The first season of digital series After Forever made history when it won more Daytime Emmy Awards than any LGBTQ-themed drama series in history (Daytime or Primetime). The groundbreaking series is primed to repeat its historic wins with the recently launched second season, which is currently available on Amazon Prime and via the show’s site.
Earlier this month, ‘After Forever’ received 10 nominations for the Indie Series Awards including Best Drama Series, Best Writing for a Drama Series, Best Actor in a Drama, and Best Ensemble in a Drama.
‘After Forever’ changes the way older gay men are portrayed in media through relatable and touching characters who infuse huge humor and heart into the short-form episodes. GLAAD has been pushing Hollywood and entertainment to increase the diversity of LGBTQ stories, but one segment of the community which is consistently ignored by media is older gay men. ‘After Forever’ finally tells the story of a group of gay men, plus other LGBTQ characters, who are thriving in New York City and deal with life’s ups and downs – from parenting to relationships to Patti LuPone.
Out actor Kevin Spirtas stars in ‘After Forever’ and also serves as Executive Producer with Michael Slade, who created the series with Spirtas. Spirtas won the Daytime Emmy Award for playing Brian, who begins dating after losing his husband Jason (played with charm and charisma by Mitchell Anderson of ‘Doogie Howser’ and ‘Party of Five’) at the beginning of the series. Jason continues to appear throughout the series in flashbacks that tell the story of their relationship in ever-deepening ways, and in the present as he “appears” as both sounding board and coach, helping Brian to move forward.
‘After Forever’ won 2019 Daytime Emmy Awards for:
- Outstanding Digital Drama Series
- Outstanding Writing for a Digital Drama Series (Michael Slade & Kevin Spirtas)
- Outstanding Directing of a Digital Drama Series (Jennifer Pepperman)
- Outstanding Lead Actor in a Digital Drama Series (Kevin Spirtas)
- Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Digital Drama Series (Erin Cherry, who plays a queer woman on the series)
2019 Daytime Emmy nominations also went to Mitchell Anderson for Outstanding Lead Actor, Tony Award-winner Cady Huffman was nominated for Outstanding supporting Actress, and Tony Award-nominee, Anita Gillette (‘Moonstruck’, ’30 Rock’) was nominated for Outstanding Guest Performance. Slade and Spirtas also received consecutive nominations for the Writers Guild of America Award in the Short Form New Media – Original category for season one and season two.
Season one of ‘After Forever’ garnered rave reviews for, what the show describes as “telling the rarely seen story of vibrant, active, diverse grown-up gay men… a group who tend to disappear from television and film once they are no longer 20- or 30-something, not returning until they are elderly and non-sexual.”
Season two looks at how individual characters deal with the loss of Jason as Brian begins to connect with another guy, played by Broadway actor, Mike McGowan (‘The Book of Mormon’, ‘Ragtime’) The series, which is set and filmed in New York City, also features scenes inside the legendary piano bar Don’t Tell Mama.
Spirtas, Mitchell, and returning cast members David Dean Bottrell, Erin Cherry, Finn Douglas, Anita Gillette, Cady Huffman, Peter Kim, Robert Emmet Lunney, Mike McGowan, Jim Newman, Erin Leigh Peck, Jonathan Rayson, Jamison Stern, and Lenny Wolpe are joined in Season two by Mary Beth Peil (‘Dawson’s Creek’, ‘The Good Wife’) plus out actors Bill Brochtrup, Wyatt Fenner, Christopher J. Hanke, Tony Award-nominee Michael McElroy, and Scott Redmond.
Slade and Spirtas are proud of creating a series that not only has such diversity among its cast, but also boasts a crew and creative team that is equally diverse. For additional information go to: www.AfterForevertheSeries.com.
GLAAD caught up with Slade and Spirtas to tell us more about ‘After Forever.’ You can check out seasons one and two here.
GLAAD: Congratulations on all of the Emmy wins. What was your reaction when the show kept winning?
Kevin: It’s hard to explain in words… of course I was excited and ecstatic and kept jumping out of my seat. But the feeling that continued to wash over me, with every win, was this indescribable joy and pride that Michael’s and my story had reached out and touched the hearts of an audience that was not just a gay audience.
Michael: AFTER FOREVER began as a little passion project… an attempt by the two of us to create a series about things that were important to each of us. That we got Season One made, and aired, and that it developed the following it did was astounding. That we started winning awards at festivals around the world was amazing. That we got 8 Emmy nominations was insane. Still, as Kevin and I headed to the Emmys we agreed we should not have any expectations about winning… and then came the first award and all the others. It was like a surreal dream. But by the time Kevin and I stood on the stage accepting the award for Outstanding Digital Drama Series… looking out at thousands of people cheering for us… and for this gay love story, I thought, we really have come somewhere as a society.
G: How do you think After Forever is changing the game for representation of gay men?
