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Putting the 'lez' in Toronto's Leslieville

Arts & Entertainment
Film & Video

Putting the 'lez' in Toronto's Leslieville

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Web series features lesbian love triangle
Move over, Queer West, Leslieville is taking over.

The laid-back, east-end neighbourhood may not yet be the city’s go-to queer hangout, but a new web series is doing its best to show off a vibrant lesbian scene there.

Think The Outs but swap Brooklyn for Leslieville and a gay, post-breakup scenario for a lesbian love triangle. With a little less skin but just as much tension.

The series launched in February, with its creative team releasing one episode each week for 11 weeks. Episode 7 was posted on April 3.

Leslieville follows the story of two women with a strong connection, played by Canadian theatre actors Samantha Wan and Tiffany Martin. The trouble is, one of them is already taken — a story line based on the personal experience of series writer and director Nadine Bell.

“I don’t know if it’s a lesbian cliché or it happens in the straight world,” Bell says. “I’ve seen it a lot in the lesbian community... when people click [and you ask], ‘Is that just a good friend, or are you attracted to her?’ It’s just another thing we have to navigate and that doesn’t get told in mainstream media.”

Cast member Jenna Harder, who plays a straight-talking ex-girlfriend, says the issues raised in the script attracted her to the project, especially those concerning infidelity. “Leslieville raises questions about where the line is,” she says. “Relationships are hard, and you can’t expect to get everything you need from one person... I think the waters are a lot muddier than most people care to admit.”

The first season will get more “hot and heavy” as it goes along, Bell says. She plans to spend the next few months promoting the show and submitting it to festivals. She also hopes to start a crowd-funding project to ensure a second season. The first season was a volunteer effort, with five different editors piecing it together in their spare time.

Bell is also working on producing subtitles in multiple languages, so the show can connect with those teenaged girls around the world looking for a character they might relate to, like Bell did.

Back then, it was reading into the lesbian undertones of Xena: Warrior Princess. Now, while Bell thinks TV still lacks regular, honest lesbian roles, web series have been popping up to represent them. “A lot of people hear ‘web series’ and sort of judge them, but it’s fast becoming the go-to place for niche audiences,” she says. “A few years ago, I thought this was the golden age [for web series] and it will peter out, but it’s just been getting better... I’m super proud and excited to be part of this movement.”

Leslieville joins a great group of lesbian web series, along with American shows Anyone But Me and Out with Dad.

And, like the male-focused series The Outs, Leslieville has a soundtrack made with local queer and queer-friendly musicians, including Bonjay, Warm Myth (featuring Casey Mecija of Ohbijou), Emma McKenna and Phèdre. Some original music was written for the show by Carly Rhiannon, KidKulit and duo Fake Date.

While a launch party was held at The Beaver, a second screening event is in the works, possibly featuring other queer shows, to be held during the Pride season.
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