Boss & Co’s Gwenlyn Cumyn and Karen Knox stars on their award-winning series, BARBELLE, with season one boasting over four million views. This colorful show explores the relationship between pop-star duo, Alice O’Hara and Veronica Vale and their public relationships– both professional and romantic. Watch the show now on KINDAtv’s YouTube channel and read our interview below!
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Gwenlyn and Karen! Tell us about your show, BARBELLE, and about the characters you play. What was the inspiration behind the show and Veronica and Alice?
We like to describe BARBELLE as the Gay Soap Opera of your dreams with good jokes, or if you prefer, a woke lesbian Spiceworld for 2019. The show is a short form digital series, and Season Two JUST started airing! You can watch it on Shaftesbury’s YouTube channel KINDAtv. The Series was inspired mostly by a drive to create a show that we (Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn) would have wanted to watch as teenage girls! There simply wasn’t representation for queer women that was hitting the mark in terms of quality TV shows. SO… We decided to make one!
The series is a lot of fun to watch– how was the tone and look for Veronica and Alice created? What is your favorite thing about the BARBELLE pop star looks and personalities?
We worked with some pretty magical people to realize the style for Veronica and Alice. Our wardrobe team on season one (Inez Genereux, Olivia Marshman) and season two (Inez Genereux, Amy Blaxland) are creative geniuses. We spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at images of Kristen Stewart and K-Pop stars and landed somewhere in the middle I think? Inez, told me their style inspiration celebs for season two were a few of the following (but of course no limited to!) Kris Wu, Nats Getty, and Paris Hilton.
What should people look forward to in season two of BARBELLE?
Well, not to let the cat out of the bag TOO MUCH, but we’re extremely excited about one of the episodes that is essentially an homage to the gay reality tv show masterpiece “The Real L Word.” With this season we played around with form a little bit more. We didn’t want the tone to sit in one place for the entire season, so fans can expect a real rollercoaster of emotions paired with some hilarious over the top queer iconic parody. Also, there is an EPIC animated sequence, and a musical theatre style number to look forward to!
The show explores feminism, the adversity of women– and in this case, queer women– in the music industry. Why do you feel this representation is so important and what do you hope viewers will take away from watching the show?
Women have a ROUGH go in the music industry when it comes to gender discrimination. Over the last five years, a startling 90 percent of Grammy nominees have been male and about nine per cent have been women. The Canadian Junos aren’t much better. These are pretty depressing statistics. We wanted to showcase a world in BARBELLE where female musicians are thriving in their careers, in spite of the massive industry hurdles put in front of them.
When it comes to the internet and the digital world of social media, public personalities have become such a norm. BARBELLE touches on this and how it affects your characters’ relationships. What was it like realistically navigating the emotional impact of social media on these women for the show?
We definitely wanted to look at the idea of “polished vs unpolished” content on social media. There’s been a trend in the past couple of years for people to be a little more “candid” on social platforms with their content. Lot’s of celebrities will publish slice-of-life stuff where they aren’t all glammed up. It gives a window into their lives that contextualizes that “they’re just people too.” The comments section is another chestnut we wanted to crack in this season. On whatever platform, celebrities are subject to BRUTAL and unmitigated opinions from anyone with a wifi signal. It’s pretty amazing how you can scroll past dozens even hundreds of compliments on a post and then see ONE negative thing, and that will be the comment that stays with you.
We’re conditioned as human beings to remember painful experiences so that we avoid them in the future (thank you Darwinian evolution), but being a forest creature learning not to eat poison mushrooms, doesn’t help you when you’re trying to avoid looking at the YouTube comments section after a few cocktails.
What has been the best part about working on this show for you? Any favorite moments?
Our cast and crew. So many talented human beings! On our last day of shooting we all had a big family meal together. It was like Gay Thanksgiving and it was BEAUTIFUL.
What kind of advice would you give creatives like you who want to represent themselves on screen and want to produce their own work?
If you are undertaking a massive endeavour like making a series or writing a feature, don’t let the big picture overwhelm you. When you wake up, just ask yourself, what can I do TODAY, literally JUST TODAY that will help me get my series made. The Big picture can be crippling if you let it dominate your trajectory.
If you could pick one super power, which would it be? Would you become a super hero or a super villain?
Gwenlyn: A mind reading superhero. I think I could handle it.
Karen: I’d wanna be a double agent. Appearing like a baddie, SUFFERING FOR THE CAUSE, but ultimately fighting for the good guys. How’s that for a hero complex?
Visit Boss & Co’s website at www.bossandcofilms.com.