Bruce L. Hart has made quite a splash in the relatively new genre of web series. The accomplished actor, writer and producer, who hails from Michigan but currently lives in Long Beach, chatted with us recently about the vast array of LGBT-oriented shows to watch on the net. There's much more than just porn out there.
CC: Old Dogs & New Tricks has been one of the most successful gay-themed web series to date and your character, Nelson Van Eddy, is one of its most popular characters. How has the experience of it been for you?
BLH: Wow, it's true the series has really gotten a lot of attention. The show is heading into it's fourth and final season and the audience keeps increasing! I just feel so lucky to be playing Nelson. It was such a fluke that I snagged the role. I basically sent a fan letter to Leon Acord, the creator and star of the series, commending him on the thrust of the series featuring men over 40 and he suggested we meet. Following our meeting — wham!! I suddenly found myself playing the "frenemy" Nelson to his character Nathan. As an actor, I usually get cast as neurotic characters or "wishy washy" nice characters so it was a treat to stretch my acting wings and play Nelson. Honestly the reaction has been incredible and it has certainly opened the doors for me in terms of getting more attention and more acting work. And what a treat to get to marry Greg Louganis on the show and to have Rutanya Alda (Mommie Dearest) play my secretary!
CC: Are there other web series of which you have been a part? If so, how have those experiences compared with ODNT?
BLH: Old Dogs was my first web series and it's shot exactly like a broadcast TV series. All the ingredients are there just like a network show except the episodes are shorter because the theory is that audience members want shorter episodes to view on their computers, phones and ipads. I was previously on Boystown, which was a traditional full-length cable TV show. It had a successful run and now it's being re-packaged and edited down to be shown as a web series. I see no difference between a full-length series and a shorter format web series. They both have to comply with union regulations and they both have to ensure that they meet the production standards that today's more sophisticated audience demands. I do think it is incredibly interesting to see how traditional TV and Internet programming have essentially merged. Hulu now shows Old Dogs and most of the films I have appeared in are now available in streaming format. Boystown can currently be watched via iTunes and will soon be in a web series format. The worlds are colliding!
CC: As an actor, what would you say are the pros and cons of being in a web series versus a TV series or movie?
BLH: There are no cons as long as you are focusing on a quality product. Having done "mainstream" TV and films I find no difference in the production values of a web series. It's just a broader reach for the performer. I have fans in many different countries who have seen Old Dogs and New Tricks. It just blows me away. I think any actor needs to chart his/her career carefully and determine what vehicles work best for them. But I also think increasingly we are going to see more online entertainment, and a web series is an incredible way to reach millions of viewers.
CC: How would you characterize the current state of LGBT web series, either dramatically-speaking or in terms of overall quality?
BLH: Well, as a gay performer of "a certain age" I have to say I have seen many ups and downs in terms of how gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people have been depicted in the entertainment arena. I think we are now in one of the most incredible periods in history in terms of inclusion. I do hope that we eventually reach a point where gay entertainment doesn't have to "make a statement." It can sometimes be a huge burden to be a "role model" or to feel like we need to "represent." I think web series are really the cheerleader for the enlightened sexuality movement, and will help to usher in more positive and alternative images of gay, bi, lesbian and transgender people.
CC: Are there any other current web series you watch and would recommend?
BLH: Oh yes! I am such a fan of web shows! I recently appeared at a conference similar to Comic Con for web performers called "Hot in Palm Springs" and I was fortunate to meet so many web series stars. Definitely I love Where the Bears Are (I would kill to guest star on that show). Husbands is a hoot. And also Child of the 70s, which I am doing a cameo on this year. All of these shows along with Old Dogs and New Tricks are class acts and pull in a tremendous amount of viewers. And one of the awesome things is that we really don't compete with each other. The shows are unique and each of them offers something different for the viewers.
CC: You are often recognized for your role as Collin in the 2009 movie Homewrecker, which you also wrote and co-produced. What has that been like for you?
BLH: Homewrecker was such a treat to make. It played so many festivals including Gay Days Disney. It was based on a stage play that I also produced, so the fact that it eventually became a popular film still warms my heart. Just this week, I heard from a fan in Africa who raved about the film. It still blows my mind, being recognized for a film we shot six years ago. Not long ago, I was in New York City and someone came up to me on the street and asked me to take a photo with him because he was a fan. I guess that's the new version of an autograph! I was also told by a very young man that Homewrecker is the definitive "feel good" film for gay men who want a film where "love conquers all." There is also a private page on Facebook for fans of my character, Collin. Who would have ever thought this would happen?
CC: What's next for you? What are you working on now?
BLH: I just shot a TV movie intended for the BET channel called Love or Laughs and I did a pilot about the music industry playing a "mature" gay rapper, which was a blast! My own production company has a new film in development about a gay couple who has a daughter who is getting married. If it comes together, it will team me with Rebekah Kochan from the Eating Out films along with Peter Szeliga, who played my husband in Homewrecker. We also hope to work with Ann Walker from Sordid Lives. There is an awesome role for her in the film. And let's not forget it's pilot season! I have had several interesting meetings for new network and cable TV shows. Who knows? Maybe I will jump right into another series!
Interview by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.