We got a chance to have a conversation with Jason T. Gaffney actor/ director of MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE A new Dekkoo-original series starring Jason T. Gaffney and David Singletary. – Coming April 6, 2023 This brand-new original comedy series follows Owen and Franklin, two total strangers with nothing in common – except the fact that they both happen to be gay men. When each of them enters into a witness protection program, they must pretend to be a happily married couple in order to hide their identities from the dangerous people who want them dead!
How did you get started as a writer? What was your first project that made it out to the world?
Gosh I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I think I was about 10 years old when I wrote a movie based on the Clue board-game (and book series!) and got my grown-up friends to act in it. I played Mr. Green and also directed that film, too! I think we filmed the whole film in one weekend! I then went on to use those skills, and actors, to make educational videos in school in place of doing reports. (The fact that they were willing to do those videos? I have the best family out there!) None of those really made it out into the world though.
It wouldn’t be until about 2010-ish that I would work together with my dad and current writing partner, Ed Gaffney, and my mom, Suzanne Brockmann, on the feature script of The Perfect Wedding. I wanted to make LGBTQ films where the leads were gay, where they lived in a welcoming, accepting world with family who loved them, where their being gay was not a conflict. In fact, that’s in the mission statement of My Pet Hippo, my production company that I went on to create:
“We aspire to tell stories in a post-coming out world where the plot or conflict is not about being gay, but rather features characters who happen to be gay.
We create high quality, exciting, and entertaining content in a universe where:
LGBTQ+ characters have leading roles that are never based on stereotypes
The main conflicts of our LGBTQ+ characters aren’t created by their sexual orientation
People of color have roles that are never based on stereotypes
Female characters have roles that go beyond mother, wife, daughter, and/or woman-in-jeopardy
Disabilities are celebrated, not disqualifying
Our cast & crew represent all colors of the rainbow
A limited budget does not mean a compromised product”
After I co-wrote The Perfect Wedding, I went on to co-write, direct, and act in two more feature films, Analysis Paralysis and Out of Body. My latest project, Marriage of Inconvenience, is a six-episode LGBTQ romcom TV series, streaming on Dekkoo on April 6th!
Oh, I’ve also co-written three m/m rom-com novellas, Creating Clark, A Match for Mike, and Fixing Frank. The big difference between writing romance novels and writing feature films is that with a novel, you don’t have to worry about the budget. (Chase scenes! Crowd scenes! Explosions! All things most indie filmmakers try leave out of a movie script because they are super expensive to film! It was fun to write a trilogy of books and not have to think about that.)
You wear a lot of hats on this show. Were there ever times when writing you, directing you and acting you ever had to make compromises?
Absolutely! Every film set is its own living breathing entity where flexibility and going with the flow is a must.
Making a TV series during a pandemic called for constant compromise. When Nacia, our DP, tested positive for COVID on our first day of filming, we had to scramble. She was also going to be one of our two camera operators, so while she could DP from home via Zoom (an insane challenge, but doable), back on set we were left with only one camera operator.
One of the most important parts of low-budget indie filmmaking is intensive prep, but when we went from two to one camera, all of my shot lists—months of planning—went out the window. Every night, after a long day of filming, the production team and I spent about four hours completely re-doing the next day’s shot list. It was intense, and we had to make lots of compromises, but the the crew stepped up and made it work, and the cast showed up ready to play. The fact that everyone was game and able to produce this show with that giant hurdle says everything you need to know about the talent and tenacity of this group!
The show has very strong Odd Couple vibes. Were there any TV shows that served as inspiration when you writing the scripts?
Nothing says great comedy like putting opposites together and throwing some obstacle at them. Owen and Franklin definitely have different ideas on how to solve their problems!
We didn’t set out to make a new Odd Couple, but once we realized what was happening, we leaned into it. I actually rented the movie from 1968 to see what worked and what didn’t. But I’ve also taken inspiration from Schitt’s Creek, Grace and Frankie, Ted Lasso, and of course from the cast that we hired.
I knew from the start that I was going to play Owen, and that I wanted to cast my good friend David Allen Singletary as Franklin. I knew him well both as an actor and as a person. I had a strong idea of how he speaks and reacts so I knew what lines to give him so he could hit them out of the park. And he sure delivered!
A majority of the cast and crew are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Was that a priority from the beginning of production?
That’s actually been a priority for My Pet Hippo Productions from the beginning. While Hollywood is generally a safe space for the LGBTQ community, there’s still a long way to go for full equality.
