This interview contains spoilers through season 1 episode 6 of Inconceivable.
The charming web series Inconceivable dropped its season 1 finale today, capping a promising first season that touched on numerous themes that resonate with young people and the LGBT community. Buoyed by sharp yet down-to-earth writing and starring a well established local actor, it is not your average web series. As I said in my first review of the show, relatability is its greatest asset. It seems to have struck a chord with Millennials, and though their fan base is still modest, they have an audience that spans the globe.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of chatting with co-creators Joel McCarthy and Rachel Kirkpatrick, who are also the models for the characters Adam and Rita. The show is largely based on their own true story. They were kind enough to give me the inside scoop on their own experiences versus the show, what they hope to accomplish with the series, and the possibility of bringing Inconceivable to a broadcaster or streaming service.
The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Lisa P: What inspired you to turn your story into a series?
Joel McCarthy: I think we kinda thought at one point that we might do something with our story, and then STORYHIVE announced that they were gonna give $10,000 to a pilot pitch. It was literally the day before the due date, and we were like, “Oh, why don’t we try pitching?” It was a very serendipitous idea, and it resulted in a lot bigger of an idea than we thought we were getting into.
LP: Was there a particular reason you guys decided to do the show from Rita’s point of view?
Rachel Kirkpatrick: I think it just kind of happened. When we started writing, we had so many different ideas, and I think in a lot of ways some of the things I’ve been through in life thus far are a little more… interesting?
JM: That’s fair.
RK: ‘Cause I grew up really religious, I did a year where I went traveling in inner city Chicago and I was super inspired by this hippie dude. Originally we were gonna start the voiceover with that and kind of go more for like “my life story,” but then we just realized we were in way over our heads so we started at 19.
JM: When we had to keep everything to ten-minute episodes, the biggest issue we had was choosing what to go in. Every debate we had was the classic “ten pounds of shit in the five pound bag” debate. And we kept trying to jam-pack things and we ended up making them looser, but… I think a lot of it is that in the past I’ve done a lot of projects that are a little more from characters that are loosely based on me and from that perspective. Bruce has basically played me in like three different projects, in different ways. So it was kind of more fun to make him a little bit more secondary in this.
RK: Yeah, we played with the idea too, in future seasons, to throw the voiceover to Adam for an episode or something like that. But for now we didn’t have to – we have a lot to tell already.
LP: You guys mentioned at the episode 5 release party that you expended a lot of energy looking for the perfect Rita. So, what was it about Katie Stuart that made her your ideal choice for the role?
JM: We saw some clips of Katie, of her demo reel, and it originally piqued Rachel’s interest ‘cause there’s a clip from The L Word.
LP: Yeah, where she tells Alice to fuck off or something.
RK: Yeah! [laughs]
JM: When that person comes into the room to audition and you just… just instantly, we all knew.
RK: Yeah. It’s hard ‘cause we didn’t want to be stereotyping, but we also really wanted the character to feel authentically gay. And we were surprised… we had a couple of people, but nothing that was quite the caliber Katie is. And Katie has been acting for over 20 years, so, you know, we were looking at people’s resumes. When we did the pilot, we only got so many submissions and we were just like “Okay, this is what we got,” and then suddenly Katie… apparently Katie “accidentally” sent it to us, she didn’t mean to, ‘cause she would never do something so small.
LP: You mean accidentally sent her demo reel, or…?
JM: Her agent accidentally submitted her, and then unsubmitted her to audition, but we saw her demo reel and we like begged her agent, “No, actually come in! Just come and see!”
RK: And she liked the script. So she came in.
JM: It’s not like we had a lot of money to offer, but I think we paid her like 200 dollars or something stupidly small like that, or 100 bucks a day, and I think she’s the only one who got paid on the pilot. But she really started to bond with our team and she was fantastic. And as soon as she auditioned, there was never a debate. I think the biggest thing, though, is that she is such her own individual, and we really wanted the character to be that. So it almost was “okay, the character’s gonna be a little less like Rachel, and a lot more of like her own person.
RK: Yeah, and Katie does, she totally brings a flair to it that’s not me. And Katie and I are both obsessed with the character.
LP: This question’s for Rachel. In the series so far, Rita’s friends have been quite supportive of her rather than shunning or shaming her. Was that also your experience when you got involved with Joel and when you got pregnant, or were you trying to demonstrate a more healthy response than the one you got in real life?
RK: I would definitely say that we wrote the show based on real life. For the most part, the reactions were quite positive. And I think that gets highlighted more in the episode where they tell their parents. Like where they’re just like, “Oh, cool!” But I really do think that was because I had already come out of the closet, and it was like nothing could shock them anymore, and they were like, “Sweet, well at least she banged a dude, so.” You know?