M & K: It’s rare to see 50-ish gay men portrayed in television and movies, and even rarer to see them presented as vibrant, sexual, fully human beings (as wonderful as they are, do we ever see ‘Modern Family’s’ Mitchell and Cam being even remotely sexual with each other?). Odds are, had we taken this story to the networks, it would not have been made, at least not as it was. But digital series have allowed honest stories to be told about all sorts of groups who have been invisible or nearly invisible on traditional platforms. AFTER FOREVER has shown there is an audience anxious to follow and become involved in a deep, honest gay love story… and though we wanted to create the series to give our contemporaries a story they could relate to, it has been particularly gratifying to discover that ours is far from exclusively a gay middle-aged audience. Our fan mail shows that our viewers are gay, straight, transgender, male, female, racially diverse, young, middle-aged and elderly. The message here is clear that just as gay people have always found ways to identify with, and become involved in, stories about straight people, the reverse can be true if the characters are fully drawn, complex, honest human beings.
G: How did After Forever begin?
K: I was at a gym in New York City when Michael came up to me and introduced himself… telling me that he was a contract writer on DAYS OF OUR LIVES at the time I was also under contract, as an actor. After sharing a laugh about how the “soaps” always like to keep the actors away from writers, our conversation eventually led to us both having a great desire to tell stories about gay men over 40 and reclaim a place for ourselves on the canvas of story telling… The rest is history.
M: At that chance meeting, when Kevin said he was interested in creating a series about gay men who were “our age” – that spoke to me. We had a series of coffee meetings to kick ideas around. Kevin tossed out the idea of a 50ish guy who is dating. I wondered why this man would be dating… why was he single? Having lost my partner to cancer a few years before, I realized I was ready to artistically explore the grieving process. I broached this to Kevin who loved the idea, and we were off and running.
G: How did you secure funding to produce the show?
K & M: We made the decision early on to self-finance Season One so we could make it on our own terms and be completely true to the vision we had for it, and then find distribution for a finished project. The money came from a coalition of friends, family and business associates in a combination of investments and donations.
G: How much of your own self do you see in Brian?
K: I see a great deal of myself in Brian… I’m a romantic, loving, sensitive, caring, kind of guy who has had the blessing of being able to express and share those character traits in a loving relationship/s with another man… Though my relationship to loss is not identical to that of Brian’s, (losing his husband of 15 years to cancer), however, in my book… loss is loss— no different to the countless friends and loved ones I lost during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, or my grandparents, or a teacher who inspired me to become the man I am today, or even my dear precious childhood pets. Everyone one of us in this lifetime has and/or will experience great loss — where I see my own self most in Brian is how I’ve had to learn how to move through the emotional devastation and pain of losing a loved one and patiently finding a way back to living without them— It’s never easy but we must do it.
M: Kevin answered that so beautifully. The only thing I want to add is that there is a piece of me in every character I write/create. And knowing I was writing him for Kevin to play, I consciously put pieces of him into Brian, as well. But Brian is a fictional creation.
G: What was the first LGBTQ image that you saw on TV and did it shape your work in the industry?
K: Sadly, as a kid, growing up back in the early/mid 70s, what I remember as the first LGBTQ images on TV— were the stereotypical, over the top, flamboyant, funny and bitchy characters on a sitcom or two. As humorous and fun as many of these LGBTQ characters were to watch, the world that I grew up in was not acceptable of homosexuality; something that I knew I was. I am sorry to admit that many, if not most, of these LGBTQ characterizations on TV scared and embarrassed me because at the core of my being, I knew I was just like them on some level, and knew if I wanted to be a leading man in show biz, I was going to have to hide my truth of being gay. (That’s a whole other story.) Thank God times are different now… but it took me just as many years, as it has the industry, to accept myself, and to be okay with being gay, and being proud enough to open up about it— to tell stories, that not only help heal our hearts, but hopefully inspire people to be accepting of themselves and others. I am very proud of my work in After Forever and I am beyond grateful to Michael Slade, for co-creating characters in a story where the two gay men are simply two men in love.
M: The first LGBTQ TV image I remember was the TV movie, THAT CERTAIN SUMMER starring Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen as a couple who happened to be gay. I don’t know how it holds up today, but in 1970 this image of a gay couple who were presented as “normal” had a huge impact on me. I grew up in suburban NYC, but my widowed grandmother (who was a third parent in our family, and my personal Auntie Mame) lived in the city and from the age of 3 or 4 I would spend weekends with her. Among her friends were a gay couple and a transgender woman. So from a very early age I had positive models of LGBTQ people. Still, seeing gay men presented that way on television was different… it somehow legitimized my own nascent feelings about who I was, or might be, in a whole other way. Popular culture has the ability to make that kind of difference. I try to remember that, and the responsibility that comes with it, whenever I create a character.