Kit Williamson has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Jackson, Miss., where he took summer classes in Shakespeare and performed in plays such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth.”
“I was always thinking up stories and trying to explore things that were different from me and let my imagination run wild,” Williamson said. “When you’re doing Shakespeare, there’s so much you have to imagine.”
Now a UCLA graduate student in playwriting, Williamson has added to his credentials with his dramatic web series “EastSiders,” a project on which he serves as writer, director and star.
Throughout his career, Williamson has acted professionally on Broadway and also appeared in the TV show “Numb3rs” and the film “Best Friends Forever.”
“EastSiders,” which debuted on Dec. 14, tells the story of Cal (Williamson) and Thom (Van Hansis), a gay couple living in Silverlake and dealing with the effects of infidelity on their relationship. The show combines elements of both drama and dark comedy.
Despite the shift in roles and the format of “EastSiders,” Williamson said the transition from acting in theater, film and television to acting in this web series was seamless for him because of the creative freedom he had as the director.
“I was able to create an on-set environment that resembled a process I was used to in theater. I feel fortunate that I was able to do that in terms of having rehearsals and exploring the texts with the actors before we started recording,” Williamson said. “It’s a different creative process. You want as many variations as possible when you’re directing actors for film.”
In terms of the plot of the series, Williamson said he had a clear idea of where he wanted the show to take place as well as the general topic.
“I knew I wanted to write a show about a couple dealing with infidelity that just so happened to be gay,” Williamson said. “I also knew that I wanted to set it in Silverlake, which is the neighborhood in California where I live. Those two things together sparked the idea and it just kind of poured out of me and took on a life of its own.”
In his triple role, Williamson was brought out of his comfort zone and challenged throughout the process of writing, acting and even giving himself direction.
“When I started out I had no idea if I’d even be able to do it,” Williamson said. “I’m used to taking direction, not giving it. I just had to close my eyes and leap, and trust that my cast and crew would be there to catch me if I fell.”
Williamson also said that having a cast and crew of actors and producers that he trusted was essential to the success of the series. One of the producers, Kristyne Fetsic, said Williamson’s transitions from writing to acting to directing this project allowed the cast and crew to observe his passion and drive in all three of his roles in the series.
“It amazes me how he can do everything and how he’s so focused on each part and still able to do amazing work in each part,” Fetsic said.
Actress Constance Wu, who plays Cal’s best friend Kathy in “EastSiders,” said she enjoyed acting in this series because Williamson’s goal was to treat the main characters just like any other couple.
“It’s not about being gay,” Wu said. “It’s about rising above heteronormative standards to create work that is more about the human struggles that we all go through.”
Williamson said the most difficult part of creating this web series was financing the project. On Jan. 7, a campaign was launched to assess fan interest in a full season of “EastSiders,” and fans raised almost $3,000 during the first 12 hours of the campaign. Williamson said he hopes to be able to resume producing in February and film a complete season.
For now, Williamson said he has enjoyed receiving positive feedback from fans of the series, both in the U.S. and abroad, who say they can relate to the show.
“You never know what to expect when you put your work out there,” Williamson said. “It is incredibly meaningful to me that the show has struck a chord with people.”