LP: Yeah, I think that’s how mine would react too.
RK: That was just family, but as far as friends and everything went, I would say for my smaller, close circle, most people had met him. The kind of people that I hang out with every weekend, it was kinda like, “Oh yeah, I’m sleeping with this guy or whatever, he’s gonna come over.” And no one really thought anything of it, no one cared, because they know me and they knew how ridiculous it was. Most people were just happy, they were like, “I could see why you’re gay for him, he’s pretty weird.” There was no animosity or anything, and that was all from my friends and my own queer community. I was amazed there wasn’t a lot of flak. Sometimes I get questions, but most people have been supportive and I really think that is a Millennial thing, ‘cause I think we all understand our own fluidity. And I think that if you pick good friends, then they should be supportive – who cares who you’re sleeping with? But once we told the outsider world that we were pregnant, most people were like, “Oh, who’s the guy?” So that will be some more fun fodder for season 2.
LP: Yeah, I feel like that bad reaction is probably more something that would’ve happened like ten years ago.
RK: Yeah, and I had people speculating like, “You know, the queer community isn’t gonna like you sleeping with a guy,” and I was like, “Yeah, but you’re a fifty year-old. Your queer community wouldn’t be cool with it.”
JM: I still think if you look at the YouTube comments and stuff like that, there is a lot of that, people who are like…
LP: You traitor!
RK: Yeah, totally, totally.
JM: People who very much hate the show on its surface. And I definitely see that, because with movies like Chasing Amy and stuff like that, there is this trope of lesbian movies having a dude as a main character and a central part of it. Ours, you know, we’re going off of a true story. I think it’s exciting when your show doesn’t please everyone.
RK: And the thing is, there was a CBC article about us, and it got some ridiculous amount of shares, and the comments on that were horrible. We kind of expected that, though, and I guess we have thick skin, but we don’t really care what people we don’t know think.
JM: I’ve been getting negative YouTube comments for years, so I see every negative comment as a badge of honor, ‘cause you’ve given someone something to react to.
RK: Yeah, and then it also makes us more successful [laughs]. Gets people to watch the show.
LP: Did your experiences with Joel change the way you conceptualize sexual identity?
RK: Not really. I mean, yes, there are moments where our lives look very hetero in a lot of ways. But at the same time, no not really, because the way I see it, as far as the Kinsey Scale or whatever goes for my own personal preference, I definitely am attracted to girls. To me, I don’t feel any less gay for having had sex with a guy, if that makes sense. We like what we like. I like brains. Like if to some people, having sex with a guy at all makes you bi, then they can identify me as bi if they want to. But for me, I see myself as pretty gay. If I’m walking down the street, I’m gonna be like, “Oh, pretty girls!”
LP: Joel, same question for you. Has this experience changed the way you conceptualize sexual identity?
JM: I think so. I have a… very weird track record.
RK: Joel has a type. Lesbians.
JM: A lot of the time, they come out right after, or… I don’t know. I guess there are aspects of me that are feminine in some ways. But I think it’s been really interesting being with Rachel when things shake out on this, and seeing how the discussion goes. You know, whether it’s in her live videos, or whatever. Because I do think it’s very interesting how much society really wants labels to be certain. And everyone’s got some level of fluidity to them, and I think we get really obsessed with terminology and labels in our society and I don’t think that they’re always the most helpful thing in the world. A lot of society is very focused on a very binary way of looking at things, and this has kinda shown me that it isn’t so binary.
LP: You mentioned that pretty much all the reactions that you put in the story were similar to the ones you got in real life, including from Rachel’s parents. Did you intend to touch on that specific subtle homophobia, or did that just come out of the fact that you were putting their reaction onscreen? Because I found that to be very relatable, and painful, actually.
JM: I think a lot of it was in the writing room. We were talking about the similarities between coming out as pregnant and coming out as gay, and we thought it would be something to really pair, because the first time I met her dad was when we were telling him that we were having a baby, and so there are aspects of that scene that are very true. And I think we were both very much bracing for impact, with both of her parents, and they both took it quite positively, and it was almost like a surprising relief of pulling off the bandaid from what we had prepared for, from what she had told me about coming out and stuff.
RK: Yeah, both scenes were fairly accurate. Obviously some of the nuanced moments were different, like I didn’t have my mom and dad in the same room, those were two separate events. But my parents knew what was coming, I talked to them about what moments we chose, and why we chose those, because they are the most relatable. Like the cliché “We wanted grandchildren” line, I think every person coming out has gotten that line, so I talked to them about how none of that was personal. With my dad too, I showed him the footage of the day we shot the scene of the dad saying that, so he saw what the room looked and felt like. They were improvising, they were making it as intense as they could. It was obviously an intense moment, but it was years ago, and things look very different now.
