Hades Road, the Series is a heartwarming, controversial, and authentic LGBTQ drama. The show is centered upon the real life experiences of John Jericho. This project tells the story of tragedies in John’s Jericho’s own life including the injustices and sufferings of others within the LGBTQ community as well as heterosexual allies. The pilot episode is entitled, ‘Love Me As I Am’.
Those who gave their lives for loving someone of the same gender, and the many who paved the way for LGBTQ rights should never be forgotten. However there is still a long road to travel in order to achieve full equality and the elimination of homophobia.
Hades Road is based in the United States in Arkansas. Much of the filming is outside the city limits within Garland County, with a couple of sets in Hot Springs.
We talk to Hades Road creator and producer John Jericho, who believes that whilst being inside a serious drama, it’s important to shine a light on the darkness faced by many today. For the sacrifices of those in the past, authenticity is the best form of remembrance.
How did the project come about?
I’m a comedian at heart. So, when I first sat down to write the script, I intended to create a comedy called My Str8 Roomm8 – hence why you may come across the logos on the internet. I began writing a sad event that actually occurred in my own life for the My Str8 Roomm8 scene. Sometimes even comedies have emotional drama.
While I was writing the horrific scene, I broke down in tears and it was at that point I realised I needed to switch directions. There have been enough bad things happen to myself, and others, just because we are LGBTQ. Stories need to be told so that others realise that it does get better. Humanity is a good quality to emulate. I want this project to help someone that’s struggling.
There are many stories interwoven into the drama of the script. One example, in 1978 at the age of 13, I was caught in an act of oral sex, with my 14-year old African-American boyfriend, Solomon. A week later, I was beaten, and spent 26 days in the hospital as a result of injuries sustained in the beating. After that, I was forced into the dark abyss known as the closet.
At the age of thirteen, I found myself frozen in fear, and in a deep despair and depression. Suicidal thoughts filled my mind. What had been my crime? Certain members of society said that I had a double crime. I was a gay white youth in the south who had fallen in love with a black boy. My life, at the time, was a living hell, as was the existence of many other LGBTQ individuals. All I wanted was the pain and misery to end, so that Solomon and I could be together. I cannot share any more details, as the story line will appear in our first episode.
Since 1978, I have learned of stories similar to my own. Unfortunately, some are even worse. From there, I decided to change the entire series to include actual events as a more authentic drama. Bullying and hate are serious matters, as well as the damages they cause.
Hades Road is a perfect name that fits the lives of many people within the LGBTQ community because of many personal hells. As a result of my decision to go forward with this project, the first episode will not be available until June, 2014.
How many of you are involved, how did you bring together the cast and crew?
Right now there are eight main cast members, and about twenty others who have expressed an interest in the project. Most of the crew and cast are LGBTQ or LGBTQ allies. Many on both sides have suffered from the ugly hand of bullying. Whenever this issue is addressed, I’ve seen positive results.
Where and when is the series being aired?
Hades Road is currently a web series, most likely to be featured on YouTube. However, I have considered other digital media sources. In addition, I’ve considered only making it viewable on the Hades Road website. Also, I’ve recently become aware of an alternative channel based in the UK, as another possibility.
A pilot episode will air on the 7 June, 2014, with the first episode being made available in July, 2014. (All episodes will be available one week after their air date.)
What are the messages you wish to portray through the series? Are there any lessons you have learned through the process?
Of course, the primary goal is to bring awareness to the struggles and victories within the LGBTQ community. Struggles would include: hatred, inequality, discrimination in workplace environments, immigration, adoption, and the fact that getting a marriage license for same-sex couples is still forbidden in most US states and European countries. A victory is the fact that gay marriage has been approved in, I believe, nineteen states.
Many of these struggles – and our victories – are interwoven into the Hades Road Series. We must be forever vigilant, and shine a light on the perpetrators of injustice. Whereby, their overzealous actions prohibit us within the LGBT community from living equal, happy, and fruitful lives in the pursuit of our own happiness.
One of the lessons I’ve learned isthat it’s incredibly hard to get business owners in the South to let us film at their locations. They treat us as if we’re the plague. Arkansas is right smack in the middle of the religious right and Tea Party. Also, a scene isn’t always perfect the first time you film it. Sometimes, a three-minute scene has to be redone twelve or even more times!
What do you hope this series will achieve?
The number one achievement I seek is to save lives, to turn bullies into supporters, and to let people see that we’re ‘normal’ too. The LGBTQ community has our own ups and downs just the same as the heterosexual community. We want to aim as high as we can with this project and would hope to get picked up by HBO, Netflix, or a British television channel. It’s vital to us that our message is given the chance to reach others.
What has been the greatest challenges facing the series, and how did you overcome them?
For me the greatest challenge is the sadness in remembering the horrific events of my own youth, and in reading some of the stories sent to me. I always grab a box of tissues before I start reading some of the real life stories of others suffering just because they’re LGBTQ. I always wonder what the stories would be like written by those murdered just because they were gay. That really bothers me. A tragic story never told.
I overcome, if I can really say that, through meditation. I love to meditate. Reflection calms me, and allows me to put things into perspective, thus aligning my priorities. Also, spending time with my family is important to me. Andrew and I have two children, thirteen and sixteen, conceived through artificial insemination. Our thirteen-year-old daughter came out to us as bisexual about three months ago. Also, our 16-year-old son is pansexual and a cross-dresser.
Any other projects in the works?
