The intersection of LGBT identities with minority groups like the deaf and hard of hearing, people of color, immigrants, and others comes with its own particular challenges, which too often go undepicted in mainstream or LGBT media. But Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman are looking to change that with their new Web series Fridays, which premieres today on YouTube.
The pilot episode introduces best friends,Kate and Michael, who live in Los Angeles. Both are deaf and speak American Sign Language.
"With Fridays, we hope to add a new perspective to the entertainment industry that we believe is lacking," Feldman, who plays Michael, tells The Advocate in an email. "Deaf characters in the media often aren’t fully realized characters, mainly because their storylines or their portrayals have everything to do with their being deaf. With Fridays, we want to introduce the world to two deaf people who are funny, complicated, and fully realized."
Fridays starts out complicated: Kate is newly married, Michael is newly single. "He’s kind of a wreck," Feldman says, "but he’s very secretive, so he has no problem hiding that from the world."
Feldman and Stern are well-equipped to play friends on the series, since they have been close in real life for years. They met in Washington, D.C., "maybe six, seven years ago" by Feldman's estimate, and reconnected in Los Angeles two years ago.
Stern has appeared in shows including Weeds, Lie to Me, Jericho, and others, and has too often been offered parts for which deafness is her character's defining characteristic. "It's only when I'm presented with a narrow and set view of what being deaf is, most often from the point of view of it being the loss of something and existing wholly within that loss, that I feel limited and frustrated," Stern says in an email.
Fridays aims to break out of that. The YouTube premiere happens simultaneously with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign that Feldman and Stern hope will fund additional shows and complete the first season, which Feldman said will see his character encounter more guys, both deaf and hearing.
For Feldman, the role is a personal one. "I grew up deaf but didn’t come out [until] much later, because it was especially frightening to consider myself a double minority: deaf and gay," he says. "It felt overwhelming."
With Fridays, he hopes to bring some much-needed representation to LGBT media. "My real hope is to introduce more deaf gay characters to film and television," he says, "because I really needed to see that when I was a young kid, growing up."
Watch the series premiere below.