I’m in deep shit, Jimmy, Deep shit, Arkansas. —Louise in Thelma & Louise
We were on the road to Idaho, hauling a vintage camper trailer and a skeleton crew from New York, when the news broke that Colby Keller was supporting Donald Trump. I had written a part in the third season of EastSiders specifically for him, sort of an homage to Brad Pitt’s drifter character in Thelma & Louise, and I was excited for us to finally collaborate. That excitement turned to dread as my partner and I lay awake in our hotel room that night in the middle of Nowhere, South Dakota, trying to figure out the best path forward. Was working with a Trump supporter the same thing as supporting Trump? Should we issue a statement? Should we replace him? Could we even replace him at this point? It wasn’t the first time we were caught off guard on the shoot, and it wouldn’t be the last.
I’d spent months searching for the perfect camper trailer online. The first canned ham I found seemed to good to be true; it was a great color, in mint condition, and just a couple of hours north of where my parents live in Mississippi. Unfortunately, it actually was too good to be true. When they got there to pick it up, they noticed that the vehicle identification number had been scratched off, and there was no way to get a title. Odds were good that at some point in the trailer’s life it had been stolen. My second choice was a fixer-upper in upstate New York, a 1963 Shasta 1500. Thankfully, the seller agreed to have it repainted, and I put down a deposit. We knew it was risky, given what had happened with the first camper, but we didn’t have any other option but to pick it up from him the day before we were slated to start production.
John and I didn’t have a car of our own yet and the SUV that Audi was loaning us for the trip was still being outfitted with a trailer hitch, so we decided to buy a car in New Jersey the same day we drove to pick up the camper. It was a gamble, but I had picked out several used Subaru Outbacks that looked promising, and we figured our odds were good at landing the lesbian SUV of our dreams and getting on the road on schedule.
We somehow managed to pull off buying a car and making it upstate before the DMV closed. We had agreed to meet the seller in the parking lot so he could sign over the title, and we were giddy with excitement as we drove up to the blue and white camper. It was perfect. We got out of the car and approached the truck. That’s when we saw the oversized “I’m One of the Deplorables” sticker on the bumper.
It was about a month before the election, and the last thing I wanted was to do business with a Trump supporter. But I’d already put down a deposit and I didn’t see any other option but to hand over an envelope stuffed with $7,000 in cash to the man in the trucker hat whostepped out of the Ford F150 to shake our hands. We gave him our butchest one-pump handshakes and quickly slid our hands back in our pockets, hoping he hadn’t noticed our wedding rings.
He did notice that we had the wrong kind of ball on our trailer hitch and offered to trade it out with one back at his shop. We nervously agreed and got back in our Outback to venture into the woods, following his truck as the sun started to set through the autumn leaves. Ten minutes turned to 20 as we went further and further off the beaten path, and our phones both lost reception. Had the guy noticed our wedding rings? Was this all an elaborate trap?
I’m from Mississippi, and I’m not paranoid about being around conservatives; their bark is worse than their bite. But this guy did still have both the camper trailer and my envelope full of cash. When we arrived, his wife and son walked out to greet us. They traded out the trailer hitch and showed us how to work it. He even gave me a lesson on downshifting on hills to save my brakes — he was a retired driver’s ed teacher, apparently — and threw in some woodblocks for the wheels. I was immediately reminded of the generosity and kindness of the folks I grew up with, as well as struck by the disconnect between his political beliefs and his actions. I’m certain he had noticed our wedding rings, but he was kind to us anyway.
Maybe he wasn’t that kind of deplorable, but he was still supporting a deplorable candidate. You can’t support a homophobic, racist, misogynistic piece of shit without getting at least a little shit on your hands. And he did wait until we had completed the sale to let me know that the lock on the door of the camper wasn’t working — which is unfortunate considering we had to store thousands of dollars worth of film equipment in it overnight as we drove across the country.
That night before we left we had to park the trailer by a warehouse in Queens near the Hudson, and we were certain we were going to come back the next morning to find it covered with graffiti and/or full of human shit. Thankfully, it was not, and we were able to get on the road, feeling like we had gotten away with murder.
Unfortunately, when things seem too good to be true, they often are.
The news of Colby’s political views hit me like a deplorable’s pickup truck. I was already mourning the loss of Susan Sarandon, and now there was an interloper in our midst. To make matters worse, I had already written a joke about Susan Sarandon’s politics into the script. It felt like it was unavoidable — Sarandon’s one of my favorite actresses, and Thelma & Louise was a big inspiration for me in writing this season. Colby’s episode is actually called "Thelma & Louise." And as we sped toward Idaho, our Subaru felt more like a convertible speeding toward the Grand Canyon.
To be clear, Colby’s a “bring about the revolution” Trump supporter. Having read his thoughts on politics, I think his primary issue is being disconnected from the lives of the people impacted by a Trump regime. A vote in the name of abstract ideals isn’t worth the consequences for so many people’s lives, immigrants especially. But that’s neither here nor there. We had a decision in front of us, sitting in our hotel room in South Dakota, poring over blog after blog and comment after comment cursing his name.
Hailing from Mississippi, I have more than a few family members who voted for Donald Trump. Some I’ve had it out with, some I have not. Some I have reached, some I have not. But I haven’t cut ties with any of them, because I fundamentally disagree with tribalism. That said, as much as I hesitate to embrace tribalism, I have to admit that we are in different tribes. We have different news outlets, different Facebook feeds, and different priorities. We might, fundamentally, be different kinds of people. Our ability to coexist is actually what makes America “great,” but we’re not so keen on coexisting lately.
We decided to move forward with Colby, largely because at the time I believed that Hillary Clinton would be elected president. I may have been wrong about that, but I sincerely doubt that Colby’s comments impacted anyone’s vote. I honestly don’t know if it was the right decision, but I know I wouldn’t want to lose my job because I’m a Democrat.
There’s no dramatic ending to this story. Colby was professional on set, friendly with the crew, and I’m happy with how his scenes came out. I’ve had a lot of people reach out in anger, attacking me and the show for working with him.
I want the people I’ve spoken with to know that I understand what they’re feeling. I’m still angry at this country, and I desperately want someone to blame. Colby’s an easy target, but I’m not sure he’s the right one.
All we can do now is keep our eyes on the road.