Leslians get excited! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about Leslians are fans of The Leslie, which just started season two. I had the pleasure of asking creator, writer, and title character of the series, Kate Johnson all about both seasons of The Leslie and even if you haven’t checked out the series yet, this interview is the perfect introduction to the Leslian fandom.
Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am Kate! A screenwriter and the writer/creator/and Leslie of The Leslie a Queer Web Series that can be found on YouTube. I also like burritos. And I have a Corgi named Lubby. She is a diva. And I love her.
Your webseries The Leslie just started season two, how would you describe the series to someone watching it for the first time?
The Leslie is about what it’s like after you come out. What it’s like to date. What it’s like to exist as a queer person in a straight world. But beyond that, beyond it’s queerness, it’s simply a story about one woman trying to date and find love and find happiness. Life is silly and messy and love is strange and whether you’re queer or not, we all go through the same trials and tribulations when it comes to dating.
You play not only the lead character in the series, Leslie, but you are also the creator and writer of the series. How do you balance all of these roles?
Having so many roles is a hard thing to do and it’s a giant learning process and you never quite feel like you’re getting it down. It’s a lot of compartmentalization and knowing when to wear what hat and when to put on the next one. When I’m writing the show, I do my best not to think about the fact that I’m going to have to do the things I’m making Leslie do and it doesn’t really hit me until we’re on set and I’m doing them as to what exactly I’ve written. The entire time we were filming the scene at the end of Episode 2 where Leslie goes to take Paulie’s self-care advice I just kept going “What did I write?! What is this? This is ridiculous! You guys, what is happening right now?”
What were some of the new elements that you were able to include in season two that you weren’t able to include in season one?
We had a bigger budget this year which meant we could include some different film equipment that we didn’t have last year. Every day on set this year we had a new and different piece to work with, which was so much fun. It gives the season a different look. It feels a little bit bigger. And that was a really exciting thing to do.
Was there anything that you learned about creating a webseries in season one that helped to guide you in creating season two?
Oh, everything! After shooting Season 1 we were able to look at what we did well and didn’t do well and move forward accordingly. The best thing any creative person can do is create. Because you learn. And you don’t ever stop learning. You learn what works and what doesn’t and you use that knowledge to make your next project tighter and better. And Season 1 was a HUGE learning process for everyone involved in every way.
How did your writing process differ between the two seasons?
It was certainly more nerve wracking! I wanted to make sure I gave people the story that they were craving while still being true to the story I wanted to tell. And that’s a difficult line to walk. Like I said above, the most important thing a screenwriter can do is have their work made. Words work differently on screen than they do on paper. So I was able to take that knowledge from Season 1 and apply it for Season 2 and just sort of, up the ante and the stakes. I could look at what viewers responded to the most in Season 1 and infuse that into Season 2. Which was a lot of fun. I’ve also never I had the opportunity to return to a project before, so that was really exciting. To jump back into the world and expand it.
As a follow-up, since you had actors returning for the second season as the same characters did they provide any feedback or thoughts on how their characters might act in season two?
Definitely! As we filmed Season 1, and as I wrote Season 2, there was always a dialogue about the characters. And the actors thoughts and feelings about them and certain moments. But I think the biggest influence the actors had on the characters this year also came from watching their performances in Season 1. Writing Season 1 was a bit of a blind write, I didn’t know who would be playing these characters. And an actor always influences how a character behaves because a different person, other than the writer, is coming in and breathing life to that character. But with Season 2 I wrote the characters with our cast in mind and could cater the roles to them in a whole new way.
To explain Jen’s absence in this season you have her character move to Azerbaijan, was there a specific reason you chose that location for her? Also what the heck is woofing (spelling?)?
I got the idea to have Jen flee the country back when we were in the middle of filming Season 1. I thought it would be a ridiculous, fun, and, hopefully, unexpected twist to get the second season going. The reason for Azerbaijan? That year, after we had wrapped Season 1, I went to visit my family for Easter and told them the idea about Jen fleeing. My brother’s immediate response was: “She should go to Azerbaijan!”…and the location hasn’t changed since. As for WWOOF(-ing). WWOOF is the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Basically a volunteer farming program that places volunteers on organic farms all around the world.
I love the dialogue so much in The Leslie, for example the recent chicken periods moment between Paulie and Leslie, where do you come up with some of these ideas?
I think it might surprise people that I’m actually a lot more like Paulie than I let on. Or maybe everyone knows this and I just think I’m being sneaky. (Ha!) Moments like the chicken periods are just sort of…my general observations of life. I remember making eggs one day and just being like…”Huh, yeah so this is a thing. That no one really talks about or acknowledges.” Human beings are weird and strange and a lot of the dialogue of the Leslie comes from my own observations and feelings toward life. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll let you decide 😉
We’ve only seen Alex in episode one so far, any hints on how she’s coping post violets?
I think it’s safe to say that she’s pretty embarrassed and currently existing in self-preservation mode.
If you had an unlimited budget what would be one thing you would love to include in an episode of The Leslie?
MUSICAL EPISODE. Though seriously, I’d like to get out and be in L.A. more. It’s such an incredible city and we sort of have to sneak by and move around it really vaguely with such a limited budget. If I had unlimited funds I’d really love to see the characters in the city and living in it in a way that we can’t right now. But also…musical episode.
I just noticed this in the most recent episode, but behind Leslie in the dining room were a number of Chuck Palahniuk books and then later in the same episode Paulie was reading Fight Club. I have a mild Palahniuk obsession and I was wondering if the was done for a specific reason or if it was just coincidental?
Just a coincidence! We filmed in my old apartment and those books belonged to my previous roommate and friend who is a big Chuck Palahniuk fan. For this season, though, we did try to have the characters live in the space a little bit more, and use the space a little bit more intimately than we did in Season 1.
With no spoilers, is there anything you can tease about season two?
The big thing I always come back to for Season 2 is that this season is very much about friendship. At the end of Season 1 we had three things happen: 1. Luke decided to stay friends with benefits with Paulie, even though he wants more. 2. Leslie and Jen slept together and that didn’t turn out well. And 3. Alex, in a moment of putting her heart on her sleeve, witnessed the aftermath. This whole season is about the consequences of those moments. How can you be friends with someone when you want more? How do platonic and romantic relationships effect one another? Things start pretty messy this season and well…since it’s Leslie, they’re about to get messier.
Are there any other projects you are currently working on that you can share right now?
This summer Chris Hallett (who plays Luke) and I will be in a new short film “All Roads Lead to Here” written and directed by Shaylie Norton. The project is wrapping up an Indiegogo next week so please go check it out if you can! It’s a great project and I’m super pumped to start working on it.
Where can our readers find you and The Leslie online?
The Leslie can be found on all social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr) by @TheLeslieSeries.
I can be found on Twitter and Instagram by @keighteejay
Thank you again to Kate Johnson for agreeing to this interview and make sure to check out The Leslie Seasons 1 and 2.