JM: Once you put actors into the room and have all these collaborators, you end up creating your own scene. There’s a spark of it all being from real events, but everyone adds their own splash to it, and that’s why we wanted to make sure that we changed names and all that sorta stuff and made it not so much people trying to impersonate people from our lives.
LP: Did you also have that reaction afterwards, though, of “Why is this better than me being gay?” like Rita did?
RK: Yes, very much. Because it really did happen a lot like it did on the show. I had told Joel about coming out as we were going in to tell them, and we had expected more of like a weird reaction. But at the same time, my parents have also had to deal with the fact that I’m not really religious anymore, and they’ve had many years to do that, so I think they’ve given up imposing any sort of view on me, so it makes some sense.
JM: I think both our sets of parents have slowly become more liberal over time. I know that my grandma saw our pitch video for STORYHIVE, and she was very mortified by it, and the fact that we were openly talking about sex and Rachel’s sexuality. My grandma was just really taken aback by that kind of oversharing and she was like, “No one needs to ever know these things.” But a lot of this was us wanting to show a different take on a modern family because we didn’t really have anyone to look up to, and we still don’t have anyone that we know that are like us, so… it’s hard being a trailblazer in certain ways.
RK: Yeah, in some ways.
LP: The fact that Rita was assumed straight by Adam’s parents when they met was totally reasonable given the circumstances, but I’m wondering why they didn’t choose to explain her sexuality at the time. Was it too many bombshells, or was it just embarrassing, or…?
JM: I think a lot of it is the fear that your parents are gonna think you’re gonna eff up a child, that you want to almost present that front of how we are trying to be like “that family” or what have you. One of the moments, it’s very brief, but Adam cut off Rita when his parents asked if they were in love and she was like, “Uhhh,” and he cut in, “We have a lot of mutual respect.” What I like to think is that he was almost worried and wanted to take things one step at a time and his reason for cutting her off was to not overcomplicate all this information they were throwing at the parents.
LP: That was also the impression I got, so.
RK: That’s good. That was a very nuanced scene and we really wanted it to be longer, but I’m glad that that was communicated still.
LP: There was a lot of talk on social media about episode 5 being a favorite of many people involved with the project. What about that episode made it so popular with the cast and crew?
JM: I think it’s just ‘cause it has a very different feel than the other episodes, and there’s a lot of generational aspects to that episode. When we played it at the Rio for our premiere screening, you could definitely feel the energy, everyone was really into it. And a lot of that also is trying to make it click-baitey. [laughs] But yeah, I just like how that episode is a really different change of pace from the others. And it has its own unique flavor to it.
RK: I think it’s relatable, and I think that the cast and crew also loved it because we filmed it in one day. Well, not all in one day.
JM: Pretty much everything in that episode except for the end scene and the scene where she’s cutting the picture of the baby were all shot on one day.
RK: Yeah, so it was all shot on one day, and it was the coming out and telling the parents they were pregnant. So some fairly intense content, and there’s two stories, right? There’s the story we wrote, and there’s the story we’re living, and on set it’s fun because most people are up to date on our lives. We were filming it in Joel’s parents’ house, which is the same place that some of it happened in, and I think it was relatable that day. And I was there the whole time, and people knew it was my story, and it just felt like everyone’s heart was in it, and it was just a very cool day. It was a very busy day.
LP: In that same episode, I noticed that in those coming out as pregnant scenes, almost all of the straight white male characters were wearing those argyle sweaters. Was that meant to be a joke about straight people being boring and predictable, or were you just being silly?
JM: We have a million and one things we are obsessing over, and trusting either the costume department or the production design department, all that sort of stuff. The actors showed up, and I was like, “Yeah, that looks good.”
RK: We missed it.
JM: That day we had to shoot like 12 pages and I was so focused on a million other things that… when the cameras are up, you just hope that the costumes look good. I’m sure that’s what our costume designers were going for, but I can’t take credit for the thought process behind it.
LP: Besides sexual fluidity, the disillusionment of young adulthood is one of the most prominent themes in season 1. Episode 2 really sets that up with outlining Rita’s dream life. What was the impetus to put so much focus on that concept of expectations not matching reality? Was that just a Millennial thing, or…?
JM: Yeah, a bit of a Millennial thing. We all are finding that this American Dream we’ve been fed growing up is very much not a reality. Like, we can’t own a house, and we can’t even guarantee that we can give our child as good of a life as we had.
