Thursday 25th May 2017,
Televisual

‘Hollywood Houseboys’ Creator Ryan Hope on Reality TV, Independent Production and Trying to Make It

 

Recently I wrote about the proliferation of gay reality series on the web, and I thought I’d published an email interview I did with the producer of one of the shows, Hollywood Houseboys.

The show is quite good; it’s a well-cast and entertaining look at a oft-overlooked slice of Los Angeles. The series follows three people: Ryan Hope, the show’s producer and an aspiring actor; Curtis J, a semi-working model; and Domonique, a trans woman dealing with a relationship crisis. The concept is that these people were or are supported by their partners, which gives them plenty of time to work on themselves (their art, bodies, or careers) and equally enough time to start some drama!

In my research and on this blog I’ve focused on scripted shows, because generally, whether it’s traditional television or the web, I think scripted content is harder to make and market. My web series lists are similarly scripted-focused, but that may change. Nevertheless, reality series are huge online, and I’ll start writing about them more.

Here’s the interview!

AJC: How did the idea for this series come about? What was the inspiration?

Ryan Hope: The idea and the inspiration for this series stems true from my life! I was in a long-term, long-distance relationship with a middle-eastern man who was living overseas, traveling back and forth to see me, didn’t have citizenship and was not “out” to his family. This was a 7- year relationship that I was growing very frustrated and unhappy with…and the only “reality” shows on at that time that were focusing on house-lives were the “Housewives” franchise and the “House Husbands of Hollywood”. There wasn’t any programming on TV that I could relate to. Why wasn’t there an “urban” gay reality series, I started asking myself? Enough “Housewives”, enough “Househusbands” what about the “HOUSEBOYS”?

What is it about the “houseboy” that is so interesting?

What makes the “houseboy” so interesting is that unlike heterosexual relationships, same sex couples are not allowed to marry in the state of California as well as most of the country. Unlike a “housewife” or “househusband” who have been together and vested so much of themselves into long-term relationships for years on end…when either of them divorce, depending on the circumstance, either party may be entitled to spousal support, child support or alimony. With my situation my partner and I were together 7 years…and I didn’t have the right to even marry him to help get him citizenship which made our lives so much more complicated. Also, I was pursuing my dreams and endeavors in the entertainment field and he was working as a Computer Engineer for one of the largest oil companies in the world…but once our relationship was over there was no Judge there to grant me any type of “support” to help keep me accustomed to the lifestyle I had with him. Much like a housewife or house-husband, my job was to take care of home and focus on establishing my career while my partner was away at work. So I was left to pick-up the pieces on my own after we broke-up and I feel that’s one thing that makes the story of the “houseboy” so interesting.

Why make a show about black gay/trans men/women?

It was important for me to start making this show because I remember when I was growing up there wasn’t any “gay” programming on tv so there wasn’t anything I could really relate to. One of the first shows I remember having a gay character was Ricky Cruz on “My So-Called Life” with Claire Daines. And then years later “Noah’s Arc”. “Noah’s Arc” was the first gay black show I ever remember seeing and my family didn’t even have the Logo channel so I had to go to a friends house every week to watch it! But at last, finally being black and gay I had something to “somewhat” relate to. “Noah’s Arc” was a scripted series and now in the times of reality-tv there hasn’t been a black gay reality show that deals with friends, their relationships and pursuing Hollywood dreams. So me and my friends decided that we’d share our stories with the world.

Do you think you’re reinforcing stereotypes or breaking them down?

That’s an interesting question…because in terms of reinforcing a stereotype I can’t directly answer that because this is a “docu-reality” show that chronicles our “real-lives” and we’re just living our lives regardless to what stereo-types each individual holds in their heart. We’re living OUR truth and “getting it how WE live.”

Now that being said, I do understand however that as a producer, and while I have this amazing platform on what content I have the ability to share with this world…I am conscious of my material and what parts of our lives would be the most compelling in order to start those “water-cooler” conversations. Whether people feel good, bad or indifferent about us…this is “our” story and the Hope is that by sharing our story it may give others like us something to relate to…but may also provide more understanding amongst those who walk different paths in life!

A lot of reality TV is about showing the good and the bad in people, what made the three stars decide to do the show?

What made me want to do it and also produce it was that I was coming out of a relationship where my partner spoiled me rotten and gave me the world! Bought me a luxury car, paid all my bills and only wanted for me to focus on honing my skills as an actor and one day walking the red-carpet. But I realized that him doing everything for me came at a cost. And that cost crippled me, and cost me my freedom. There were a lot of younger boys who looked up to me as being “kept” or thought that I had it made. I did too, until I started to mature and saw that having someone do everything for me wasn’t “cute”. it only hindered me. So I felt that it was important for me to tell my story from the point of the boy that had it all…is starting over…this time working to stand on his own two feet and have his own prestige!

As for Domonique the trans-gender character… we felt that it would be interesting to show a boy as he transitions into a “female”, the hormone shots, the image he had/has of himself, what his family thinks, what the hormones do to him mentally, how he finds loves, how he has sex, how some trans-genders don’t feel comfortable as they’re going through their transition to find a job in the “everyday” workforce and sometimes would rather work to do “sexual favors” in exchange for money to support themselves until their transition is complete. What goes on in the mind of the partner/boyfriend that the trans-gender is dating and how the trans-genders’ partner views himself ( in most cases ‘straight’) and the psychology behind that!

There’s so much juicy-ness coming in these upcoming episodes I can hardly contain myself!

And with Curtis J and his partner we felt it would be good to show a couple that have been together 8 years living together supporting each other! A couple that has “trust” in their relationship. I think something else that makes Curtis J interesting is that he’s a guy of a particular age. He’s an accomplished hair-stylist and still pursuing his modeling! I think that’s inspiring. So those are some of the reasons we wanted to do the show.

Are you pitching or did you pitch TV or web video networks?

Currently my production company is independent…which means any all funds to produce the show come directly from my pocket and my pockets aren’t that deep…lol. Which is another reason I thought it would be refreshing for us to do a show because so many of the reality shows out now only showcase the rich people. But everyone isn’t rich! Its nice to turn on the tv and get lost in some rich persons wealth but sometimes too you want to be able to see real people going through real things just like you and see how they’re trying to make it in life. Hence our motto; Hungry for Fame, Hustling for Money but Hopeful to make-it! And the beauty of the show is that its real so you get to see me on it as I’m working/hustling to get it produced!

We have had some “interest” regarding the show. But the show is still new and its still growing. We’re hoping to find the right match for us whether it be tv, cable, or internet. So as a producer I am working to explore those tv channels that we may be “on-brand” for. It would be great if we could get picked-up and get paid. But there is also a lot more freedom with producing a web-series. But the ultimate goal there is to find sponsors and additional funding to produce it! So its a work in progress and we’re in it for the long-haul. Until then the next episode, which is so so juicy is coming this Summer! So I hope that viewers will continue to support us and stay tuned!

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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