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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



TELEVISION 'They/Them' cast members reflect on making the film
by Jerry Nunn

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They/Them (pronounced "They-slash-Them") is a new 2022 film from Blumhouse Productions in which the terrors of an LGBTQ+ conversion camp invade the lives of a diverse group of young people who spend a summer together.

The project is from out and proud screenwriter John Logan in his directorial debut. This three-time Oscar nominee spent 25 years in Chicago and graduated from Northwestern University in 1983. Logan complimented this publication at a recent Zoom interview by stating that he read Windy City Times "religiously, in fact," throughout the years.

Logan said that parts of They/Them were inspired by his own life: "When I was growing up queer characters didn't exist in horror movies or if they did exist, they were victims, killers or jokes. As a little gay boy, it was bad because I so desperately wanted to see myself represented in a positive way."

His formation of the piece came from his desire to "write something about power and gender in a very specific way. I had met people who had been through so-called conversion therapy. The stories they told me were harrowing and really stayed with me. I wrote it just for me to see where it would go. Getting They/Them out was a real exorcism of what I wanted to do since I was 12 years old and embracing positive queer imagery in a horror film genre was very important to me. I wish I had this movie when I was 14 where queer kids are the heroes and triumph over adversity."

Logan confessed that the first three Friday the 13th movies are his favorite fright films and make him feel like he's in "horror geek heaven!"

Openly gay actor Austin Crute plays Toby in They/Them after his previous queer roles in the movie Booksmart and Netflix series Daybreak. He recalled, "Filming the scene where the campers have a musical sequence singing Pink's 'Fuckin' Perfect' was so fun and we had little earbuds to hear the track. Everybody just sang at the top of their lungs."

Non-binary performer Theo Germaine, who many may recognize from the Andersonville area Showtime series Work in Progress or Netflix's The Politician, confessed they were intimidated by that musical theater number in They/Them. "I wanted the choreography to be on point and to sing all the notes correctly. John Logan told me not to do it as a performance, but instead like a campfire song," they said. "It was a moment for everybody to forget their troubles and sing together for a moment. The magic of it was really cool. It was an homage to the original Friday the 13th film where a bunch of camp counselors was singing together. Our group is not singing like the original cast did before they were slashed, it was instead about us all coming together. It is what we do to survive and not get emotionally slashed by conversion therapy."

Transgender activist and actor Scott Turner Schofield described the scene as "the moment where a queer creator writing it comes clearest. It is all throughout the film but some people may be shocked that we would sing a Pink song. It is what makes the difference between an authentic creation and other straight helmed projects."

Logan summed it up by saying, "I always loved that song and Pink. The idea that the fellow campers were completely perfect was just the moment to celebrate. There are so many queer kids that I know who would love to be told they are "Fuckin' Perfect" just the way they are."

When asked if there was talk about the campers spending the night on the set similar to the plot, Germaine said some of the crew members had indeed slept on site: "I used to go camping and wanted to sleep out in the woods, but decided it was a little scary and dark out there after all, so I went back to my hotel instead."

Crute said, "You couldn't pay me to sleep at that camp! There was a rumor that a little boy was haunting the joint. If I had seen him there would have been an exorcism in that place because I would not have handled it well. It would have been mad scary to sleep out there."

Korean actress Monique Kim played Veronica in They/Them and heard rumors of a haunted cabin in the woods nearby the shooting location. What scared cast member Anna Lore more than that was watching the snake wrangler hunting in the woods with tongs to remove any unwanted reptiles during filming, "We saw a poisonous snake when we were driving in the first day! Other than that it was a very loving atmosphere. There was even a cast member giving tarot card readings."

The character of Stu in They/Them is played by Cooper Koch and he said that the set was just like regular summer camp: "I tried to scare Darwin Del Fabro when we were in the lake. I tried to put my toe on his leg to pretend it was something in the water. I'm a prankster. We all bonded, sometimes when we weren't working. We went to the drive-in to see Candyman in Atlanta, we went ziplining and hung out in each other's hotel rooms. We had a blast together and got along right away!"

While most of the cast auditioned to be in the movie, Del Fabro was written in to play Gabriel: "I was about to start working with John in a play in New York before this project. The play was shut down because of the pandemic and I thought I had lost my chance to work with John Logan. He called three months later and had written a role for me."

Longtime movie star Kevin Bacon talked about his involvement with They/Them, saying, "When it comes to this movie, it was a way to make an accessible, fun, horror slasher film alongside the horrors of gay conversion. My character Owen Whistler runs this camp and it has been in his family for years. I tried to create a man that would make people who sit in the audience think he is making some sense. He is convincing at the beginning of the film. He tries to put the campers at ease as much as possible. He has a non-threatening presence that is obviously hiding a very deep seeded anger and terrible mission."

Actress from television's The Good Wife, True Blood and Claws Carrie Preston described her character named Cora as "a friendly neighborhood licensed therapist, who just wants to save the young people."

Preston didn't know Logan before this particular project but "he reached out and I read the script thinking, why does he want me to play this horrible person? I found out he wanted outwardly pleasant people playing these characters to make the point of the movie, which is that bad things like this happen every day and is a true terror for people. We need to learn more about it. As an actor, producer and director my job is to create and foster LGBQTQIA+ content in order to make it as powerful and present as any other storyline. This movie succeeds with that mission."

Bacon, who also executive-produced the project, also discussed human rights: "People being able to live their lives is a fundamental right. For some to make a concentrated effort to shut down someone's chance to be who they are is so objectionable, to me. It is a no-brainer for me to support that. Most Americans support the issue of gay marriage and most are smart enough to know that's not a threat. Why would someone care who people partner up with?"

When some of the cast members were asked about the dramatic tone on set during some of the triggering sections of They/Them, Germaine stated, "It was both empowering and challenging. For me it provided a space to reflect on my experiences as a teen at the time. I was allowed to heal. I also wanted to be sure this film was effective. I wanted to depict justice and show how destructive conversion therapy is. This needed to be taken seriously and I wanted to do everything right."

Crute elaborated on the topic more: "My character Toby is a cis male femme who has always been critiqued on his male presentation and told to act like a boy. I had to revisit things from the past where people told me this when I was growing up in Cobb County, Georgia. Everything was very hush-hush and as far as I knew back then there weren't any gay people around me growing up. It was a little triggering but it came through in this movie. I could go back to that place and it was not in vain. It had served its purpose."

Germaine concurred, saying, "When revisiting those past times, it reminded me of how much I survived. I didn't understand what was going on at the time. I thought that nobody was going to change me and I would not be affected by anyone else in the future. This script made me think about all of this stuff from the past."

Schofield explained, "When we made this film we couldn't have guessed that the world would take the hard turn that it has today. This film is even more relevant right now with the Supreme Court talking about rolling back LGBTQ+ rights. They/Them holds a mirror up and forces people to look at themselves. It is more important right now than when we were originally filming it."

Some upcoming projects for the cast and crew include Preston playing Bacon's wife in Space Oddity, which will be directed by Kyra Sedgwick, Bacon's wife in real life.

Koch is in another queer horror film called Swallowed starring Jena Malone and Mark Patton. It is currently making the rounds to film festivals. Lore will be shooting The CW's Gotham Knights which is now in pre-production.

Del Fabro is slated to work on another project with Logan, who is in the process of writing Michael Jackson's new biopic that Lionsgate recently acquired.

They/Them currently streams (with screams) at .

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