‘Looking’, ‘Orange is the New Black’ stars light up SCAD aTVfest

Photo by Patrick Saunders
Photo by Patrick Saunders

The stars came to town last weekend to take part in a diverse and lively discussion of all things TV in 2014 as SCAD Atlanta hosted their Second Annual aTVfest. GA Voice was there to document the highlights for you, and sitting at the top of the list was HBO’s “Looking” and Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”

SCAD’s rapidly growing festival featured three days of screenings, conversation, networking and awards taking place at the school’s Peachtree Street campus and the 14th Street Playhouse.

The 14th Street Playhouse was the scene on Feb. 7 as two episodes of “Looking” were shown, followed by a Q&A with the entire cast.

“Looking” is a half-hour comedy-drama about a group of gay friends living (and loving) in San Francisco. The three principal characters are video game designer Patrick (played by “Glee” and Broadway star Jonathan Groff), 40-something waiter Dom (Australian actor Murray Bartlett) and artist’s assistant Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez).

The show premiered last month and is gaining a big following, especially among gay men. It is the first scripted show with a mostly gay male cast since “Queer As Folk” ended in 2005. While the two shows are often compared, “Looking” is a slower, more thoughtful show, and is less about being gay than about just experiencing everyday issues, like when to move in with a boyfriend, confronting old flames, navigating embarrassing social situations, and when to strike out on your own and open your own business.

The three stars, as well as supporting cast members Raul Castillo (“Richie”) and O.T. Fagbenle (“Frank”), along with Executive Producer Sarah Condon, were there to take questions from the audience and openly gay moderator Marc Malkin, senior editor and writer of E! Entertainment fame.

Malkin pulled double-duty on Feb. 8 as the venue switched to a jam-packed room on the SCAD campus on Peachtree Street for the “Orange is the New Black” panel.
The show is about Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a bisexual woman who is serving prison time for carrying drug money for her former girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon). It’s a true fish-out-of-water tale as the white, suburban Piper figures out how to adapt to prison world, featuring a large cast of characters with backgrounds completely unlike her own. Inmates, correctional officers and prison staff mix together in an intimate environment, creating an intoxicating mix of laughter and heartbreak.

The show has picked up a large and loyal audience, particularly among the lesbian community. It features many lesbian relationships and often-explicit lesbian sex. The show also has the largest representation of lesbian characters since “The L Word” and features the first transgender actress in a major TV role, Laverne Fox, who portrays Sophia Burset.

“Orange Is The New Black” (along with “House of Cards”) has been credited with helping Netflix explode into the world of original programming, giving networks and cable stations a run for their money. Amazon has now followed suit with original programming of their own, no doubt buoyed by Netflix’s success.

Stars Uzo Aduba (“Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren”), Danielle Brooks (“Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson”), Samira Wiley (“Poussey Washington”) and Matt McGorry (“John Bennett”) kept the crowd laughing while giving insight into their characters and trying as best they could not to reveal spoilers about the eagerly anticipated Season Two, which Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date.