As part of my Grosse Misconduct interviews I had the pleasure of chatting with Colby Ryan, co-creator, writer, and one of the stars of the webseries. He appears as the dramatically funny Mitch Grosse and is a delight to watch. Thank you again to Colby Ryan for chatting with me about the series and LGBT+ representation in the media.
How did the idea for Grosse Misconduct evolve during the writing process between you and your writing partner, Anne Schroeder?
Anne and I met in a casting workshop and decided to create our own content, featuring characters that were solidly in our range as actors. We chose a workplace setting, and I suggested we feature a Human Resources department, since I’ve had an alternate career in HR for many years. Anne and I have different backgrounds and comic sensibilities, and we were pleased to see that the mix worked. We could both contribute strong ideas that took the series from the absurd to the dramatic, and we found it made the narrative more complex and added more dimension to the characters. We ultimately decided that 2 of the lead characters would be from the LGBT+ community, but our priority was to make it as funny, moving and relatable as we could, for all audiences.
What was your writing process like for this series?
We met on a regular basis, sometimes in person, sometimes via FaceTime, and we first created a framework of what scenes we wanted to feature in each episode. Then we divided the work, shared potential ideas, and separately wrote the dialogue for each scene. We’d send our drafts to each other, re-group a week or so later, and discuss what we each thought worked or didn’t work. It was a very collaborative and open process – Anne and I respect each other’s unique voices, and found the best ways to incorporate them into each episode.
How would you describe your character Mitch Grosse?
Ah, Mitch. He’s a handful. Moody, petulant. I think of him as naively selfish. He doesn’t really care about his job or taking responsibility for a team, and longs to be popular, younger, hotter. Above all, he wants to be loved, to feel secure. His sense of empathy is inconsistent, as his own needs and thoughts always take precedence. Deep down, he does care about others – he just needs to be reminded when he’s being especially thoughtless.
When you were crafting his character did you draw inspiration from any particular sources?
My main source was the type of character I’ve found myself playing consistently. I tend to play misunderstood jerks, and I love it! If I were on a sitcom, Mitch would be a perfect fit for me. I could play him forever and be very happy. Beyond that, I was drawn to the idea of an HR leader, whose job it is to set an example for workplace behavior and give excellent guidance, to be completely incompetent at his job! I find a lot of humor in that.
What is it like playing a character that you created?
It’s a first for me, and it’s hard to describe. Mitch has lived inside me for a long time. Usually, as an actor, part of your process is to delve into a script and do your best to understand who your character is and what message the writer intends to deliver. As his creator, I know more about Mitch and his motivations than anyone else, so slipping into his mindset and bringing him to life on-set was seamless for me.
How do you think you’d handle having Mitch as a boss?
Haha – oh my. That would not work. I have no time for people like Mitch, honestly, and anyone who has worked with me will tell you I’m not shy with my opinions. I’d either quit in outrage at his antics, or tell him exactly what I think of him, and be fired on the spot!
Where did the ideas for some of the products that the company in Grosse Misconduct represents come from?
Anne and I had a great time thinking of product names, and we both enjoy using alliteration – so that resulted in Puppy Parkas, Gentle Gust, Nana Nighties.
What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
More than anything, I want viewers to be entertained by these characters, and to be engaged in their world. I hope they’re intrigued enough to want more stories about them.
Could you share some of your thoughts on the importance of LGBT+ representation and why you included it within Grosse Misconduct?
As a gay actor, representation is personally important to me. While I’ve played many characters who are not gay, it’s always a pleasure to explore the nuances of a role within the LGBT+ community. So there was no question that I would write Mitch to be a gay man. We wanted to bring diversity on multiple levels, and were so fortunate to find Pooya Mohseni, an Iranian-American transgender actress, to play Alicia. The series also features bisexual/questioning characters in supporting roles. The more accustomed viewers become to seeing characters from the full spectrum of the LGBT+ community, the easier it will be for them to assimilate issues that affect us, and more importantly, to recognize how alike we all are in the grand scheme.
What advice would you give to people hoping to create positive LGBT+ focused media?
Don’t wait – do it now! It’s been so encouraging to see other LGBT+ projects being released recently – projects that were clearly in development at the same time “Grosse Misconduct” was. I’ve loved watching “Pose”, “Instinct”, “Champions”, and of course it’s great to see the return of “Will & Grace” and “Queer Eye” after all these years. I watched the coming-of-age film “Love, Simon” a few months ago, and cried with joy thinking of young LGBT+ eyes and ears getting to absorb this kind of story during their formative years. It’s critical that these building blocks be added to the foundation of our culture. We just need to continue telling relevant LGBT+ stories, and never stop!
Can we expect to see more of the series in the future?
Oh yes, Anne and I have begun writing Season 2 and we have lots of ideas. We love these characters. Obviously, our final episode left the audience with numerous cliffhangers. We love hearing from viewers about the characters and stories they enjoy the most!
Where can our readers find you on social media?
Please follow me on Twitter @colbyryanactor and Instagram @colbyryanactor, or check out my web site, colbyryan.com, and let me know what you think of “Grosse Misconduct”!