Skin Deep the Series

kaos talks exclusively to Skin Deep the Series creator David Summers.

||| Let's kick off with "Skin Deep the Series" - what's it all about?

In a nut shell, the shows about six gay men, three black, three white who struggle with their experiences and understanding of race culture and sexuality while living in Atlanta, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. Since Atlanta's gay population is primarily from the Black and White communities, and since that is where the majority of racial tension have been historically, we begin there. The other cultures which are very important will be introduced as the show progresses.

||| What was the inspiration for the show?

This has been a process of steps and experiences over the past fifteen years of living in ATL, and my personal experiences of the last twenty-five years or so. But if you want something specific, I can say it was due to an observation when we travelled. "We," meaning my husband Chuck and I. It became apparent we would see more interracial gay couples as we travelled to other cities than we see living here. So I wondered, with a city the size of ATL and the large gay population of black and white guys, why were there so few. So I pondered the thought. I discussed it with others, and the more I talked the more thoughts and feelings began to flow. I found there was a lot of emotion about the subject that everyone seemed to be afraid to discuss on record. So I wanted to find a way to generate an open discussion on why the gay community is so segregated, but especially here in the ATL.

A book was too limiting, a movie didn't allow for proper and lengthy character development, a documentary was out of the question because people didn't want to express their personal feelings on film, and I was not going to create another reality show were people just behave badlyand make fools of themselves. So I thought a scripted TV series was probably the best route to go. I had conversation with some friends in the business who confirmed my thoughts. I then began a development process for ideas, characters, storyline etc. I decided to started with focus groups. My feeling was that I must get the absolute truth from the people who attended, therefore it must be in a comfortable environment. So I decided to hold three separate groups. One with black and white guys who were comfortable with dating outside their race, one with only black guys and one with only white guys. I did not attend the all black group, being a white guy I would have been an obstacle to the truth.

And so it began. I received fantastic information that helped format the show. characters and story line. I continued to interview anyone who wished to be interviewed. My total is now about 150 or so.

||| That's incredible. So your series really is "about something" - a contrast to the sort of gay scripted series we've seen in the past. Is Atlanta really that polarised, compared to other major US cities?

Yes this is really about something. And I will be recreating major events that occurred here in the city that will be very controversial, but true.

And yes the city really is that polarized. I am not saying that this doesn't exist in other cities, I am not that misinformed or naive. But in comparison, yes. Especially for the size of the city.

And I have interviewed men who moved here or visit often from other cities and they can't believe it, the energy or consciousness of the city. "You can just feel it", they say. This is from guys who have attractions for men outside their own race.

||| That's intriguing. The view from the UK is that interracial relationships in the US are really frowned upon, and there's a very vocal section of the black gay community that's actively opposed to them - something that's really apparent online, with the dialogue on sites like BGCLive and Rod 2.0. What are your thoughts on that?

I would agree. I have seen and heard comments and felt the energy from the black and white community. But the show is not about picking sides, far from it. This is merely showing the lives of six men who have different interpretations of attractions and how they live those attractions out. We are then lead down a path of challenges, successes, and failures in love and acceptance of others.

I hope to generate conversation between members of our community to open doors of understanding. There are so many untruths out there, and I hope to clear them up.

I on the other side of that, I will be showing that even though there are men who may frown upon interracial dating/sex/relationships. There are a good number of men who do it in secret.

I have been the "experiment" of a few black guys myself. Things like, "I've never been with a white guy before, wanna check it out" or "Oh and by the way, don't tell anybody we messed around". Those sort of comments. I never took offense to them. It sort of turned me on to be some guys first. But I also know there are a good proportion of white guys who fantasize or secretly play with guys outside their race.

There are fears of friends turning on them, or being pigeon holed into thinking that if you date one guy outside your race then that means you don't like guys who are within your race. To me, and hot man is a hot man is a hot man! Using skin tone to determine who you speak to or play with or date is a question I plan to propose in the show. And that goes for black guys who only date with other black guys who are light skin as an example.

||| That's a great point -  there's one particular celebrity in the black gay community who's had some success with his screen work, where he only depicts black-on-black relationships. But he also dates white men, "on the down low..." That's the kind of hypocrisy that's mind-boggling - the racial separatists who condemn interracial relationships, whilst putting light-skin and mixed race peeps on a pedestal. One of the refreshing things in the "SDTS" trailer - the way you flipped the convention of the white guy experimenting with being with a black guy.

What sort of reaction have you had to the trailer so far?

Very very very positive. 97% of the comments are great. People really are hungry for a gay drama. and this is ground breaking in so many ways. Casting is balanced, story's are real, men are masculine, breaking stereotypes. However some stereotypes are hard to avoid if you want to keepthe show real.

||| It's been a long time coming. Were you a fan of shows like "Queer As Folk" and "Noah's Arc"?

