By Megan Wadding, March 2016 Issue.
A groundbreaking new web series focusing on the lives and loves of transgender and queer women, and their friends, coworkers and partners, has emerged on to the small screen scene in a big way.
The series, co-written and co-produced by Laura Zak, centers on her character Allie, a queer-identified magazine writer; Violet, a trans bartender played by series’ co-creator and co-writer Jenn Richards (“I Am Cait”); and Paige, a black trans lawyer played by Angelica Ross.
The first season, which is divided into six short episodes that were released Jan. 19 via herstoryshow.com, offers viewers trans protagonists played by trans women.
“Trans women in the media have long been punchlines, killers, indications of urban grit, pathetic tragedies and dangerous sirens,” according to herstoryshow.com. “Rarely have they been complex characters who laugh, struggle and grow, who share strength in sisterhood, who seek and find love. ‘Her Story’ depicts the unique, complicated and very human women we see in queer communities, and explores how these women navigate the intersections of label identity and love.”
The series, set in Los Angeles, starts off with Allie asking to interview Violet for a piece she is writing on transgender individuals for a local magazine. They eventually meet for the interview and quickly form a friendship that turns romantic.
Allie is the tie that connects all of the others together, sort of everyone’s best friend. She isn’t afraid to say it like it is, and her personality is a bit reminiscent of Alice from Showtime’s “The L Word.” Allie quickly falls for Violet, and is confused about her feelings because she claims to have never met a trans women before. Her character is very eager to learn and is always respectful.
Violet is delicate, sweet and loveable. She hasn’t had an easy life and her living situation is volatile, but Allie seems to be able to provide her with the support she’s so very much in need of. It’s easy to see why Allie is mesmerized with Violet from their first interaction.
Paige is beautiful and charming, but she provides a perfect foil for Violet through her toughness and sharp tongue. In one of the episodes, she even compares herself to Kerry Washington. Rightfully so: she’s a tough-as-nails lawyer and always speaks her mind, and is also a wonderful friend and sounding board for Violet. We see her struggle with disclosure when she begins dating a straight cisgender man who does not know that she is trans.
We also catch a glimpse into Allie’s seemingly close-knit circle of lesbian friends. In a particularly poignant scene, where one of Allie’s friends, Lisa, makes transphobic comments, which offers the audience a frank portrayal of rampant transphobia that persists within the LGBTQ community.
Through the characters of Violet and Paige, we see very realistic trans women navigating their professional and personal lives while alsot touching on such subjects as dating, disclosure, domestic violence, being outed
and transphobia within the LGBTQ community and beyond.
The show sheds some much-needed light on these trans issues in a truly honest and authentic way. Such character development has not really been seen at this level before.
Additionally, the script is very well written. The dialogue between these women is filled with witty banter and realistic dialogue (think: “Sex and the City”) that draws you into their world from the first episode.
Zak and Richards did an exceptional job at giving the audience a group of fascinating women to tell these stories. Their characters are immediately lovable and relatable, and we can all see a little of ourselves – or our friends – in them.
The series was shot gorgeously, the dialogue is realistic, the stories are moving, the jokes are funny and the actresses are so very talented. This show shines a spotlight on trans lives in a way we have never seen before.
There’s no doubt the 55 minutes of these six episodes will leave you wanting more. Thankfully, there’s more “Her Story” (10 30-minute episodes, we’re told) in the works.
For more information on “Her Story,” or to view Season 1, visit herstoryshow.com.
Telling Her Story
Laura Zak shares her inspiration for new web series
By Megan Wadding
Laura Zak (pictured) is a writer, actor, producer and activist. She’s also one-third of the trio of women at the center a “Her Story,” a new web series she co-wrote and co-produced.
Echo caught up with Zak following the Jan. 19 release of “Her Story” to find our more about her inspiration for the show’s characters and storyline.
Echo: How did the idea for “Her Story” come about?
Zak: As [Jen Richards and I] became friends, we started to think about what a story about the relationship between a trans woman and a cisgender queer woman could look like. We decided to create an entirely new world and story, writing in a character based on Jen’s roommate, Angelica Ross, as the third lead.
Echo: How long have you two known each other and have you worked together previously?
Zak: Jen and I met approximately two years ago, on the set of another series I co-created “#Hashtag” by tellofilms. We hit it off and found we had a lot in common.
Echo: What was your vision for the series?
Zak: We wanted to represent our friends and the people we know in real life. It was an exciting prospect to write a type of love story that we’d never seen before in mainstream media.
Echo: Can you tell me a little about your character, Allie, and where you drew inspiration from when creating her?
Zak: Allie began as loosely based on myself, but as we got deeper into the writing process, she took on a life of her own. She’s an open-minded and idealistic person with an endless curiosity for experiences and points of view that differ from her own.
Echo: I read that the goal was for trans individuals to be included in every single aspect of production. Was that difficult to pull off?
Zak: We wanted trans women involved on every level, but also queer women and women of color. Trans performers and talent don’t yet enjoy the same level of official representation in Hollywood, especially given that the most prominent transgender characters have not been portrayed by trans actors. However, between all of our personal networks and social reach, it was relatively easy to find people from within the community eager to work on this project. Women, including trans and queer women, made up the majority of our cast and crew.
Echo: What do you hope viewers take away from “Her Story”?
Zak: First and foremost, this is a love story, and we hope we hit upon what is universal, so that the audience won’t even be consciously registering the gender identity or sexuality of the characters by the final scene. What happens when a person you are drawn to does not match the person you thought you were “supposed” to be attracted to? We gave this internal struggle to both Violet and Allie … the chemistry between them is obvious to everyone around them, and will be clear to the audience. What they have to let go of are their perceived rules of identity, in order to let themselves feel what is honest and right in front of them.