RK: The reason we did it was because we wanted to tell a lot of story in a small amount of time, and we figured that was a good way to do it, and a good way to show that was the vision boarding. I actually am into vision boarding, and I do that, and I have so far found it to be extremely successful in terms of manifesting what I want out of life. But yeah, that was just a really cheesy way to be able to say a lot about this. And originally we didn’t even have anything for Rita about that, what her future looked like, but we got some notes from a mentor and were kinda like, “Well, we know Adam wants to be a filmmaker, but we never covered Rita.” So with that in mind, we were able to drum that up as well as the psychology/psychiatry scene on the swings. So yeah, it just makes the character more relatable.
LP: What kind of discussions are you hoping Inconceivable will start?
JM: One thing that I really want us to explore is a lot of this “what is a family?” I think when you go through pregnancy, when you read the pregnancy books and all that sort of stuff, it’s always like: “Husband does this, wife does this.” And once we get into birthing classes and all that, there’s this narrative that has not changed as much as you’d think it has changed. It very much paints that a family is exactly one thing, and not another. So I think a lot of that discussion, as well as discussions on labels and sexual fluidity. That’s been something that’s been very interesting – just seeing the fights that go on in our comment sections, even, that’s a microcosm of that discussion. And for us, I guess the discussion of is it okay to share parts of your life that aren’t necessarily all sunshine and rainbows. And I think that’s one thing that we seem to keep talking to people about and debating, is like, “Oh, don’t you feel like you shouldn’t have put that in a show?” and things like that.
RK: Yeah, I think definitely what you were saying about family and stuff, but also I think in general pregnancy and women and mothers are kind of shamed and hidden in society. I’ve just had so many people since I’ve been pregnant and since I chose to keep the baby talk to me about their abortions too, and what that’s like and what the grieving process looks like, and just the whole concept around life and I think more than anything this is a show about visibility, kind of, and motherhood.
JM: There’s a million and one things we want to get into. It’s just about focusing it in.
RK: Yeah, it’s true. And eventually too, it’s the content of Millennials having kids, and then the full circle of dating, and what does that look like with a kid? That alone… we have a lot to write.
LP: Rita and Adam’s relationship appears rather open-ended as of the end of episode 6, given some conversations throughout the season and the closing shot of the finale where they’re holding hands. Was there a particular reason you guys decided to make their future as a couple unclear at the end of the season?
JM: I would say it’s because we went through so much time of it being unclear for us that we were just keeping it true to the story. Our relationship has evolved into many a different thing along the way and yeah, I think we didn’t want to give the audience a clear they’re together or they’re not. Because there is a much bumpier road ahead in the story we wanna tell. I definitely didn’t want to make it feel any one way, but definitely the hand hold will be an interesting thing, to see how audiences react to that. They might very well be like, “Traitor!” or “This is bullshit!” Regardless, even the hand hold I see as more of a “we’re in this together” type thing. I don’t think that it’s necessarily a sexual or “I’m infatuated with you” thing, it’s like “Oh my gosh, we’re having a baby together.” That first ultrasound is a very beautiful, crazy thing, and we’re just trying to communicate what the emotions were in that room. And actually, I didn’t give them that direction. They did it for one of the takes, and I kinda liked it. I liked the idea of just panning down on their hands.
LP: Oh, so they came up with that themselves, Bruce and Katie?
JM: They did that on one of the takes, Bruce grabbed her hand, and I was like, “I actually don’t hate that.” ‘Cause originally, we were gonna end with the shot pushing in on the ultrasound, and it was while we shot that scene, I was saying to the DP, “Actually, have the camera slowly go down on their hands.” It was a very last minute idea.
LP: You guys said at the episode 5 release party that there will almost certainly be a season 2, but whether it will continue as a web series or in some other format is up in the air. Do you guys have some guesstimate as to how long we’ll have to wait to see new content or find out?
JM: No, but things are already in motion. I wish that we had a sure thing, and I really wanted to have something locked down by the time we released the last episode, have some momentum there. We have a few more talks with a few more different people before we sign away everything, but there’s interest to turn this into a TV show. And we don’t know if that means continuing our story the way it is, or doing a reboot, or what it may be. It really depends on the broadcaster and a number of negotiations, but you know, we had so much fun telling this story and want to continue it, and we really would love longer episodes.
Conversing with the creators was a treat, and I thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts with The Fandomentals. We wish them luck in their negotiations and hope to see more from them in the near future!
There is more content related to the show coming soon to The Fandomentals. Stay tuned for my review of episodes 4-6, plus an interview with Inconceivable star Katie Stuart.
Images Courtesy of This is a Spoon Studios