Screenwriter, host, award-winning comedian and actress Bridget McManus has a new six-part web series that premiered Sunday on Tello called Maybelle.
The love story follows Maybelle (McManus) who just lost her mother and finds out her first love and former best friend Della (Frances Nichols) moved back to their town of Virginia. Though Della has a husband, she has always “held a flame” for Maybelle.
I spoke with McManus about her new series, her wife (a.k.a. the son and daughter her father always wanted) and her role as an on-screen kiss virginity taker.
As a lover of romantic dramas, McManus said she was sick of seeing how straight the films always are so she took matters into her own hands.
“Why complain when I can do something about it?” McManus said. “I want to see something I would want to watch.”
McManus wanted to see a show with openly gay women having relationships where their sexuality isn’t the issue so she created Maybelle. She chose to set the series in Virginia because that’s where her wife of seven years, Karman Kregloe, is from.
McManus said that while she loves being a television host and having a live audience, she also likes being in charge of her own fate as a screenwriter.
“As a writer, you don’t wait to get hired, you hire yourself,” McManus said. “Stand up is similar which is why it’s so great. You get yourself face time. Tell me your perspective. Why are you special? You have to write complex and fierce roles if you want to see them on screen. Being a writer means you get to be your own captain.”
As her own captain, McManus decided to write her wife into the script. And, due the request of her wife, McManus made her into “a real scum bag,” and a “pussy hound” (Kregloe’s words, not McManus’).
“I wrote her part as a lesbian bar owner,” McManus said of Kregole. “We have a love scene…well a sex scene. We’re on set in Nashville, its 95 degrees and we’re rolling around in the back of the truck. There’s a lot of kissing and grabbing. It’s a hot mess and so much fun for all the wrong reasons.”
McManus’s character also shares kisses with her costar Nichols and even takes Nichols’ on-screen kiss virginity. When told some actors drink before kissing on-screen to calm their nerves, McManus said they both found that to be kind of unprofessional. McManus is proud to say they were both sober. And loud at kissing.
“Fran Nichols is fantastic to work with. She’s also a comedian and I actually wrote the part with her in mind,” McManus said. The two worked together on another lesbian film called Jew(ish).
McManus said she thinks that because Nichols also has a comedic background, it made acting in a serious series a little easier.
“I’ve done all comedy for ten years,” McManus said, who went to school for drama. “This role is so different. We had a lot of emotional scenes. We had to cry together and not look pretty together. Since we have similar backgrounds we could fall into it together.”
Maybelle marks the fourth scripted project for Tello that McManus has been a part of. Tello creates web series specifically for the lesbian/queer community because they “love lesbians and don’t feel there are enough of them.”
McManus has been involved with Tello since it’s beginning in 2007.
“I just love it,” she said. “It’s so pro being queer and is such a unifying company. I wish it was available when I was younger.”
For $4.99 a month, Tello offers queer scripted series and comedy specials.
“You get so many elements for queer women,” she said. “Tello is constantly evolving and growing and it’s been an honor to be a collaborator.”
McManus hopes that Maybelle will inspire more lesbian romantic stories that don’t end in sadness, women going back to men or women feeling ashamed by their sexuality.
“I also hope it gives hope to gay people in rural areas,” McManus said. “Gay people are everywhere, not just in LA. We are a big community and we are everywhere.”
McManus, who came out to her sister at 14 and her mother at 20, said that while coming out can be hard, coming out in your own time and knowing you are right is important.
“Don’t let someone dictate your life,” she said. “You are right, you are who you are. Be strong.”
Maybelle is now available on Tello.
Also On The Web