We talked exclusive details with critically-acclaimed television producer Alan Poul on his latest 10-episode Netflix series Tales of the City that ignites a new queer dialogue and dissects the dynamic range of what it means to be LGBTQ+ in America. Poul first brought Armistead Maupin’s novels to the screen in 1993 with the first controversial Tales of the City miniseries and later worked on sequels More Tales of the City and Further Tales of the City. Still set in San Francisco at 28 Barbary Lane, this Netflix revival features the same original cast of Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis, Barbara Garrick, and Paul Gross to offer a fresh spin on the narrative that takes place 23 years later in the characters’ lives. Composed in a room full of queer writers, the storyline touches on modern dilemmas within the LGBTQIA+ community, and Poul shared his satisfaction with the team’s ability to “build that into a story that is still whimsical and funny and sometimes melodramatic”.
As the story continues into the present day, new characters are introduced in Netflix’s version to spice up the plot with a pinch of drama that appeals to a younger LGBTQIA+ audience. Each character touches on different aspects of life within the queer community as they tackle different obstacles on their journey of twists and turns towards a level of self-actualization. “We were beholden to being absolutely faithful to the spirit of the books and I would say that was a challenge, but it was also a pleasure because trying to take these new stories and some of these young characters and bring them into Armistead's world was a pleasure”, Poul disclosed to us in regards to the team’s creative process.
“Netflix was incredibly supportive and there were certainly no limitations put on us and nobody ever said, ‘Can you make it less gay?’, which you would hear at a network. They were behind everything we wanted to do to push the boundaries of what’s on television," Poul told us. Netflix’s support was paramount in forging a stronger path for the display of issues of gender and sexuality in the media, and with 139 million subscribers across the globe, the show is certainly set to gain a large audience and spark critical conversations due to its controversial nature. Although the series is directed towards the modern-day LGBTQIA+ youth in America, people in countries where queer identities are rejected will be watching as well, and that is equally important. In respect to an international audience, Poul expressed his intentions with this revival to us, explaining that the producers “want young Americans to look at the show and see reflections of themselves in a way they haven't seen before," and for people living in more conservative cultures, “this show can have an even more immediate meaning because they're seeing expressions of a life that they can't yet live openly.”
With this rendition, varying opinions within the queer community play a major role in character development, allowing the viewer to invest themselves in the personal predicaments of the diverse personalities in the show. For Poul, it’s important to highlight the disputes surrounding trans and non-binary identities within the community “because you can see in certain states in America there's an attempt to put a wedge in between and say you know we're okay with gay people but we don't want trans people and that can't happen." Tales of the City emphasizes these problems among queer people to serve as a reminder for the community to support each other and stand together.
With the premiere of the latest 10 installments to the Tales of the City saga, Poul stresses the importance of acceptance and a progression towards equality in today’s world. “In every shape, size, and color, all the various ways of being human and coming to terms with your humanity are all wonderful and all miraculous and I hope that we’re able to celebrate a lot of that intel," Poul added in regards to the show’s goals. With its lasting legacy, Tales of the City tastefully addresses the many issues surrounding gender and sexuality in the modern world, while instilling a sense of empowerment into the LGBTQIA+ community to continue striving for a future of equality.
The 10-episode journey Tales of the City is now available for streaming on Netflix.