which a pair of male friends joke with each other, pick on each other, posture and share thoughts on sex and attraction, where sexual orientation is at once topical and incidental to the friendship.
When I was growing up, straight guys were a lot more uptight than we are today. Homophobia was a lot more common even in cities that tend to be more accepting and forward thinking. Today, at least in those same cities, most straight guys are pretty open-minded, but there’s still a certain level of ignorance and – dare I say it? – privilege. The show attempts to find humor in that well-meaning cluelessness.
What is refreshing about the show is that you’ve eschewed stereotypical characters. Instead of a battle of clichés, you’ve given us a more realistic conversation between a swaggering bro-ish gay dude and a not-so-bro-ish, mild-mannered straight guy, which makes the show far more interesting. Clearly, this was on purpose, as it would have been so obvious to do the obvious. Tell us what you were thinking.
I wanted to do a couple of things: Strip away stereotypes, as you mentioned, and poke fun at the insecurities and hysteria that straight guys exhibit about their perceived masculinity (or lack thereof). As such, Jay had to be an unrepentantly in-your-face character to be able to tease out that insecurity virtually at will. Essentially, Jay bullies Rich, mostly for his own amusement (he’s no hero), although it does serve to inadvertently force Rich to confront some of his peccadilloes and assumptions. Without giving away too much, Rich will also help Jay make some of his own discoveries as the show progresses. Rich can’t be totally useless!
In your hilarious “Diary of a Web Series” chronicling the making of “Stray” on Tubefilter, you wonder if you just cast a younger version of yourself as Rich, the straight guy in show, who, as your girlfriend pointed out, resembles you. Do the conversations between Rich and Jay also resemble those you’ve had with a gay friend in real life?
As I said, the show is informed by a close friendship I have, but the conversations in the show are not based on actual conversations my friend and I have had. One of the episodes, however, is sort of based on a series of conversations I had with my sister when I was a teenager. The episode in question is “Hot or Not,” in which Rich refuses to admit he can tell if another man is attractive. I had similar discussions with my sister when I was in high school in which I stubbornly made the same assertion. In retrospect, I can acknowledge it for what it was: fear of being perceived as unmanly.
There is one episode in the next season, however, that pretty closely resembles something that happened in real life. I went to two gay bars with my friend, one quite different from the other. Without giving away too much, Rich follows a similar path.
In creating “Stray”, whom were you writing for? Curious straight guys? Curious gay guys? Who did you think would be your core audience? Who are your “Stray” fans? Break down the demographics, if you got ‘em.
I honestly didn’t know. The dynamic between the two main characters made me chuckle, so I figured I’d keep writing until I stopped chuckling. That’s how I always write: I get an idea that interests or amuses me, and I get going. I don’t think about demos and target audiences until afterward, which I’m sure is not the most effective way to go about it, but I find that my writing struggles if I saddle it with the marketing stuff during that process.
From a media standpoint, gay-themed blogs and publications have gravitated toward the show. I wouldn’t necessarily characterize STRAY as a gay-themed show, but I’m happy gay blogs and viewers have been responding well to the show.
More anecdotally, straight guys seem to be responding well to it too, but I have less evidence to support that claim.
I’m still gathering intel.
“Stray” is funny and frank, but also points out an overlooked and occasionally commented on truth that there are loads of gay guys out there who have much more in common with straight men than they do with straight women. Do you think this would surprise straight guys? (Hint: “Stray” is the perfect ice-breaking promo—or excuse—for a Mos & Bros Meet-Up.)
I think that’s spot on. Desire and attraction manifest quite similarly in gay guys and straight guys. The object of attraction just happens to be different.
I’m not sure how many straight guys that would surprise in New York, where I’m based, but it may surprise a fair bit of straight guys in the part of New Jersey where I grew up. I think there’s still broad swathes of straight guys out there who effeminize gay men in their heads. That’s partly why it was important for Jay to be the more traditionally masculine character on the show.