With the release of I’m Fine’s third and final season, everyone at Dekkoo is feeling a little bittersweet. I’m Fine was Dekkoo’s first foray into the world of original series, and we couldn’t be prouder! But all good things must come to an end, and what a way to go out! We sat down with the creator of the series, Brandon Kirby, to see if he’s really doing fine after the release of the series’ last installment.
Will you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Livonia, Michigan, and went to undergrad at Michigan State University. Shortly after graduation, I moved to L.A. in 2012 for an internship at The Hollywood Reporter. Classic L.A. move, I caught the screenwriting bug, and my career went from there. My first project was a web series I co-created with my writing partner at the time and still good friend, Jessie Katz; it was called The Exorcists, and somewhere in the bowels of YouTube, it can be found and watched. I also unfortunately star in it. The lessons learned from that project allowed me to go on and create I’m Fine.
What was your main source of inspiration for the series?
The main source of inspiration was a breakup, so a lot of the first season is based on a bad hookup I had post-breakup. Nate’s neuroses and bad decision making unfortunately mirrors my own. But once Perry Powell began to imbue Nate with his own nuances, the character evolved past any real-life touch points I had tethered the story to. Thankfully, all my actors were able to bring even more to their characters than I had anticipated, so I’m Fine as a series was quickly able to evolve beyond being semi-autobiographical despite many characters, situations, and even dialogue being pulled directly from my real life. These close ties to reality quickly dissipate by season two as the show’s storylines morphed and evolved into something greater.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the title and how you decided on it?
In college, I would say “I’m fine” in a really weird, high-pitched, obviously not-fine tone, and it became a running joke with my friends. As I was writing the first episode, the title sort of came naturally from that.
What was it like bringing other writers onto the show for the last season?
They brought a lot of new perspectives and experiences to the show. For example, in the third episode of season three, we wanted to continue exploring Jeff’s issues of identity, so Clay Pruitt tackled that episode working on a story concept from Lee Doud who plays Jeff. And for the sixth episode—written by Michael Varrati—it’s the story of two older gay men courting younger men at a bar. Varrati wanted to bring that specific perspective to the episode to put a discussion of the gay generational divide into our final season.
What was the casting process like for such a strong ensemble show?
It all started through friends and friends of friends. Perry Powell (Nate) came recommended through our Director of Photography—Andrew Ceperley—and then Lee Doud (Jeff) came through our producer—Albert Payano. From there, Brittney King (Nicole) and Richard Stokes (Andy) were also recommended through Perry, and Ulysses Morazan (Brian) came recommended through another season-one producer—Abram Cerda. As we got into season two, we brought on our amazing casting director, Leslie Wasserman, who stayed with us through the process of casting seasons two and three. She’s been an absolute godsend, and we couldn’t have successfully done our last two seasons without her!
How does it feel to have seen these characters grow from season one to season three?
It’s been a really wild experience seeing how much they’ve grown. I think each character goes on a relatable journey of self discovery, and the direction these characters take is largely owed to the actors bringing them to life. Thanks to them, the characters have gone places I never expected.
Throughout the series, there was an emphasis not only on romantic relationships but on platonic ones and ones where the lines blurred a little as well. Why did you decide to showcase this broad spectrum of relationships?
Since the show’s starting-off point was a breakup, my goal was to not entirely focus on romantic relationships. As the series began, I was much more interested in exploring gay male relationships—namely friendships—that sometimes enter the gray area of more than friends. I think that’s something so specific to gay men where if you’re friends, there’s always the possibility that one person might see the other as something more. And that’s where Nate and Jeff find their friendship headed in season two, and then they have to walk it back, deal with the falling out of one of them having feelings, and then land back in the realm of friendship.
What would 15-year-old Brandon Kirby say about seeing something like I’m Fine on screen?
He would be shocked because 15-year-old me didn’t even have moving to L.A. on his radar. To see that his future self wrote and directed a show, he would be stunned. He probably would’ve gained a lot from it.
What do you think queer viewers will gain from this series?
I want them to see themselves and know that queer stories don’t all have to be tragic. Queer characters can exist in storytelling and media by just being themselves, living their lives, and fucking things up just like any other characters they might see in media.
What’s the main message you’d like your readers to walk away with after seeing I’m Fine?
We’re always growing, and we’re always on a journey. As queer people, we’re always trying to find our tribe, and the journey of self-identity is forever ongoing. We’re constantly redefining ourselves, changing our paths and friendships, and that’s okay. It’s all part of growing up, and sometimes, that means growing apart. I think that’s especially true for transplants moving to new cities and even more true for queer people. It’s all about finding your people, and sometimes, you have to go through a few rounds of figuring out what you want before you can land on what truly makes you happy.
How does it feel to have completed the third and final season of the show?
It feels bittersweet. I knew season three was the time to end the series, but it’ll definitely be weird not returning to these characters. The cast and crew feels the same way, but we’ll always have the friendships and the I’m Fine family we made along the way. Personally, it feels like I’m closing the chapter on that “Nate chapter” of my life, and so it’s a timely and fitting end.
Can you tell us something that was challenging about filming the series?
Budget is always something you’re fighting against when it comes to small projects such as this. Cutting corners, calling in favors, and finding every opportunity to save money is the name of the game.
Can you share one of your favorite moments or memories on set?
On set during the filming of season three, we were shooting a nighttime pool scene, and our director—Andrew Ceperley—was setting up for the shot but wasn’t satisfied with the angle he was getting. The two characters were sitting with their feet dangling in the pool, so straight-on shots were limited since there was a body of water in front of them. But that didn’t stop Andrew from fully getting in the water to film the entire scene. He didn’t even take the time to take his jeans off, let alone his socks or shoes. It was a moment of pure dedication, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
How does it feel to have I’m Fine featured on Dekkoo?
I’m so thankful it’s on a platform like Dekkoo, dedicated to telling exclusively queer stories. I hope being on here allows the show to reach more people!
Do you have any new projects you’re currently working on?
I have a short film also starring Lee Doud (Jeff) called Is This a Date? that’s currently in post-prod and will premiere on Dekkoo either later this year or early next. I also have a queer horror short, The More the Scarier, that will land on Dekkoo this Halloween. The production company I have with Michael Varrati called June Gloom Productions also has a short, The Office is Mine, that will be hitting the festival circuit this fall. We also have many more queer horror-genre stories in the works!
Where can we find you online?