Different For Girls
Jane Czyzselska tunes in to the new show rewriting lesbian and bi lives on screen.
Different For Girls
When DIVA first heard about Different For Girls we were still smarting from the untimely deaths of Corrie’s Maddie, Emmerdale’s Ruby (Alicya Eyo) and Last Tango’s Kate (Nina Sosanya). By March last year, US TV show The 100 claimed the life of commander Lexa, raising the headcount to 173 lesbian and bi characters killed off in British and American TV shows since lesbian characters first appeared on TV in the 1970s. That’s a parlous hit rate given that lesbian and bi characters were as rare as ostrich burgers at a lesbian pot-luck until fairly recently.
DIVA readers were broken. Stop burying our gays, you said. Enough is enough. Then along came Different For Girls (DFG), and executive director Jacquie Lawrence promised the show would not sacrifice lesbian and bi lives for kicks or ratings.
Lawrence first developed the show as a script around 16 years ago when she was a commissioning editor at Channel 4, shortly after the groundbreaking British series Queer As Folk appeared on our small screens. Channel 4 asked for a lesbian version, so the script went into development. But the show was put on hold when a certain US programme called The L Word hit our screens. In the belief that “the British public could only cope with one lesbian project at a time,” C4 canned she show, says Lawrence, but she retained the rights, and a few years later started writing the story as a novel.
In March, the highly-anticipated web series will finally drop in five glamorous episodes. What’s special about DFG is not just the great script and cast, who include fan favourites from the fabled L Word, Rachel Shelley and Guinevere Turner, newcomers Sarah Soetaert and Victoria Bloom, and the bloody brilliant Nimmy March (Wallander, Death In Paradise); the cast and crew are drawn almost exclusively from the LGBTQ communities.
Directed with passion by Campbell X (Stud Life, Fem) and cinematographer wunderkind Oona Menges, the show is a slick sashay through the lives, loves and family dramas of a group of 30-something lesbians in fashionable west London. Their clubbing and one-night stand days may be over but there’s still plenty of excitement.
When we speak – quietly – on set, Lawrence tells DIVA, “I wrote six main lesbian characters, and I wanted each of their storylines to get to the final episode with a, ‘What if? What now?’,” to leave viewers hungry for the second season. Lesbian yummy mummies may no longer be larging it but that doesn’t mean there’s no sex, drugs or rock ’n’ roll. And the show is unapologetically queer.
Director Campbell X is keen to stress that the show is not made for straight white cis men. “The way that images are constructed, down to lighting and camera angles, reinforces a white supremacist, capitalist, cis-hetero-patriarchal gaze. In this gaze, lesbian characters are dysfunctional women or extraneous to the major storyline so they can be bumped off or demonstrate ‘male gaze’ pornified sexuality, featuring usually young, hetero-normative-looking, feminine white women.” Not so in DFG.
In this show, we see androgynous and racially diverse lesbians and bi women being seductive and being ordinary at home with the wife and kids, and the same principle applies to the male characters. Trans actor Jake Graf joins Topher Campbell as a credible gay home-loving and child-focused couple, while Rachel Shelley and Caroline Whitney Smith play a couple with secrets.
The tantalizing first trailer gives a glimpse of the show Lawrence describes as “Hollywood on the small screen”. With a second series already in the works, it looks like DFG is here for the long-haul, even if some of its couples may not be...
Check out the March issue for interviews with cast members including Rachel Shelley, Nimmy March and Guinevere Turner, and download the digital issue for behind the scenes extras. On sale here.