I was introduced to the web series Between Women the way most people are — by an African-American lesbian friend. Online shows that cater to niche audiences almost inevitably find their audience via word-of-mouth, and this one is no exception.
That said, with over 100,000 viewers per episode, Between Women has found the kind of audience that rivals some network shows (by way of comparison, this year’s season opener for the huge hit show Mad Men debuted to just under 100,000 viewers when it aired in England). Those kinds of numbers indicate that there’s an audience hungry for the kind of content show creator Michelle Daniel delivers with Between Women.
With ten episodes available online, and more on the way, I wanted to hear what Michelle Daniel thinks of her show’s success so far, and what’s next up her sleeve for her viewers.
AfterEllen.com: You originally described your show as “Sex and the City meets The L Word and gets a tan.” Do you feel the same description applies now, or has your sense of the show evolved?
Michelle Daniel: Remembering what I said two years ago makes me chuckle now. I knew that I wanted to create something for the LGBTQI community — and at the time that description sounded catchy and relatable, something my future audience would “get” quickly. Of course when I actually wrote Season 1, it wasn’t anywhere near “Sex and the City meets The L Word.” The script, the characters, the way we film the show — it has a feel all its own. Now that it’s come to life, there really isn’t one TV show out there that compares to the series.
AE: You’ve really tackled some tough topics — from domestic violence to co-parenting to coming out — in past episodes. How do you choose which stories to tell? Which stories mean the most to you and why?
MD: I write about things I’ve experienced, and things that surround me and the people in my circles. The stories feel more real because I have gone through them and I know I’m not the only one. Domestic violence is the one topic that is particularly close to me because I grew up in a violent home. As an adult, I was also in a relationship that included both emotional abuse and physical aggression. I want people to know that they aren’t alone when it comes to serious topics. When we are going through difficult times, we tend to question life, faith, and fairness. The truth is that those things happens to people all the time, they just don’t talk about it! When people see what they’re going through on screen — whether it’s a a web series or TV show — they have a chance to engage with their own issues in a different way. Of course that could be a good or a bad thing, but for me, it’s felt like a form of cleansing. I hope that’s the way it feels for other people out there too.
Photo courtesy of Between Women
AE: The city of Atlanta almost seems to be a cast member in each episode. Is there something special about Atlanta these days in terms of the African-American LGBT experience?
MD: Atlanta is a beautiful city and we love to showcase it in our show, but I can’t say that there is something special about the African-American LGBT experience there. Of course, Atlanta itself is growing film-friendly city and we’re definitely seeing a slew of successful “out” lesbians of color here — which is refreshing.
AE: With over 100,000 views per episode on your YouTube channel, you’re clearly reaching a huge audience. Has the level of interest in the series surprised you? What kinds of reactions have you received from your viewers?
MD: If someone had told me three years ago that Between Women would be what it is today, I would have said, “You have high hopes for my TV show, huh?” I honestly can’t believe how it’s grown and how much people genuinely love the show. I receive such a variety of reactions. Some say I should make an effort to show the LGBTQI community in a better light, others thank me for showing the reality of issues that affect everyone — not just gay people. I received an email from a woman who had lost her mother because of domestic violence in a same-sex relationship — she said she had hated lesbians and couldn’t even put herself in a position to be in a relationship until she watched the show. My audience is very passionate! They send me emails if the show is one minute late, they let me know if they don’t approve of an episode, and they let me know when they love it. They give me so much support and I always love hearing what they have to say, positive OR negative. It definitely helps me to grow as an artist!
AE: You’ve said before that you created Between Women because you weren’t seeing stories on television that felt authentic to your own experience. Since then, has anything changed? Have you seen any African-American LGBT stories on mainstream television, in film or online that have inspired or impressed you?
MD: Tina Mabry is an excellent writer and did a wonderful job on Mississippi Damned. Her writing style is similar to mine. She focuses on real life issues including addiction, incest, and poverty just to name a few. Tackling those types of issues is a very hard thing to do and many filmmakers just avoid them — sticking to topics that are more popular or socially acceptable like love, faithfulness, and the “American Dream.” But people of color, and LGBTQI especially, have SO many different stories to tell! I always applaud when a writer or filmmaker takes a risk and tells a different kind of story on screen — there just aren’t enough of them.
Film and television can both be a form of therapy — they make you laugh, cry, wish, desire, and even change. When we see ourselves on film — in a way that feels real and relatable — we are able to see things from a different perspective. I still don’t see us — LGBTQI people of color — on screen often enough. Until our stories are easier to find, I’m trying to be the change and make shows/movies for people like me.
Photo courtesy of Between Women
AE: What’s next for you after this season of Between Women? Are you planning for a second season? Are there any other projects you’re working on that you’d like to tell us about?
MD: I’m currently writing Between Women Season 2, which will be released later this year, and Between Women: Unscripted which will be out this summer.
My next project is actually a play rather than a filmed series. It’s called Conversations Between Women: The BITCH FIT and it’s an exploration of 11 different topics that are normally taboo for us to discuss as women — topics ranging from sexuality and religion to gossip and jealousy. The play will be touring throughout the US.
AE: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten so far as you’ve worked to create this series? What advice would you like to give to women out there who might be considering creating a web series of their own?
MD: You’re never going to be able to please everyone, but as long as your core audience is happy, you’ve won. People will judge you and talk about you — but stand firm in your beliefs! It’s your vision and dream, not theirs. Also, I always call my mom when I need support. My mom knows how to help me get through the tough times in my career and she always gives me the best advice!
AE: Anything else you’d like to add?
MD: I’d like to thank everyone who has invested time and money into my vision. Be the change that you want to see in the world!
There will be a Season Finale Red Carpet Screening on Tuesday, May 29 in Atlanta at The Artmore Hotel, and tickets are still available. Check out the flyer below for all the details.
Photo courtesy of Between Women