Having LGBTQ+ representation for queer roles is always ideal. I’m a firm believer that anyone can play any role in regards to sexuality, however when a role is about the LGBTQ+ experience, I would prefer that character be played by someone LGBTQ+. Until Hollywood becomes more ok with the idea of an out queer person playing a ‘straight’ role, we need to give as many queer actors as possible a shot with our own stories. With Marriage of Inconvenience, like my feature films, we worked hard to cast as many LGBTQ+ actors as possible
As for crew, in addition to being the right thing to do (our world is diverse and the spaces we create should reflect that), I’m a huge fan of having as many different experiences and perspectives on set and in my post-production team as possible. I’ve found that having people from all walks of life allows for me to make a well rounded and inclusive series.
I can’t tell you the number of people who aren’t straight white men who are AMAZING at what they do in the film world, but who aren’t getting hired because they don’t have enough experience, which they can’t get because they haven’t worked yet. It’s a Catch-22 that has been problem in Hollywood for a long time.
It’s something I can actively work to change, so I do!
The show seems to have a mix of humor, danger and touching drama, was it a challenge to get the mix just right?
Marriage of Inconvenience follows the journey of Owen and Franklin, two single gay men who are given an arranged marriage in WITSEC (Witness Protection). Despite being polar opposites, they need to find a way to co-exist with each other—because their lives depend on their staying hidden from some really bad people who want them dead.
We knew that we could nail the comedy with the present-day clashes Owen and Franklin would have, fighting over sides of the bed, TV noise, etc., as they get to know each other. These are two strangers who are in high stress situations to start with! But as we wrote the script, we quickly realized that when we jumped to the flashbacks of Owen’s and Franklin’s lives before WITSEC, those dramatic moments of intense danger added to the story. They bring a nice balance to the comedy.
It really all boils down to finding the best way to tell Owen and Franklin’s story and embracing it!
Have you had any thoughts about what your next project might be?
First, I’m hoping to work on season two of Marriage of Inconvenience. (I actually mapped out three seasons of the show right at the start, because I’m used to writing feature films with a beginning, middle, end format. So I wanted to know where Owen and Franklin’s journey was heading and I’m happy to say that I’ve got some fun plans in the works for them.)
But in addition to that, my writing partner and I have been working on two features and a new series. The features are Everyday’s a Holiday with Eddie, a lighthearted buddy comedy about suicide (yes, I know that is a super weird combo, but it works, I promise!), and a comedy called Dead Nazi in a Bathtub. Basically a diverse group of friends find, well… Think Snakes On A Plane. The title says it all. But in this case it’s a comedy! Last but not least, we’ve just started working on a new TV show with the working title Hat Box. It’s a feel-good show like Ted Lasso, except it’s set at a youth mental health hospital. We’ve been mapping out the first season and I’m already excited for the characters’ journeys.
Where should people go for more info about you and Marriage of Inconvenience?
Here’s the trailer for Marriage of Inconvenience:
Starting April 6th, the series will be streaming on Dekkoo: https://www.dekkoo.com/marriage-on-inconvenience-official-trailer
And here’s Marriage of Inconvenience’s page on IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12368998/
Find out more about my production company, My Pet Hippo Productions at http://www.mypethippoproductions.com
I can also be found on the socials, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook with the handle @JasonTGaffney.
Final four questions that we ask everybody:
Where will you be when the zombies take over the world?
Hopefully in New Zealand. I feel like that is the best place to be in the event of a zombie takeover. (I’m assuming they can’t swim? But maybe they can float… Yikes!)
What is your favorite Fandom?
That is a super hard question! I love a lot of shows, but I’ve found a lot of fandoms can become quite toxic. (Why can’t we just love the shows and art created without tearing each other down?!) My favorite things to watch and re-watch are RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ted Lasso, Schitt’s Creek, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
What piece of art, be it in the form of music, a book, a film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
This might be the hardest question I’ve ever gotten because everyone’s tastes are so different. But I think that the Milky Way, on a clear night without light pollution, is one of the most magical and powerful things in the universe. It is one of the biggest things I miss because I live in a major city.
Give one fact that most people would not believe about you:
I was gonna say that I’m both half deaf and a tap dancer, but that’s kinda old news at this point… So I think I’ll say that, without fail, if I put a piece of eggplant in my mouth I will instantly gag. It doesn’t matter how it is prepared. Go figure!
PHOTO CREDIT – My Pet Hippo Productions