What inspired you or what sparked the idea for your new reality series, Dating Unlocked?
I’m a fool for love. I love dating shows. I love dating. I love romance. BUT I was getting pretty tired of seeing dating show after dating show with only straight people. In fact, it irked me. It felt like a really big flashing sign to all the LGBTQ people in the world that read, ‘you’re not welcome here! You don’t deserve love, relationships, sex or to make really questionable choices on television.’ Questionable choices aside, making Dating Unlocked was really about starting to level the playing field with one little queer series that shouts, ‘Hey! We’re here! We’re queer! And we fall in love too!’ By us not being present in the majority of dating shows, (or history books, or sex-ed class discussions, or the legal framework of our society for far too long) it’s an unspoken but blatant message that ‘you don’t belong here and this isn’t for you.’ I not only wanted to, but I also NEEDED to change the dial on that messaging.
How important is LGBTQ representation in television to you? Can fans and viewers expect more reality shows and projects like such in the future?
When I was growing up in the 80s LGBTQ representation on television didn’t really exist. We were occasionally talk-show ‘freak’ guests or headlines that would make newscasters blush and stutter. That’s obviously come a long way but only because of the grit and determination of people who were adamant that their stories, their REAL stories be told in authentic and real ways. ’Nothing about us, without us’ is a slogan that is so important to many marginalized groups and for the LGBTQ community - making our own independent films, television, books, podcasts, art, fashion, parties, events, businesses, and families has been inextricable with our survival and story-sharing from one generation to the next. I hope Dating Unlocked is one of many, many LGBTQ television shows because no one series can hold all of our stories. I really believe that every human is a creator with a story to share and nothing would make me happier than seeing more and more passionate and determined storytellers manifest the creativity that’s in their minds and hearts.
What was your favorite part of filming the series?
At the end of every episode, there’s a moment when the daters need to choose to go on a second date (or not!). And both or all the daters need to choose each other - so no one person is a prize or objectified. Those final moments in every episode when we’re waiting to find out if the daters fell for each other and want to continue exploring the romance are so fun and they are taut with tension. As a crew, we all had sweaty palms, raised pulses, and crossed fingers right along with the daters.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There’s a lot that I’m really proud of young Charlie for. He wore a sequined tuxedo to his Catholic high school prom. He came out in that Catholic high school and to his parents and friends when he was 16 years old. He told his father he didn’t want to play hockey anymore and that he’d rather do the school musical instead. He kissed a boy when he was 5 and 10 and 15 and he liked it. He was strong and resilient and brave in a small town that wasn’t always open-minded, receptive, or welcoming to ‘otherness’. I’d tell him, all those dreams and ambitions and hopes you have Charlie, get ready because they’re all going to come true. You are going to have an absolutely incredible, magical life. Remember to be grateful and loving every single day.
When working on a project, how do you plan, organize, and prioritize your tasks?
I started my production company, Border2Border Entertainment, just over 10 years ago and we now do up to three or four television and digital media series a year along with several audiobooks, documentary films, and participate in mentoring programs with some of the film & television colleges in Toronto. I’m just like everyone else and sometimes get overwhelmed or exhausted or uninspired and that’s when the work gets tough. My breakthroughs in those tough times come from walks in nature, dressing in a ridiculous outfit and hanging out with friends, dancing, cuddling with my dog, and most importantly coming back to the reason I do what I do. I’ve learned to be patient and plan and surround myself with inspired, hard-working creative people who share the vision and the mission and want to be part of something fun but also something that moves the dial in terms of what we believe in and how we can help shape a better world. We make things that inspire conversations, squeeze hearts, and open minds. When we come back to that as our motivation it’s easy to stare down gargantuan projects and simply proceed with one thing at a time. That’s how everything gets done - in tiny, focussed, thoughtful steps.
What is your favorite TV show/movie? Who is your favorite director?
Working in television and film, I watch a lot so that’s a really tough question because I’m always falling in awe of new talent and creativity. Recently I’ve really been gobsmacked by Yellow Jackets on Crave. I love that it’s a woman lead narrative while also questioning the assumptions on what would happen if ‘women ruled the world’. I love that I’m fascinated by every single character and both times frames the series skips between. It’s really, really well made and made right here in Canada which I also love to champion! In terms of television directors, there are many but I’ll again speak to things I’ve watched recently so I’ll name Robin Wright. I just finished the fourth season of Ozark (another fave!) and Robin Wright directed the last two episodes. Many people know her as an incredible actress but she was also directing House of Cards and other series and I think has an incredibly deft hand in that role as well.
Thanks for inviting me to chat!
Amber S. Hawkins is a Lifestyle & Entertainment blogger hailing from The Bronx, NYC. A few of her goals are to learn to play at least one instrument and have a cozy home away from city life. Stay connected with Amber on Instagram @Ambbamm__