MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There's a new travel documentary show on television these days. It has a different twist on the theme of the American abroad. It's called "Gaycation," and it follows actress Ellen Page and her friend, Ian Daniel, as they travel to different countries to meet other LGBT people from different cultures and ethnicities and to report on the highs and lows of what it means to be queer in choice travel destinations around the world.
Ellen Page joins us from NPR West in Culver City, Calif., and Ian Daniel is at NPR New York. Thank you both so much for joining us.
ELLEN PAGE: Thank you so much for having us.
IAN DANIEL: Thank you so much.
MARTIN: So how did the project come about? You were friends before you teamed up to host this show, correct? How did - Ellen, do you want to start? How did it - how did this start?
PAGE: Sure. The whole thing really started with - Spike Jones is a friend of mine. We've been friends for years. And he's a co-president of the channel and has always been a big part of Vice. And he basically just said hey, we're starting a network if you have any ideas for a show or what have you.
And then I think it was a day or two days later, I was like, oh, well, I do have an idea. It's called "Gaycation," and - so yes, the original idea was to - was, you know, in a sense, a travel show of course, but to go to other countries and solely focus on the LGBTQ community and culture in that country.
MARTIN: Ian, what was interesting to you about this project?
DANIEL: Yeah. I mean, I was just completely interested in the idea of LGBTQ culture and politics around the world. I just had innate curiosity of, like, what is that like? What are those stories? I think it was that simple. And it was a no-brainer for me, really.
MARTIN: So there are a lot of fun moments at, you know, bars and beach parties and, you know, Jamaica and in Brazil, but it's not all, you know, beaches and dance parties. There are actually some very tough moments in this series.
Like, for example, in Japan you're with a man as he comes out to his mother, and you filmed the whole thing, which for most people is a private moment. Everybody knows what's going to happen except the mom. So Ellen, I have to ask - did you have any thoughts about that? I mean, some people would call that an ambush interview.
PAGE: Yeah. I mean, honestly, we thought about it a lot. And when, you know, this young man reached out to have us be there for this moment, it was spontaneous - that came up while we were in Japan. That wasn't a planned thing before we went. And I understand the dilemma in regards of whether to do it or not.
And we did talk about it but, you know, we did decide to do it and be there, and it does seem to have moved a lot of people. And their intimate moment and then their generosity in deciding to share that story, in a lot of responses we've seen, seems to have really affected people.
DANIEL: We feel honored to be in the presence of people who are so willing to share their stories. And I think on some level, they risk their safety by talking to us and potentially being on camera. And I think, you know, there's a sense of love and open heartedness, and then there's the sense of - you know, to be honest, sometimes despair and sadness and just confusion about why these people have to experience violence and brutality and hiding and shame. And so it's a combination of those two things.
MARTIN: The other interesting thing about this series is there are also interviews with people who are not welcoming of gay people, in fact who are openly - what we would call openly homophobic to the point of being dangerous.
I mean, in Brazil, for example, you talk to a person who is alleged to be a contract killer in the LGBT community, and he says at one point, every pigsty must be cleaned up. To me, they are worse than animals. And the look on both of your faces in that scene is - you know, is striking. And I just have to ask what was going through your mind, you know, in that interview.
PAGE: Yeah. I mean, what was going through our mind? You know, I think what I just recall even now talking about it is feeling it, like, physically - you know? - in my body, which I think is obviously what you're seeing when you see us having that interaction. And...
MARTIN: ...Were you afraid?
PAGE: I mean, you know, yeah. (Laughter) I mean, I would be lying if I said we weren't afraid. You know, of course there's - of course you're nervous. Of course you're nervous after you share that you are, you know, a gay person and - but I think honestly, for the most part, you're not - you know, you're not thinking about yourself, you know? You're thinking of those who are in the community and potentially at risk of being hurt by this person. I think that's what you think about when you walk away.
MARTIN: One of the things that kind of shines through is how people find a way to make a life and a space for themselves even in places that are very distinctly unwelcoming to them. I thought that was - that will be, I think, a revelation to some people. But what do you hope people will get from this series? What do you hope people will draw from it? Ellen, you want to start and then Ian, I'll give you the last word?
DANIEL: All right.
PAGE: Oh, goodness, yeah, sure. I mean, I think firstly, I feel grateful to be a part of a show that's offering more just representation just simply, you know, for the LGBTQ community. Of course the show explores the triumphs and the joys and - or even the nightlife, you know? But sadly, unfortunately, it also focuses on and has to focus on how much discrimination affects people's live, and I think a lot of people just don't always know the ways in which people struggle. Hopefully, the show could potentially, in sharing these stories, reflect that in some way.
MARTIN: Ian, you have a final thought?
DANIEL: You know, it's about creating a space where we can just share those stories, basically. So OK, when you think about the viewers, you just want them to enter that space as open-minded as possible and to take the journey with us as fully as they possibly can. And I think that you just want people that watch the show to feel more connected to other stories around the world.
Maybe there are people that watch the show that don't agree that LGBTQ people deserve rights or dignity. And we hope, you know, on some level that those people are watching and that challenges their personal views and their feelings, and maybe the show then encourages them to, you know, question if discriminating against people is actually making their lives better or other people's lives better. I mean, I think that's part of the foundation of what the show is.
MARTIN: That's Ian Daniel and Ellen Page. Their show, "Gaycation," is on Viceland TV channel. And thank you both so much for speaking with us.
PAGE: Thank you. Thank you for having us.
DANIEL: Thank you.
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