Morgan Jon Fox admits he didn’t have a big budget for his latest series, Feral—but even if he did, he wouldn’t have changed much.
“Even with a million dollars, I would still want the people I got,” he tells Out. “I wanted to cast in Memphis because the actors, the crew—they had this engrained Southern identity that was so important to me.”
Feral is a queer drama that pays homage to series like Looking or Girls. Roommates Billy (Jordan Nichols) and Daniel (Seth Daniel) are 20-something Memphis artists who must navigate gritty relationships impacted by depression and drug abuse. All the while, Fox’s native Memphis sets the stage, and the director is passionate about LGBT storytelling outside of New York or Los Angeles.
“It’s wonderful we have more LGBT characters than ever in media,” he says, “but they usually live this life of wealth in a large city. That’s just not my experience as a queer person at all. Not every gay person’s dream is to go to one of these bigger cities—you don’t have to do that to be happy.”
No wonder that Feral’s characters come from Memphis’s rich community of artists and the settings are pulled straight from Fox’s life. When Billy and friends go out, they go to a karaoke bar that is one of Fox’s favorites. Fox even went so far as to film scenes in the house he shares with his fiancé and roommates.
“The city is very natural, very nurturing,” the out director says. “Some people coming to the South might be surprised. We have a strong art and film community where we’ve all been mashed together. We go to the same coffee shops, the same bars. We’re there for each other.”
Those fragile moments shine in Feral, whether it’s a midday swim in a nearby creek or a romantic date in the cypress-strewn marshes along the Wolf River. The series is more than a love letter to Memphis, however. Fox set out to tell an authentic queer drama, where queer people have loved and lost not just because they were queer.
“I knew that if I wanted to see the right stories out there, I should tell those stories,” he says. “The real sadness of what Billy and Daniel go through is that they or the people in their lives need to help themselves, but they can’t. There’s something so heartbreaking in that.”
Billy has to recover from the disastrous end to a long-term relationship with boyfriend, Carl, while Daniel—who Fox himself calls “a mess”—juggles his own bonds to others, including a boyfriend and a heroin-addicted roommate who he is sleeping with.
“I don’t judge these characters,” Fox says. “They learn how to lean on their friends to hold them accountable—often for the things they may not be able to admit about themselves.”
Fox hopes that Feral comes from a place of honesty.
“Making it feel real was the most important part,” he says. “Everything else fell into line around that.”
Feral debuts Thursday, Oct. 6, only on Dekkoo.com. Watch an exclusive clip from the series below.