After the first series of The Grass Is Always Grindr passed 500,000 views on YouTube, 56 Dean Street has produced a second. Writer Patrick Cash tells us more about the bigger, bolder and better Series 2, launching this week.
We filmed Series 1 of The Grass Is Always Grindr on a shoestring budget, with the majority of the location shoot in a small, poky flat. Being quite cramped, it was an awkward nine days full of actors, spilt coffee cups, and cameramen having to contort themselves into uncomfortable positions.
However, we got the job done, and three episodes exploring modern gay sex lives premiered on YouTube in 2018. We were hoping for about 20,000 views, if we were lucky, but somehow the first episode just mushroomed immediately, and kept on mushrooming, to the extent that collective views for the first series now total over half a million. As chuffed as we were with this result, we decided not to rest on our laurels, and start producing Series 2.
For those not familiar, the films follow a young, Insta-fluent gay man named Joe (Denholm Spurr). He’ll be a familiar character to a lot of people on the scene: goes to the gym, a little fond of his reflection, adept at the selfie. But he’s a nice guy, and fundamentally he wants a boyfriend: as we learn in the Grindr chat he types then deletes at the film’s start. Joe’s talking to Adam (Taofique Folarin), who goes under the Grindr name of ‘Discreet’ and has a profile without a pic; turning out to be a handsome but closeted professional boxer. They meet up, one thing leads to another, and the pair end up at the sexual health clinic (56 Dean Street) where Adam is unexpectedly diagnosed HIV positive.
Series 2 picks up where Series 1 left off, with the two leads trying to make a gay romance work in London. Joe’s gone on to daily PrEP, and Adam’s gone on to HIV medication early, in the hope it’ll make him undetectable in time to take part in his uber-important Christmas qualifying fight. But something’s wrong: Joe’s not enjoying sex, and Adam can’t work out why. They can’t quite articulate what they want to say to each other. As the series progresses, we examine all aspects of modern gay sex lives in London, until Joe finds himself on the chemsex scene, in the sphere of Shoreditch’s premier manic chillout host, John-Paul (Riot Act’s Alexis Gregory). Will Adam, wrapped up in his own worries about his diagnosis, step in?
We’ve been lucky enough to have a significantly bigger budget for Series 2 thanks to funding from Public Health England’s HIV Innovation Fund, which has enabled us to create more content (twelve episodes), and do so much more with our themes.
The series as a whole is a truly pan-London film: our January 2019 shoot took us over many legendary venues on London’s gay scene, including The Glory, Ku Bar and Heaven. From chillouts in luxury East London apartments, to filming in West London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, to, of course, 56 Dean Street in the heart of Soho, our characters traverse the capital. And we’ve had the opportunity to boost our supporting characters too: not only do we explore Dean Street sexual health worker Ryan (Matthew Hodson)’s past, but our glorious, sixty-something Sister of Perpetual Indulgence, Francis (played by genuine legend Jonathan Blake) has a fling with a twist.
In fact, there’s a whole roster of new characters. Whilst our first series had a grand total of four characters – and one disembodied voice in a maternal phone call – the new series boasts over 17 speaking roles, and a myriad of supporting artists. Meet 19-year-old club scene DJ Leo, played by Adonis Jeneico, who provokes Adam and Joe to their first experience of an open relationship; fearsome drag queen club promoter Trashbag Trish (Rich Watkins), who runs the gay scene’s premier club night ‘Bell Boy’; compassionate porn star Eve (played by comedian Siân Docksey) and Dean Street’s psychosexual therapist Fab Fab (Richard Unwin). We’ve been lucky enough to work with a whole host of queer London’s premier acting talent, and we’re proud to present some brilliant performances in the new series.
And I suppose the final question is: why are we making a drama about gay sex lives? Because not many other people seem to be doing so in the UK right now and, like Netflix’s Sex Education, we can cover important sexual health issues in scripted drama in an emotionally resonant manner. The eagle-eyed reader may have noticed a number of references to HIV, PrEP and 56 Dean Street in the article, and the films don’t shy away from the treatments, support and health care available to prevent HIV. At its core, The Grass Is Always Grindr is a gripping, relatable story between two guys who lust for intimacy but can’t quite achieve it by themselves. Will they find it in Series 2? Tune in to find out.
The Grass Is Always Grindr – Series 2, Episode 1 is available to watch now on the 56 Dean Street YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGyhrMd5WnE