I watched them, but I recognized that there was much more that could be done. The shows had their purpose and were successful, in addition paved the way for others. So I must give them props for that. Now to be clear when I say that SDTS is a culmination of Noah's Arc, and Queer as Folk, I refer to that for casting only. Not for style or story line. The movie Crash obviously is the portrayal of the race and culture element and also the fact that none of the characters know one another, just like in SDTS. The characters live different lives in different universes.

I wanted to get away from the same formula of four, five or six friends who all hang together, eat together, call each other all the damn time, and sometimes sleep together. Each main character has their own core of relationships but they are all supporting roles.

And they will come and go throughout the series.

||| In other words, just like real life, rather than an artificial bubble world.

Getting back to reaction, there was a pretty unpleasant article about "SDTS" on The 360 Experiment. How did you feel about that?

It was a copycat post. The blogger just cut and pasted from another gossip blogger whose purpose was to bring down one of the actors. Nothing in the article was correct. It was gossip only. I asked the blogger from 360 to do a legitimate interview with me but of course I never heard from him. I guess that would have been too much work, its so much easier to cut and paste falsehoods. That's why I appreciate you so much. Thank you for the proper interview.

||| Ah, the joys of internet trolls, huh?

What's it going to take to get "SDTS" into production?

I am currently beginning negotiations with a company in Hollywood, as well as one in NY who has interest to to take it on. This is great news, but still a long way to go.

||| That's fantastic. Tell us a little about the man behind "SDTS"?

Me? Little ol me?

||| But of course!

I'm 55, so there is a lot to tell. I can tell you that Skin Deep The Series just didn't come out of thin air. I have twenty-five years experience in theatre and had my own company for seventeen years, wrote ten other productions and had audience totals close to if not over one million people during that seventeen years. But ask me some questions, I hate talking about myself.

||| Okay, tell us about your previous work.

Company was also called ARCH Productions (Artists Raising the consciousness of Humanity). But I organized as a Not for Profit. I was primarily working with youth who needed extra attention. Very very talented kids who were misguided or hurt in life and were acting out, badly in some cases. So I took those kids and put them through a very powerful self observation, acting, rehearsal process that compelled them to look at themselves and take responsibility for their actions. Kids did not come out the same as when they started.

One of the most powerful steps to the program was it was kids teaching kids about behavior, and the kids on stage, the actors were the ones who usually were the perpetrators. I know that I worked kids who killed. They never admitted it, but I just knew. I saw their power, brilliance, talent and potential and turned it into something healing and transformational.

In 1994, ARCH received recognition from the Presidents Council on the Humanities as one of the top 100 companies in the country. This was under Bill Clinton.

||| That's amazing, truly inspirational - and a real life story worthy of adaptation itself! What happened to ARCH?

Well. I got burnt out. After seventeen years, I needed to find something that was going to pay better, less hours, and not as much stress. As much as I loved it, it was time to move on. So I sold it to another organization who wanted to carry on the work, but they failed and were out of biz in a year.

It pointed out to me and, gave me pride to know that not many people could do what it took to keep ARCH afloat. I was honored to have had the opportunity to serve the community in which I lived, and to have been touched by the lives of some many young people.

||| David to finish off, would you like to tell us a little about you and your husband, who you mentioned earlier?

I am in love with this man. I don't want to sound co dependent, but I couldn't do anything without him. We spend twenty-two hours a day together. Not many people can do that, and we've been together for going on thirteen years. Married in Montreal five years ago, just had our anniversary. He is bright, humble, loving, accepting, supportive, sexy, gorgeous, and other attributes you will have to use your imagination on.

||| That's beautiful, and a great foundation to build "SDTS" on!

He also was crucial in my writing process. I would write a scene and he would critic it, spell check it etc. He was/is a very big part of my life and of this show. He just doesn't like to do interviews. He will be part of the production team when its picked up.

||| David, thank you so much for talking to kaos today. I for one can't wait for a full series of a "Skin Deep the Series".

Thank you so much for the opportunity.

||| Skin Deep the Series - Official Site.

||| Visit Skin Deep the Series on Facebook.

||| Watch the trailer:


John G said...

A very interesting & excellent interview, thank you - & a vivid illustration of what lies behind 'post-racial' America. I was struck by how unwilling (black & white gay) people were to publicly commit to expressing any views of race, attraction & interaction, & Skin Deep the Series has the potential to be quite a radical intervention. I hope Mr Summers manages to get it made, tho I'm afraid the depth of people's uneasiness with the subject will surely make it a challenge to raise the money.

David Summers

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