After Forever (S2) (USA) explores the journey of ones love, loss and picking up and moving on. Following the lives of Brian and Jason, a 50-ish New York gay couple, co-creators Kevin Spirtas and Michael Slade used the web series format to tell important stories with meaning.
How long have you been working on your series?
We began discussing it in the spring of 2017. Over the next year together, we kicked around ideas, settled on one, honed it, came up with our characters and our unique structure. To varying degrees of specificity, we outlined the eight episodes of Season 1, at the same time making notes about places the series would go in Seasons 2 and 3. Then Michael would write an episode and Kevin would give notes/suggestions about ways to deepen or, in a few cases, restructure it. Because of the respect we have for each other’s sensibilities, these discussions were almost always exciting and frank rather than combative. Once consensus had been achieved, Michael would do a rewrite.
Why did you choose the web format for After Forever?
It’s on the web, digital series, that exciting, new projects are happening. Stories about groups who are not represented on mainstream television or film are flourishing. And, because it is much less expensive to produce for this medium, projects can be self-produced and creatives do not have to answer to network suits. This last was very important to us… we were telling a personal story that we had a very clear and specific vision about, and we were determined to be true to our vision without outside interference or suggestions.
After Forever (S2) Trailer
What inspired your series?
Kevin had been an actor on the American Soap Opera, Days of Our Lives for over seven years. At the end of that time, Michael joined the show as a writer. A number of years later they ran into each other In New York City. Michael introduced himself, Kevin responded that their meeting was fortuitous… that he had been thinking about creating a web series for himself to star in, and that he wanted it to be about grown-up (50-ish) gay men. Michael was intrigued and the decision was made to meet for a coffee and talk at some point in the next week.
This first conversation led to a long series of coffee meetings to hash out possibilities. At one point, Kevin suggested a series about dating. Michael responded, that he wasn’t generically interested in that, but asked, “Why would a 50-ish year old be dating?” It was at that point that Michael shared the fact that he had lost his partner to cancer about two and a half years prior, and that though he wasn’t interested in creating an autobiographical series, he was interested and ready to artistically explore grief in a deeply honest way… which would include pathos as well as humour. Kevin loved the idea. The decision was made to make the diagnosis and decision re-treatment that Michael’s partner had gotten and use it as a kernel on which to create a fictional story and build the series.
What is the most interesting element of your series for the audience?
Based on viewer responses, our structure, which uses the present, flashbacks and Brian’s imagination to tell the story is extremely exciting to audiences, as is the depth of character and sense that they are involved with real people living through a real situation.
If they only took one thing, one message, what would you like the audience to take away from the series?
That there is life after loss, that though it may not be easy (and it certainly isn’t for Brian), it is possible to move forward after losing one’s spouse (or best friend or parent or child or sibling, or…) and have a life. And that this does not mean having to completely negate the memory of what one had… but it does necessitate putting the past in its proper place.
Season two takes a turn towards a journey of love, loss and moving on. What was the process in developing these themes, and how important was it to portray this within the series?
Our intent from the start was that the entire series be about this journey. As we mapped out the first season, we also discussed where subsequent seasons would go. For example, Brian’s memories of Jason and their relationship in Season 1 are almost exclusively idyllic. Season 2 subtly shifts that and Brian starts to remember things that were not perfect – a shift that is necessary for anyone trying to move forward in grief. It is the difference between nostalgia (remembering only the good things) and honest memory (remembering everything).
When we put our lost loved one on a pedestal and make them a god (which is easy to do during grief), we make it impossible for anyone new to live up to that ideal. It is only when we remember the deceased as a real human being…warts and all… that we can fully move on. We seem to have hit on something with this based on the number of psychiatric and health care professionals and academics who have written to thank us for the honest, real story we are telling, and to tell us that they are recommending it to patients and discussing it in class.
Your series was the first LGBTQ drama series in history to win 5 Emmy awards. How important was this for your cast and crew, and most importantly, for your audience?
This was incredibly important and gratifyng to us, our cast and crew, and, based on fan mail and postings, to our audience. The Emmy acknowledgment together with the fact the series has built an audience of all ages that is incredibly diverse: gay, straight, trans, men, women, was a very tangible reminder that though these days (especially in the United States) it is easy to feel the LGBTQ+ community is losing ground, the truth is we have come a long way. Straight audiences are not only embracing this gay love story, they are projecting themselves into it… the same way we as gay men had to project ourselves into straight love stories for all these decades.
It’s super exciting to hear there’ll be a Season 3 – with the COVID-19 restrictions, have your plans shifted/what is the process like?
Season 3 was written before COVID-19 struck, and we were slated to film it this month (July). As the various unions under whose jurisdictions we fall and the city of New York has come up with rules under which filming can now happen safely, we realized that to work under them would mean completely changing the look and feel of the show. We kicked around ideas of how this might look. But budget constraints, plus filming on location all over New York City as we do (even making the city a character in the series) would not be possible.
Ultimately, we agreed (as did the producers of Better Call Saul) that it made more sense to wait it out until we could film in a way that would be true to the look and feel of the series we have worked so hard to create. That said, we are currently working on a special we will film that is not the next chapter of the series, but rather a side-bar to it in which our audiences will learn new things about various characters.