Texas is full of crazy characters, but perhaps none more so than those living in the mind of writer/director Del Shores. From Southern Baptist Sissies to Sordid Lives, the world according to Shores is one filled with as much humor as chemical dependency. And somewhere along the way, he manages to tug at our heartstrings, too. As the highly anticipated TV version of Sordid Lives rapidly approaches, Del took some time out from his hectic schedule to talk a blue streak over a tall glass of sweet iced tea and a big ol’ Moon Pie (or at least that’s the picture we’re painting in our heads).
Q: You've been working in show business for nearly 24 years and have had a cult following with your plays for a great percentage of that time. But it's “Sordid Lives” that seemed to really put you on the map. What was it like translating the stage version of that story to the big screen?
A: It was so easy. If you get the play book, you can find about 90 percent of the movie within the stage version. I just told the story differently, created a time-line that would allow all the story lines to happen simultaneously then converge at the funeral.
Q: Now, “Sordid Lives” is a play-turned-film-turned-TV-show. What's next, a Japenese anime version or an online role-playing video game? It seems like the possibilities are endless!
A: How about a Broadway musical? Seriously, I've been approached. Can you imagine the big show stopping number in the second act, “Fuck Me, Earl, Fuck Me Now!”
Q: Many of your fans will remember when you wrote an online prequel of sorts with a separate chapter devoted to each character. Did you use some of those stories in the new series?
A: Wow, you are good! Yes, that's where the stories began. It was my husband's idea for me to write the novel, then he suggested I take the series to LOGO.
Q: What were the biggest challenges of revisiting these characters on the small screen?
A: To tell all those stories in 21 minutes and ten seconds per episode. There is a LOT of story going on and with so many characters, it was not easy. But, I think it is one of the strengths of the series. Not a moment to waste.
Q: You've worked on TV before as a writer for “Dharma & Greg,” as well as “Queer As Folk.” How does it compare writing and directing your very own creation?
A: I loved working on both of those shows, but this is my baby. I wrote every episode, I produced every episode (with great partners) and I directed every episode. It truly was like working in the theatre – just with cameras – and I love that control.
Q: Your partner, Jason Dottley, is in the TV series. You've directed him before on stage, but what was it like working with him in this environment?
A: Jason is wonderful in the series and I love directing him. We both have a tremendous amount of respect for the other's crafts and we both try very hard to put aside our personal relationship and work together professionally. Only twice did we cross the line – me once, Jason the other – and we quickly realized it, apologized and nailed the scene.
Of course, I had never directed him having sex with another man (Ted Detwiler) but I have to admit, it was pretty technical when we were shooting, although when I was editing I thought… “Wow, this is really hot!” “Queer As Folk” was good training for those scenes and I feel the fans are going to love me for those scenes (especially the DVD version).
Q: Your dialogue is so wonderfully quotable and much of it has become part of the pop-culture fabric of many gay men. What's the favorite line you've ever written?
A: Ooh, I like this question. Okay, you're going to be surprised at this answer because it's not from “Sordid Lives” and it's not one of my funny lines. It's a line from my play “Southern Baptist Sissies” – “Sometimes I close my eyes and create a perfect world. A world of acceptance and understanding and love.”
Q: Are the characters you write based on people you know or are they all figments of your own twisted imagination?
A: I often say I'm a thief, not a writer. So many of characters are based on my family, my friends, my enemies, people I've had conversations with at Wal-Mart in the South. I draw on what I know, then I add to and heighten. I do fall in love with my characters… I mean, wouldn't you want to have an “Aunt Sissy” or an “Aunt LaVonda?”
Q: If you had to pick three characters from any of your works to live with you for six months on the International Space Station, who would you choose and why?
A: I LOVE THIS QUESTION. “Latrelle” from “Sordid Lives” because I'd get to have my mom back, “Mark” from “Southern Baptist Sissies” because we could have really deep intelligent conversations and perhaps a hot affair, and “Brother Boy” from “Sordid Lives” because I could watch him perform as Tammy Wynette – and with “Latrelle” there, there would be plenty of conflict to keep me entertained.
Q: Is there any chance of a second season of “Sordid Lives: The Series” or does this series end right where the movie begins?
A: I'm not giving away my story secrets, but I've got plenty of stories in me for at least seven more seasons… LOGO, order up!
“Sordid Lives: The Series” premieres on LOGO on Wednesday, July 23. Catch our review in the Gay List Daily National Edition on Tuesday, July 22. Not signed up for the national edition yet? Go to www.gaylistdaily.com/subscribe now!