The Grass is Always Grindr is a web based TV series written by Patrick Cash in association with Boyz Award-winning 56 Dean Street clinic. It has had over six million views on You Tube and is now coming to TV channel London Live. It’s a story about the gay scene in London and the variety of characters that live in and around it. We gathered together many of the cast, ahead of the episodes being shown on London Live and a premiere of the feature length film at the Curzon Soho, and asked them to tell us about their characters and what they learnt from the experience – plus Patrick gave us the lowdown on creating this important series.
“When we first made The Grass Is Always Grindr, we were hoping for around 20,000 plays. Six million hits and a second season later, and now the entire project is preparing to launch in a redeveloped format on London Live from 24 September.
The drama series explores the stories revolving around Soho sexual health clinic 56 Dean Street: chemsex, HIV, PrEP, love, and two young men trying to navigate intimacy in London. It follows Insta-savvy party boy and club host Joe (Denholm Spurr), and the budding relationship he develops with handsome but closeted professional boxer Adam (Taofique Folarin). They’re not exactly a fairytale, and they both go on unexpected journeys as the story twists.
Alongside Joe and Adam, there’s a host of supporting characters featuring a wealth of London’s exceptional acting talent. Meet flamboyant Sister of Perpetual Indulgence neighbour Francis (Jonathan Blake), intriguing Dean Street worker Ryan (Matthew Hodson), darkly charismatic sex party host John-Paul (Alexis Gregory), porn star Eve (Siân Docksey), twink DJ Leo (Adonis Jeneico) and glamorous drag queen club promoter Trish (Rich Watkins).
The series was commissioned by 56 Dean Street, and there is a serious HIV-reduction message intertwined into the scenes. But it was essential to our production team, including director Luke Davies, producer Leon Lopez (Soft Lad) and Dr Alan McOwan (Lead Clinician at 56 Dean Street), that it worked first and foremost as a drama. This ain’t no informercial. We’ve been criticised online for covering drugs and chemsex – but ultimately, as some might have seen in the recent Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, this is the reality of what many patients present with at Dean Street. We don’t pull any punches from exploring this world, and the G overdoses and Tina smoking that wreathes hand-in-hand with its strange temptations.
However, at the heart of the series is compassion. After all, this is what makes 56 Dean Street so successful: non-judgemental, friendly attitudes. We also wanted to make sure that we’re not just another gay drama concentrating solely on gorgeous young men with hot bodies, and that we show men of other ages, and other body types, enjoying sex and romance.
Oh, and we also made a film version, which screened to a sold-out audience at the Curzon Soho last week. More details on that to come, but for the time being, see here how to watch The Grass Is Always Grindr:”
“Adam is a young professional boxer, who’s been diagnosed with HIV. He’s really new to the gay world and the scene, he’s like a child in a new playground. In this series we explore the relationship between Adam and Joe, the highs and lows that they experience and see how Adam grows through it all. Working on the series I got to see other people’s experiences and perspectives about drugs and sex from the cast and people at Dean Street which were different from my own.”
“Joe keeps the whole thing together, or rather he doesn’t actually. He’s a young gay man on a journey of self-discovery learning about himself, about sexual health and falling in love. He was in the first series and in this one we see him dealing with some quite dramatic things, including loss, but also how he copes with having somebody actually love him as well. Being involved in this series and other things that Patrick has written, I’ve actually learnt how to deal with someone if they’ve taken too much, that information is out there and we should all know it.”
“John Paul is a notorious sex party host in London and he is quite badly behaved at points in the series. He’s a complicated character, quite dark, but people seem to have been responding well to him and a lot of us know a John Paul type character. I think the audience can see the reasons why he’s behaving like that. Pat Cash has done a very clever thing with this series, he brings these issues out and makes good points about safety without it ever feeling like a lecture.”
“Fabian or Fab Fab as he’s called works at 56 Dean Street. He’s a sexual therapist and he’s the love interest for one of the other characters; he’s someone new and slightly on the outside looking in. I was aware of the chemsex scene because I had previously been in Pat’s Chemsex Monologues, but doing this and talking to the team at Dean Street I was shocked at how how prevalent it is and the number of deaths. It might feel like we’ve discussed it a lot on the scene, but the wider world is largely ignorant about it.”
“My character, Ryan, works at Dean Street and he gives a lot of advice to the characters. He’s the friendly healthcare professional, but all the time he has his own things going on. He’s actually quite traumatised by his experiences in the 80s and 90s when he lost a lot of friends and although he seems like the voice of reason, he’s pretty mixed up. One of the things I like about Pat’s writing is that he shows how people got to be where they are, and that sometimes really good people can get out of control and something like chemsex can affect people of all kinds.”
“Andre is part of the conspiracy if you like, he’s sort of John Paul’s right-hand man and does not show great judgement at all, especially with Leo. Filming the show I honestly was shocked to find out that these guys can keep going for days, and just how much stuff they can absorb into their bodies.”
“Eve is a very self-assured sex worker who comes into the story unexpectedly and accidentally unleashes a chain of events. She is fully aware of the world, but doesn’t inhabit it, she’s female so isn’t at the parties, but she understands about the misuse of drugs and different types of addiction and stigma. I think it’s very important that the show features a sex worker in a positive light; she forms a genuine bond with other characters and you see how all the stigmas overlap.”
“My character is an older gay man who’s a neighbour of Joe, the lead character and he tries to help Joe and actually does some match-making with him and Adam. He’s lived a fascinating life, he was a DJ at Heaven in the 80s and he’s a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. I think it’s so important to have characters of all ages in something like this, it’s vital that the young LGBT people are aware of our history and that they listen to the memories of the people who lived through our particular past and to engage with us.”
“Leo is 19 years old. He is new to the London gay scene, is relatively new to the London drug scene and he is well and truly knee-deep in the chemsex world and loving every minute of it. He’s from a Muslim family and his parents know nothing about his life. He is actually set to be married when he gets home and he’s just wanting to explore as much of this life as he can. I didn’t really know much about the subject before doing this, but it’s clear that it can be dangerous and the main thing is to have someone around you that you trust.”
Photos by Joel Ryder
Where to watch The Grass is Always Grindr
London Live – Seven half hour episodes, Freeview Channel 8,
Sky 117, Virgin 159.
Tuesday 24 September (Episodes 1 & 2 from 11pm), Tuesday 1 October (Episodes 3 & 4 from 11pm), Tuesday 8 October (Episodes 5 & 6 from 11pm), Tuesday 15 October (Episode 7, 11pm).
YouTube – The thirteen short episodes of Seasons 1 & 2 are available to watch now on the 56 Dean Street Youtube: youtube.com/56DeanStreetOfficial
The Grass Is Always Grindr: The Movie Premiere at the Curzon Soho on Tuesday 17 September in pictures: http://boyz.co.uk/the-grass-is-always-grindr-the-movie-premiere-at-the-curzon-soho-on-tuesday-17-september