Are you ready Poptarts?! BARBELLE is back with a brand new season that starts this week, April 10th, on KindaTV. I had the chance to ask Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn a bunch of questions about the new season as well as some of their other projects. Even if you haven’t checked out this series yet, though you need to get on it, this interview will just bring delight to your day.
Could you share a little about yourselves with our readers?
Yes! We are Karen Knox and Gwenlyn Cumyn, just a couple of sometimes writers/actors/directors/producers/beauty school dropouts based in Toronto. BARBELLE is the first digital series we’ve written and produced, although Gwenlyn has appeared in several previously as an actor (All For One, The Village Green). Karen has also cut her teeth as a director, her short film, Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping has screened around the world and won best short film at the Venice Short Film Festival and the Budapest Film Festival. We also enjoy long rides on the streetcar and sharing dank memes.
How did you two start working with each other?
We met in acting school here in Toronto, worked on a 2nd year project together, snagged a rare A+ based on our Anne of Green Gables and Danny DeVito impressions, and never looked back. After graduation we collaborated on several theatre pieces, and finally ventured into film with BARBELLE.
What inspired BARBELLE?
Since the wee age of 15ish, we’ve been frustrated with the quality and quantity of queer content in the world. Fast forward a few years, the quantity has improved, and there are some incredible queer creators making great work, overall the quality of queer representation has a long way to go. So, we wanted to make something that we would’ve loved to watch when we were a minute younger! Couple that with our love of pop culture and the comedic possibilities of being in a band with your ex, and BARBELLE was born.
How would you describe your characters and their relationship with each other?
Veronica is the definition of extra, suffering from an ex-it-girl complex, and Alice is her very talented, self-righteous, vegan-ous musician ex-girlfriend. Together the two make up the pop duo BARBELLE, whose popularity has only sky-rocketed since news of their breakup went public. They have a classic love/hate relationship, and often swing between hot and heavy, and frustrated yet bantery bickering. While they realize their dysfunction is likely fatal, it’s next to impossible to picture their lives without the other.
Season Two debuts on KindaTV on April 10th, what can viewers expect going into this new season?
Hot, new, messy music videos, more dancing, reality show magic, and a touch of a musical episode. In all seriousness, this new season has a bit more of a grown-up edge, and handles some heavier topics, like the #metoo movement through a queer lens.
Could you share some details about the new characters?
Well, this season BARBELLE is joined on their tour by Lulu and Les Bebes, made up of Lulu, and her bandmates (and new characters) Sandrine and Gerard. Sandrine (played by Nadine Bhabha) is delightfully unironic compared to the rest of her generation and has the musical talent to keep up with Lulu. Gerard (Xavier Lopez) is more of a mysterious type, carefully watching out for his bandmates as he struggles with opening up. Rounding out our new characters is your classic fuccgirl Tommy (Erin Carter) who is a photographer/suffer/podcaster/world renowned graffiti artist/hypebeast. There’s no new trend she isn’t up on, and no one she won’t step on to get to the top.
What were some of your favorite experiences working this season?
Undoubtedly reuniting with our incredible team was a dream come true. There’s no group of people we’d rather be stuck in a tour van with. Creating our own reality show personas was a massively memorable giggle-fest though, and we can’t wait to share those laughs with everyone.
What is one word you would use to describe BARBELLE Season Two?
What do you hope viewers take away from this season?
If we and our cast can learn a full minute of not uncomplicated dance choreography, we promise, you can do anything.
Boss & Co, your production company with Michael Schram, has also produced a number of short films. Could you share some details about those?
Our short film (and feminist horror fable) The Fates was an official selection at the TIFFxInstagram Festival, and you can watch it on the director Victoria Long’s instagram, @heracreative. Another highlight of the company’s is Karen Knox’s directorial debut, The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping, featuring Gwenlyn Cumyn. The film, a historical satire that takes a critical look at cinema’s use of the rape trope. It just played at the Canadian Film Festival, and recently won Best Short at the Venice Short Film Festival, as well as the Grand Budapest Film Festival.
Where can our readers keep up with you both and all things BARBELLE?
Our instagram handles are @gwenlyn.cumyn and @karenxknox, and you can keep up with all the BARBELLE news at @barbelle.series. Find us on twitter at @gwenlyn_cumyn, @karenxknox, and @barbelle_series