Just three minutes into the first episode of new web series jaded, a gay millennial makes his first appearance with the gleeful line, "I don't have chlamydia!" and then asks to bum a PrEP dose off his friends.
So goes a day in the life of actor/writer JD Scalzo, or at least his jaded alter-ego and protagonist, Jackson. Picking up where Looking left off with a more humorous, cheeky sensibility, the San Francisco-set eight-episode series, directed by Brian Emerick, examines dating in a hookup culture-driven 2018.
Ahead of its October 4 online debut, NewNowNext spoke with the L.A.-based Scalzo (Gay Husbands of San Francisco) to get the fresh scoop on the story behind jaded.
How much of jaded is autobiographical?
Oh boy, a lot, but it definitely has been embellished for entertainment's sake and to be more a universal story and not just my own. What started off as a cathartic experience and experiment turned into this. It all just snowballed. I wrote it and realized how personal it was. When I wrote it, I called a friend and asked, "Can I do this? Can I own this?" And he said, "that's how it starts. You write what you know." As it started to recreate elements from my real life, I wanted nothing more than to be respectful to anyone who inspired the storylines.
You "go there" from the start, with saucy conversation about STIs in one of the first scenes. Do you feel that's something we need to see, hear, and address more in gay movies and shows?
Yeah. I've been adamant that I'm not coming in with an agenda, but these are conversations we have. The storytelling we're doing is a response to what's happening in our culture. The introduction of Truvada was a game changer, and we will discuss living with HIV and being undetectable. These are issues that come up in our conversations, and to make them less taboo should be part of the vernacular. I'm excited about that part. It's jarring at first, but it drops you into this world that we're creating.
Polyamory is also touched on in the first episodes. What are your thoughts about that, and for that matter "cuckolding?"
I think it's something I learned about while living in San Francisco, and something we will explore is the difference between poly and open relationships. Oftentimes you hear about how great it is, but what we're focusing on is the emotional response of the people outside. It's another thing these characters want to try because they're running out of options as they look for the next best thing.
Were any real-life gay apps like Grindr or Scruff involved with or supporting the production of jaded?
No. We do reference them, and our main character actually works for a gay dating app. We're just having fun with that storytelling element—we figured he's lost in the hookup culture, so why not have him work in the hookup culture?
jaded is now streaming on Vimeo and ZPTV on Roku.