Male Closeness: Do We Need It?
By Les Fabian Brathwaite
Bradford How (left) and Jason Cicci in "He's With Me."
He’s with Me is like a 21st-century version The Odd Couple if Felix (finally) came out of the closet and started dating dudes. The 10-episode first season of the web series follows the burgeoning friendship between an affable straight man, Ted (Bradford How), and a cantankerous gay man, Martin (Jason Cicci). So, maybe it’s more like The Odd Couple if Oscar dated dudes. Based on writer/creator Cicci’s own close friendship with a straight guy, He’s with Me explores what it means to be intimate among modern day men, both in regards to and regardless of sexual orientation. We caught up with the creator of the show to discuss the art of the bromance and what he has in store for the second season.
Out: First, how autobiographical is the show?
Jason Cicci: I think when I first started writing it in 2005, almost 10 years ago, it was more autobiographical than it is now. Now I see it as an opportunity to observe certain things. As far as season two is concerned, it’s not autobiographical at all. Season one, maybe there were a couple instances I brought from my own life. The second season, not so much. It’s kind of fun to veer from your own life and give the actors something meaty to dig into.
What do you think is different between a friendship with a straight man and one with another gay man?
Maybe it’s in what you talk about, or how you talk about things. I feel like when I’m with my straight friends, we talk about the bigger things in life: our jobs, what’s expected of us as men. When I meet my gay friends out, it’s usually really late because for gay guys, 11 o’clock is 8 o’clock for straight guys. So we’ve had a couple drinks, and then it’s, “So what’s he like in bed?”
It’s easier to talk to another gay man about sex.
Absolutely. Sex is a huge thing. There’s an episode in the first season called “Sexy Things” in which Ted and Martin go to a photo exhibit that’s all about sex. It prompts them to talk about their sexual experiences and they’re awkward for sure. It’s an understanding that they find with each other when they realize it’s not really that different.
Do you plan on exploring Martin’s sex life in the second season?
For Martin, it’s been pretty established in the first season that he has never been in a relationship, he doesn’t date. That was something I wanted to observe, but really there was no time until now. His whole arc of the second season will be about him dating as a gay man. He’s going to do some online dating, he’s going to meet someone through his work and we’ll see how he handles all of that. Some of it is really amusing, from my own personal experience. And I’m sure yours as well.
Yes, if by amusing, you mean…awful.
Exactly. That’s what we call awful 10 years later: “amusing.”
What are your thoughts on the “bromance”?
The bromance is underrated and not utilized as much as it could be. I think it was always something that eluded me. And since I started finding them later in life — as opposed to middle school, high school — they’ve become a great resource for me that I think men might not lean on as much as they could. Men are pretty good at being there for other men.
Bromances seem to have gotten a lot more homoerotic as of late — Seth Rogen and James Franco’s friendship being a key example. You just have these guys who are very comfortable with themselves and with each other. Do you think this is helping to change attitudes among men in general?
You know, living in New York, I wonder. I want this show to play in the Midwest, I want it to play everywhere. It’s hard to tell here in New York sometimes. I’ll see men being affectionate with each other and I guess I still do look a little bit, but it doesn’t mean as much to me as it would if I was in my hometown, Syracuse, in upstate New York. If I saw two men acting that way, I would be like that’s something I want to look at and it’s totally cool! I think it’s the social cues we take that makes it seem like it’s strange or awkward.
Do you have any plans, or have you been approached, to take He’s with Me to a network?
I have not been approached and it’s not really in my plan. I feel I’ve become less result-oriented about it and more invested in the storytelling. I genuinely enjoy doing this, I’ve made so many people laugh, people have maybe learned things they didn’t know. That to me is more important than being on a network or making money. That being said, I’m currently fielding all offers. [Laughs.]
When does the second season premiere?
As soon as I finish writing it and we shoot it. We’re going to be going into a fundraising campaign this summer while I finish writing the second season. Hopefully we shoot it in the fall and it’ll be ready in the New Year. That’s the goal, anyway, but you never know!
Watch the first season of He's With Me here. Watch a teaser trailer below: