Little white lies—that’s the still water running deep underneath LESlieVILLE, a romantically tragic web series written and directed by queer indie filmmaker Nadine Bell. Filmed on location in Toronto, the series introduces us to two girls who meet one night and immediately recognize a kindred connection. There’s just one problem—one of them is already in a relationship. This lesbian saga explores the path of finding yourself and navigating that slippery, uncertain road of lust and love.
LESlieVILLE features Samantha Wan (Sera), Tiffany Marten (Ona) and Jenna Harder (Gwen). Characters Sera and Ona meet at their mutual friends’ engagement party where both are startled at the likelihood of never having met until now, despite years of intermingling in the same lesbian social circle—an unheard of event. Amid flirty glances, the two play on the subtle awareness that they have much in common, and by the second episode, despite the notion that she perhaps shouldn’t—Ona calls Sera for a lunch date, and the rest is history.
AfterEllen.com: What inspired you to create LESlieVILLE?
Nadine Bell: A few years ago I got myself into a bit of a mess of a relationship where I was basically a mistress. I met a woman who completely turned my world upside down and I had that lightening strike moment I’d always read about and dreamt about. Without going into all the gory details, I followed my heart–well, it dragged me after her–and I spent months being her “friend” until one day she kissed me and we started having an affair. An entire thesis could be written about whether or not I was reacting from true feelings or reacting how, as a woman, I had been conditioned to through so many romantic comedies I’d been fed. Love is only REAL LOVE with crazy hard pain and difficult situations, right? So very wrong. I had been in television and I wasn’t sure I wanted to get back into that world.
Then, while visiting my sister, I read about Crystal Chappell and what she was doing for the gay community by creating a lesbian webseries. I was completely propelled forward by that because I thought to myself if this woman who previously had no ties to this community can give back SO much what the HELL am I doing not giving something back myself. LESlieVILLE is my contribution to the community that I honestly do not know where I would be without. A community that gave me hope and gave me dreams to strive for and role models to admire.
I wanted to explore why we are drawn to the people we are drawn to and when. Is lust real love? Can it grow into real love? I also wanted to explore different topics that had come up in my circle of friends. I wrote LESlieVILLE because I was hurting and I had lost someone I loved. It doesn’t matter if it was a good relationship or a bad one, my heart was broken. I wrote Sera because she captured the part of me that was hurt and I wanted to heal her. [It is] very much an exercise in exploring heartache and hope.
AE: How did all of the actors come together to join in on the series?
NB: Sarah Grace (Jeri) and J.M. Frey (Casey) I’ve know for years. They were both super excited to join the project and it was wonderful to have some of my real life friends flex their acting talents for me. Meghan Campbell, who plays Laura, is one of my very dear friends from when I worked at the Space Channel here in Canada. Laura may be a character many dislike, but Meghan Campbell is one of the sweetest, kindest souls I’ve ever met. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and she’s so quick-witted that some find her intimidating but I adore her!
AE: The “lesbian love triangle” is an identifiable plot—any viewer (gay or straight) can relate. How did the plot evolve? What did you have in mind for the characters, how did that change, and what do you hope for the future of the characters and their story?
NB: When I wrote it back in 2010 it was figuring out the reasons why we do stupid things in the name of “My heart TELLS me to.” I wanted to explore that fine line between “just friends” and “something more” when two people meet and really click. There are actually three seasons in total story-wise. The first is Sera’s season, the second is very much Gwen, and the third is Ona. For Sera she was broken and I wanted to see her love again, but beyond that I wanted her to find out that she didn’t need to punish herself because she was heartbroken—that she didn’t need to hide her heart away simply because someone didn’t want it. Sera is all about learning to love again, freely and without fear.
Gwen wasn’t ready for love when it was in front of her, and she never thought she would want it. I wanted her to find out that love doesn’t have to be the prison she perceives it to be and eventually let herself accept love into her life in a real way. And also that you can have second chances if you fight for them, if you stop punishing yourself for the past, and accept that you have evolved and are not the same person you once were.
Ona, poor Ona, so many people hate that character. Ona is the person in all of us that compromises themselves so much they become a shadow. That’s what she is when we meet her. She’s a shadow of who she was because she’s swallowed her truth. Sera gives her a glimpse of who she felt she used to be and where she wants to get back to. How she gets there though isn’t going to be clear-cut or easy.
And underneath all of these journeys I wanted to explore the, I think, uniquely lesbian experience of crossing the friend line. Because we have small communities, there are jokes about the incestuous nature of some lesbian groups, but it’s all about population density. You have a small group of people to choose from so of course people overlap. I find it fascinating because it is harder sometimes in this community. Love triangles happen everywhere to everyone, I’m not denying that, but there is an argument to be made that it happens a lot more in the lesbian community because there’s not many of us in any one large social group so when we do find people that excite us, friendly or otherwise, there is always the assumption that it WILL become more because they are both gay.
AE: Why a web series? Are you noticing a spike in the presence of web series?
NB: I was inspired by what I saw emerging in the online gay community I adore. My skill set is tied to the entertainment industry so that’s what I had at my disposal to give back to the lesbian community. I wanted to tell a story and get it out in the most accessible way possible. If you have access to a computer you can watch my show and I love that. I’m also super lucky to have a group of friends who are skilled in the industry and believed in me and my project.
AE: What are your goals for the series. What are you hoping the audience will take away from each episode?
NB: All I wanted to do was give back to my community. I wanted to tell a simple love story that I had experienced, that so many of my friends had experienced. So many people have read it and said, “I’m Sera” or “OMG, I have a Gwen,” because it’s a true human experience. We get caught in sticky emotional situations and there are an infinite number of ways to paint this picture, but it’s the same message. Like any good story I only hope people can enjoy it purely on an entertainment level and like the characters and want to see where they end up. If people can also relate in some way, learn something about themselves, or use it to get over something in their own life then that’s beautiful and amazing.
Watch LESlieVILLE below.