Andrew Jericho, my partner and lover for almost 23 years, and I have a few more projects. We have three movies on the backburner. Hades Road (the movie), Lucifer Light 666, and The Legend of the Pink Ninja. We also have an animated show we hope to get out by December called The Assholas. Seriously. We really have! I’m going to blame Andrew – he’s a man-love erotic romance author.
Where do you want this series to go? Have you been entered for any awards, events because of it?
I want it to go to the top of the world. I want to save lives first, change a bully into a supporter, full equality, and elimination of hate. Then, if we get picked up by a television or Internet company that would be wonderful.
No awards yet. I have purposely been running a little under the radar due to our current location. However once episode one is released, I am going to hit the throttle full speed ahead.
Anyone in particular you would like to thank?
While there are so many people I would like to thank, first and foremost, I want to thank my life partner, Andrew Jericho. He’s been my rock, soul mate, air, sunlight, and my everything for almost twenty-three years.
Second, I would like to thank a few great LGBTQ musicians that have granted me permission to use selected pieces of their music in Hades Road. My Australian friend, Ray Isaac, has a great voice, and is adorable. He’s doing a Who I Am Equality Pride Tour in the US this June. One of his events will be the Razzle Dazzle Dallas Pride event on 7 June. His new song, ‘Who I Am‘, is just beautiful, and a song of victory over bullying.
Third, I want to thank Sofia Antonia Milone and Georgey Payne of The L Project. Georgey believes in this project, and gave me permission to use some of their powerful and beautiful music, too. With The L Project, you get many LGBTQ musicians, and the songs are just beautiful, making me weep like a baby. They touch so many hearts. One-hundred percent of The L Project’s proceeds and royalties go to LGBTQ charities. What giant, beautiful, loving hearts they have. Here’s a link to my favorite song that I listen to multiple times every day:
Finally, I want to thank the awesome cast and crew. We are just a bunch of beautiful people that work hard, and share the same message. Also, I want to thank my two children. They, and all the others I thanked mean the world to me.
A final message that sums up the Hades Road Series.
A final message that sums up Hades Road is: Violent. Peaceful. Hate. Love. Sex. Rape. Sadness. Joy. Tears. Tears of joy. Bullies. Acceptance. Authentic as possible. Unique. All of those words, and more, could sum up Hades Road. The struggles, the victories, the battles, the wins, the losses, and death and life. The main thing is that we’re all human, and it does get better. Never give up hope. Help. Give strength to others suffering for whom they love.
Vada talks to some of the cast members of Hades Road
What role do you play in Hades Road?
Tessa Martinez (TM): I play the role of a drag queen named Amethyst. In Hades Road, I’ve known Casey Casanova (John Jericho) because he was my surgeon and friend. I become a possible witness to the murder of a gay transwoman and may need protection.
Tylee Ayala (TA): I play the role of Selma Lopez, Casey’s step sister. I’m also a new mother and Casey makes sure we have diapers, baby food, and other things we might need because I’m currently unemployed, live at home with our mom and take care of her.
Kiwi Durant (KD): I’m Casey’s old friend and off campus college roommate from the early 80s. Because Casey had a history of picking abusive men as his lovers, I’d take my shotgun to their home and told them to never come around Casey again. We talk often on video chat because we live in different states now but we always remained very close.
How did you become involved?
TM: John Jericho, who plays Casey Casanova, is familiar with my work as a drag queen. He’s been my friend for a couple of years now and we live in the same city. When he asked if I wanted to be in his series, I said yes! I knew this role would be perfect for me.
TA: Through John Jericho, I was actually a voice over actress in his animated show The John Jericho Show. But John got very sick for close to a year with severe kidney problems so we had to stop the show.
KD: John Jericho gave me an opportunity to be in The John Jericho Show but before they could do the episode I was supposed to start in, he became really sick and was out for some time. So when he went with Hades Road, Tylee and I were the first two he asked.
How much of the character do you relate too?
TM: Because I am a drag queen that’s entertained people in venues across the United States, I felt this role relates to me perfectly, as well as fits me perfectly. I couldn’t have asked for a better start in a film career.
TA: As a new mother in the current economy, but with the great relationship I have with John (who is like a brother to me), I feel the character really relates to me.
KD: I’m very protective. I’m bisexual too, so Hades Road goes right along with who I am.
Best experience working at Hades Road?
TM: The atmosphere is sometimes hilarious, tear jerking emotional, suspenseful, a little scary, and very humble. The best experience is being around people that don’t act repulsed, or call insulting names when you walk by. The crew is very accepting of one another, including the straight crew members, and that makes a huge difference no matter where you work. I’m treated like a human being, loved and respected. You can just feel the love with this crew and John and Andrew makes everyone feel so loved and welcome.
TA: John is funny when he needs to be and if you’re feeling down, he can do something to cheer you up. And he’s serious too when required. But I think he’s just a 49 year old kid. As a straight supporter, the experience is wonderful.
KD: Friendliness. John wants everyone to be themselves and comfortable. All he asks is for you to be serious when you need to be serious.
A lesson you’ve taken away from the experience?
TM: Everyone is so alike and yet so different. And although there are definitely people out there that would love to harm you, there are also people who are waiting to love you and that do love you.
TA: When you feel down and out, there’s always someone worse off than you. And that the world needs a lot more love and a lot less hate.
KD: Obviously the world needs to get itself together and spread love, not hate. Unfortunately there are people out there getting killed for loving someone of the same gender and that’s crazy. People should be whomever they want to be, love whomever they want to love, without fear of retribution from some bully, hater, or government.
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