We first told you about the adorable Canadian web series Out With Dad six years ago. Well it’s been chugging along since then and we were lucky enough to snag an invite onset as they shot for Season 4 in Toronto. What follows are some spoilery photos and an in-depth conversation with series creator Jason Leaver. We discussed the series’ origins, its success, what’s going on with Season 4 and what endgame looks like.
By the way, Jason absolutely is the dad you’d love to come out to, he loves Skins and agrees that Claire (Caitlynne Medrek) is a dead ringer for Emily and he credits our forums (i.e. you!) for helping with his initial research for the series.
Warning: Slight spoilers ahead
AfterEllen.com: Why was Out With Dad a story you wanted to tell? What inspired you?
Jason Leaver: It was eight years ago. I had this dream that I had a baby, and I dreamt that my wife died during childbirth. We weren’t pregnant at the time–this didn’t happen to us. But it was a terrifying dream and for a day, I was lost. I was following my wife around like a lost puppy because I was just so worried that I had lost her. After, I got over that, but the next day was sort of weird because then I was mourning the loss of Rose, this daughter that I actually fell in love with. Which everyone always says like, “Oh you won’t know until you’re a parent.” And I felt like, after that dream, I did know what it was like to be a parent. Like I really felt it.
Then all of a sudden she was gone because she was just in my imagination. And then I was on my way to some boring corporate video shoot. I’m sitting on the subway, and I’m just sort of like thinking about the things that I wouldn’t experience as a dad because she’s gone. It was like super sad. I was just going through all these different scenarios. Things like the first day of kindergarten, tying shoelaces. The one that really made me laugh: “Oh yeah, when she has her first period. Like I have to relearn all that stuff from female biology that I’ve forgotten because I didn’t care after high school.”
And then somewhere in there came her coming out. Then I started thinking about that experience of coming out because that’s something I never had to do. And I started contemplating the challenges that she would have to face that I never had to face. And just me and this dad position, even though I wasn’t a dad, just kind of asking those questions like: “What would I have to think about if my daughter was coming out?” I would really have to think about her experiences, her perspective, and that really hit me.
AE: You told me that as a cisgender, hetero male, it was really important to you to try and tell Rose’s story in the most authentic way possible. That must still be an ongoing journey for you. What’s that process been like?
JL: I was going to direct and produce it, but I started doing all the research and I started writing scenes just as like an example piece for this future writer, whomever it might be. And I figured it would be ideal if this person was a lesbian writer. But then as I just kept writing scenes and writing scenes, in no particular order either–and these scenes ultimately ended up being what is Seasons 2 and 3 post-coming out–I then suddenly realized I had like 60 pages written and I was like, “This is actually–I think it’s okay.” And then a friend of mine, she identifies as lesbian, that I worked with at the time, I just asked her, “Hey, would you mind just reading the script for me?” I was like super nervous.
At this moment, she’s like representing every lesbian on the planet. And she said, “It’s great. I just don’t know how you got it so authentic.” And she said all these nice things and I’m like, “But it’s okay?” And she’s like, “Yes, it’s okay.” I was like, “Wow, okay. Maybe I am a writer.” Because I have a learning disability. Writing is very difficult for me. Since I was a kid I was convinced, “I’ll never be a writer, but I’ll be a director.” And now I’ve decided, “Oh, maybe I am a writer.”
Fast forward through all these years, I continue my research. I had to be authentic. I mean, even right to the day that we released the first episode, I was terrified that I was still doing the wrong thing. But then as many people around me reminded me, no one else was doing it anyway. I didn’t want it to be like, “I’m doing this public service,” but I was at the same time, maybe?