The lesbian goddesses up above must’ve been listening to our prayers, babes. Allow us to introduce you to “@datingZoe,” a brand-new, queer lady, scripted web series about “not finding love” in New York’s lesbian dating scene. Starring the fabulous, hyper-talented, openly lesbian actress Rachel Paulson, “@datingZoe” just might be the web series we’ve been waiting for.
Filmed mockumentary style, “@datingZoe” tells the story of Zoe, a quirky single lesbian in the throes of the oh-so-relatable late-20s /early-30s quarter-life-crisis, who is determined to find love in the big city. After dozens of failed dates, her best friend Devon (played faultlessly by Olivia Jampol), a sexy documentary filmmaker to whom everyone under the sun is wildly attracted, decides that they’re going to embark upon a unique experiment. Devon will film Zoe going on 100 first dates and upload the footage to YouTube. The viewers will give Zoe feedback on who their favorite dates are and help Zoe figure out why she seems to remain perpetually unlucky in love.
Based on the real-life dating mishaps of the series’ writer and creator, Adi Riesenberg, “@datingZoe” offers the audience an intimate and raw (albeit hilarious) bird’s eye view into the hardships of navigating life and love as a millennial lesbian in the age of dating apps and social media.
“I wanted to create something that I felt hadn’t been tackled in lesbian media. I wanted viewers to connect with the main character of the series and feel like they could interact with her,” Riesenberg tells GO. “The idea of Zoe speaking straight to camera to reach her audience was the perfect way to take that on.” The acting is impeccable, the script is authentic and the palpable chemistry between Paulson and Jampol will make the tiny hairs on your arms stand up in an outbreak of chills. While “@DATINGZOE” is hilariously funny, it also manages to address a bevy of current issues with which our community is grappling: tension within the LGBTQ community, gender identity vs. sexual identity, dating apps vs. meeting in real life, the pressures of having a social media presence, and, of course, lesbian heartbreak (is there anything more cruel?).
You wished for more lesbian video content, and girlfriend, your wish was finally granted! But before you faint from all the newfound excitement that’s swirling through your veins (and before you go into a weird internet rabbit hole of Googling the cast), get to know the series writer and creator of “@DATINGZOE” Adi Riesenberg in this exclusive interview.
GO Magazine: Before we get into the details, in your own words, explain to us exactly what “@DATINGZOE” is and why it’s so badass.
Adi Riesenberg: “@DATINGZOE” is a mockumentary series about the real-life dating struggles of a lesbian in NYC, inspired by real stories of real dating fails. What makes it badass is that it was created, produced, and directed by badass women. It’s a real rarity in the production world to really have an all-female team.
GO: Whose idea was “@DATINGZOE”? What inspired the idea? Is it based on real-life experiences? If so, spill the tea!
AR: “@DATINGZOE” is my brainchild. The idea originally came from a blog I started to chronicle my failed dates. I felt like I had some funny stories and wanted to share them with the internet. People started to take an interest and comment, some commiserating and some making suggestions. That’s what really pushed me to want to do something more than the blog.
GO: How did you and Executive Producer Rachel Trobman and Producer Lisa Cossrow come together on this project? Have you worked together in the past? What do each of you bring to the table that’s unique and what are your backgrounds?
AR: We all worked at NY1 together years ago. I was a video editor, Rachel T. worked on the digital side, and Lisa worked in business development and then transitioned to locations in TV and film. We all got involved in different stages of the project. Once I decided I wanted to create a web series, Lisa was the obvious go-to for production needs. Rachel T. stepped in a bit later to lend her support and handle the business end, and she’s really been the glue that has held this all together.
GO: What was the casting process like for this project and who were you looking for? AR: It’s funny, we found our lead pretty much immediately. Lisa and I posted casting calls that we were auditioning for a web series, and Rachel Paulson was one of the first to express interest. I knew for Zoe’s character, I wanted imperfection, and Rachel’s audition was perfectly imperfect. It took a while to find the right Devon. We already had it narrowed down before Olivia came in as our last audition of the day and immediately blew us all away.
GO: Lez talk about the actual cast. Tell us about the leading ladies and what is was like to work with them?
AR: Our leading ladies are phenomenal! We did chemistry reads before solidifying our cast to ensure all of the feels were there. Rachel Paulson brings Zoe to life in every way. She makes us love Zoe despite all of the character’s flaws. It’s easy to write a character when you know your leading lady will do her justice. Olivia Jampol’s character (Zoe’s filmmaker best friend, Devon) is off-camera for entire episodes in season one. Olivia has to sell her character using only her voice, and that’s a heavy lift. She pulled it off so beautifully and it really speaks to her incredible talent. I think my favorite part of shooting was watching Rachel and Olivia’s natural chemistry on and off camera. It’s what makes the show so real.
GO: What void do you think “@DATINGZOE” fills in lesbian media?
AR: I wanted to create something that I felt hadn’t been tackled in lesbian media. I wanted viewers to connect with the main character of the series and feel like they could interact with her. The idea of Zoe speaking straight to camera to reach her audience was the perfect way to take that on.
GO: Why did you choose to do a web series over pitching the idea to a network? Or shooting a TV pilot?
AR: I always wanted the series to feel like an amateur project between two friends. I wanted it to feel raw, and I wanted people to be able to immediately interact with us after they watched the episodes. I also felt like since the project started on the internet, it belonged there.
GO: What are your favorite aspects of creating content for the web?
AR: I love the free access. I want anyone out there searching the web for lesbian series to be able to enjoy our creation.
GO: Why do you think there are so few lesbian-themed TV series and movies? With more women out than ever, why are we still struggling to get our stories the mainstream attention they deserve?
AR: I think it comes down to money and networks not wanting to take risks. That’s why it’s important for us to keep putting our own content out there. I do think the mainstream media will come around, but either way, there’s no stopping us.
GO: What do you want for the future of “@DATINGZOE”? Ideally, how do you see this project developing?
AR: My hope is that we can keep it going so our audience can experience the evolution of Zoe and Devon’s relationships — with others and with each other.
GO: What’s different about “@DATINGZOE”? What is refreshing about “@DATINGZOE” and how does it stand apart from other lesbian web-content?
AR: Well, for one, our mockumentary-style format. The series is shot on one camera, with one of our two leading ladies off-camera for entire episodes. We needed to make sure the audience felt the characters’ chemistry without seeing it. I think the series also stands apart because we tell it like it is. Dating is messy and lesbian dating is no exception.
GO: How can we support “@DATINGZOE”?
AR: Help us shoot more episodes! We still have two more to film for season one, but we need funding to keep going. Look out for our next crowdfunding campaign and contribute if you want to see more!
GO: What advice do you have for us baby lezzies who have dreams of creating a web series?
AR: I would say be prepared for a lot of work, but don’t let that hold you back. It won’t always be fun, but will definitely be rewarding. If you’re inspired by something, just go for it. Make it happen. Catch “@DATINGZOE” on GO TV starting in mid-March!