Cheeks is the co-creator and star of Husbands, a marriage equality comedy. He’s also the founder and CEO of WeYüMe. Cheeks has taken time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about Husbands, yard gnomes, and other topics.
Jeremy C. Shipp: For those who don’t know yet, what is Husbands the Series all about?
Cheeks: Husbands is a classic romantic comedy premise told in a very 21st century fashion.
Jeremy: If you were a supervillain, how would you go about taking over the world?
Cheeks: I’d cast a spell that makes everyone dance, like Bette Middler in Hocus Pocus.
Jeremy: Can you describe the genesis of Husbands?
Cheeks: I knew I wanted to do a project with Alessandra Torresani. She’s a good friend of mine and we love playing off each other. That’s my favorite part of Hollywood. You can say, “We have so much fun together! Let’s see if we can get paid to have fun together.” I wrote a script with the two of us as the leads, at the core of which was our characters growing up together, getting serious about being adults. That’s when Jane and I realized the more obvious pairing to “grow up together” would be a couple …a gay couple …a newlywed gay couple! We knew the perfect addition to the couple premise would be a colorful gal pal and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jeremy: If you could have a pygmy version of any mythological creature as a pet, which one would you choose?
Cheeks: Pegasus, for sure. He could follow me around the house in flight. That would be awesome. I would name him Valentino. Although, a Sphinx would be really cool too. I’d name him Sans Serif the Sheriff of Cairo.
Jeremy: One of the many things I love about Husbands is that Cheeks and Brady are unique individuals, as opposed to two-dimensional gay stereotypes. For you, how important is it to portray the diversity that exists in the gay community?
Cheeks: Showing diversity is important to me, but I didn’t approach these characters with an agenda to portray gays in any way other than complex people with well defined traits and unique voices. I focused more on making them as opposite from each other as possible. Dharma and Greg. I think in some ways they actually are stereotypes, but they’re more “classic sitcom gender role” stereotypes that happen to be gay. Then throughout the show, we explore where each one has unique masculine and feminine qualities that aren’t specific to their demeanor. Cheeks is feminine, but much more cavalier and guarded with his emotions like a typical guy. Brady is masculine, but sensitive and vulnerable. I think everyone, straight or gay, has variations of both. Yin and yang.
Jeremy: How would you solve a problem like Maria?
Cheeks: Easy. Make her raise seven kids and send in the Nazis. She’ll shape right up.
Jeremy: I bet she will! What are the benefits of using the internet as your artist’s palette?
Cheeks: They’re endless! It’s a direct line from the artist to the people. It’s also the biggest gallery in the world, it’s free, it’s open 24 hours a day, and people don’t have to pay for parking. Everyone wins!
Jeremy: What advice would you give to people who want to create their own web series?
Cheeks: Find a story that needs to be told and give that to people in a way that speaks to them. Care about your audience. You’re not doing this for you. A lot of artists think storytelling is about what they want to say, and to an extent, it is about personal expression. More importantly though, are the people to whom you’re giving that expression. For me, art isn’t about standing in front of people and saying, “Look what I can do.” It’s about graciously accepting the attention people choose to give me and giving them something meaningful in return.
Jeremy: Was it difficult writing two minutes episodes as opposed to longer pieces?
Cheeks: No, I find it easier. Knowing exactly what information needs to be conveyed in each episode helps clarify what your story is about and doesn’t let you pander. I like strict guidelines. They generate more creativity.
Jeremy: Do you own any yard gnomes?
Cheeks: I don’t, though I did recently purchase a yard St. Francis. I’m not Catholic, I just like what he’s all about.
Jeremy: Who is Brad Bell and how does he differ from Cheeks?
Cheeks: Well, in truth, I think Brad Bell is the alter ego. We all learn how to function in society; how to be polite, how to sit at the table, how to balance a checkbook, how to conduct ourselves among others. But really, is that who any of us are? We’re all just refined versions of the primal creatures within us, putting on masks and pretending we’re all grow up. What person alive doesn’t long to break free of the constraints of daily life and live for the moment? Deep down, everyone wants to let go, have fun, and live without inhibition. That’s what Cheeks represents: me without all the learned crap in the way. One might even say, there’s a little bit of Cheeks in all of us.
Jeremy: If your life was a video game, who would the final boss be?
Cheeks: A stodgy old curmudgeon who’s forgotten how to have fun. I would defeat him with my sparkle, which would make him dance uncontrollably.
Jeremy: That I would like to see. What’s your creative process like?
Cheeks: I get sucked into a portal. My phone calls get neglected, I don’t see the sun for a few days, sometimes people think I’m dead. I have to work alone before I can bring what I have to the table for collaboration.
Jeremy: In your opinion, are all clowns evil?
Cheeks: No, they’re just misunderstood, like Pitt Bulls and Scorpios.
Jeremy: How would you define art?
Cheeks: The indefinability of art is what makes it such …which is kind of a definition, I guess. Ugh, this is too much thinking. Let’s dance!
And dance we did.
Want to watch Husbands the Series right now?
Here’s episode 1:
About the author: Jeremy C. Shipp is the Bram Stoker nominated author of Cursed, Sheep and Wolves, and Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with his wife, Lisa, and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic – not so much. His twitter handle is @JeremyCShipp.