I am a black gay author who writes articles based on black gay community issues and more.
If you haven't seen the newest web-series on SlayTV's YouTube channel, Reality Check, then you are missing out!
Christopher Rules is the next big thing in black gay media. It's crazy because he revealed to me that a breakup inspired him to come up with the story behind Reality Check. The show is a raw, honest, and uncut comedy series with a very realistic approach to everyday situations for most gay men of color.
Check out my exclusive interview with the sensational writer and creator as he expresses his thoughts regarding his career and content.
First please introduce yourself to the readers. Tell them a little bit about yourself.
I really appreciate that! Honestly, I’m just a Black boy from Flint, MI trying to reach for the stars. I’d describe myself as an ambitious, sometimes awkward, laid-back guy, who is constantly challenging himself to be his best.
You have worked for major networks such as VH1 and also written for Complex Magazine, and countless other big-time publications. How did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
It all started with a program at my alma mater, Michigan State University, that allowed students to spend a month taking classes in New York City. However, I made it up in my mind that I’d spend the entire summer in New York, intending to land an internship. So, I bought a one-way flight and applied to as many internships as possible before the program began. I eventually landed one at Complex Magazine, which was the beginning of it all for me. I was able to then use the many connections I made that summer to lead me to where I am now.
Growing up, did you dream of one day becoming an actor and filmmaker?
Honestly, I’ve never dreamt of becoming a filmmaker, but I’ve always loved acting and performance art. Secretly, I’ve always had a plan that I would go to school, get a degree, land a job (that I wouldn’t hate) to pay my bills, while I pursued my real dream of becoming a performing artist. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone that before, [haha].
How important is it for you as a gay man of color to represent our community in your art form?
I realize that it’s more important than I originally thought. I knew that I wanted to tell my story, but I’m coming to find out that through doing that, I’m speaking for those in the community that doesn’t feel represented. I think my experience looks a lot different from the images we see of Queer Black Men in mainstream media, but also similar in ways too. Everyone’s perspective is important.
Reality Check is an amazing show and it is relatable for so many black gay men. I have seen millions of comments online, and a lot of the viewers loved this show. Most artists create from their own experiences in life. How much of your character on the show reflected your own personal life?
Ha, well honestly every single episode is pretty much true to life with a few exaggerations. My goal was to let the sheer madness I’ve experienced in New York City be the backdrop to these stories, so each episode displays what those moments felt like. Many of these situations were so outlandish that it seemed as if they couldn’t be real, so I also wanted to play with the idea of my character transitioning back and forth between his imagination and reality.
How did you come up with the story-line for Reality Check?
It all started with a breakup. I needed a therapeutic release, so I wrote the experience down in my journal. After reading the entry, I was like “This is WILD! Maybe I can turn this into a script?” I never wrote a script before, but I just wanted to take a stab at it, and it pretty much wrote itself, since I was using a real experience. After that, I started writing more scripts based on some other annoying situations, such as my roommate at the time. I started to realize the series had a theme where each episode represented a key pillar of the New York experience (relationships, career, tough living situations), so I stuck with it.
Issa Rae is on top of her game right now! I noticed many people were making comparisons between the two of you online. How does it feel to be compared to such a talented Black woman who started indie and now creating an empire of her own in the entertainment world?
I couldn’t ask for a better comparison at this stage! Issa Rae is truly the mold for self-creators trying to breakthrough in the industry. She’s broken barriers by telling everyday stories of present-day Black women and has inspired many others to tell their stories. I just hope people don’t think I’m trying to mimic her or recreate something she’s already done. I started scripting Reality Check back in 2015, a year before Insecure premiered, but when I saw the first episode of that series it really gave me hope that I could do this.
How do you feel when you read the positive as well as negative comments online about your show?
[Hmm] great question! I had to get the series to a place that I was comfortable with first. It took a LONG time for me to be okay with putting the series out (shout out to my editor, Will, who dealt with my CONSTANT notes). I have to keep reminding myself that this is the first time that I’ve ever done this. Not to mention while on set I couldn’t just focus on acting. I also had to make sure we had catering, that the actors were showing up, the camera setup was good, etc. So when I see negative comments, I probably already thought those things myself, but I’ll know for the next time what to make better. Also, the positive ones are additional validation that it was all worth it.
Who has influenced you as a filmmaker and also as an actor?
Of course, Issa Rae. My friend Tannis Spencer, who makes her own short films and inspired me to use film as the medium to tell my own stories. Michael B. Jordan for not allowing the industry to typecast him. There are so many, but a wild card would be the Broad City girls. Love them!
How do you feel about the heavy wave of [soft adult entertainment] in web-series in our community right now? Do you feel like it's a huge disadvantage for the community?
I think it’s up to the creators to tell stories about how they want to tell them. However, I think it’s a very limited view of the Queer experience. In my opinion, series like that are less focused on telling real stories and more focused on sensationalizing the sexual aspect of being gay, which… does get views, but maybe not for the right reasons. We see sexual situations in TV and movies all the time, but I think it becomes a problem when it becomes your main tactic to get people to watch. Let’s show that we’re not only sexual beings. We’re living regular lives just like everyone else.
Coming into your career as a filmmaker how did you overcome obstacles as a new artist?
My biggest challenge is myself. I get in my own way all the time, by being wrapped up in my thoughts or not prioritizing the things I need to do to get better. Once I started to take time to meditate, writing out lists of things I wanted to accomplish, and visualizing my goals, it became easier to overcome the battles I have with myself.
You're well established in the entertainment community. What are some of your words of wisdom or advice you would give other up-and-coming Black gay writers and filmmakers?
Foremost, be authentic to yourself and don’t try to impress others by trying to be someone you think people will accept (even within the gay community). Use that authenticity to tell stories that are true to you. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or strangers throughout the process. I used Craigslist to build my film crew, and once friends/colleagues saw that I was really serious about this, they wanted to help. Finally, set aside money to fund your dreams. Secretly, I used my tax refund check to make this happen, [haha].
Where do you see yourself in your career ten years from now?
I hope that I'll be able to work for myself. To be able to build a brand that would allow me to monetize my many areas of interest. While doing that, I’d love to help others along the way who want to do the same. A weekly series on a major network would be pretty dope too, haha!
What projects are you working on that we can expect to see next from you?
Right now, I’m in the planning stages of the second season of Reality Check. More on that soon! I’m also trying to find photographers, who want to help me out with some new shoot ideas. I need some new headshots, [haha]!
If you could change anything about filmmaking and production of most online Black gay web-series.
I think the low-fi approach to web-series is what makes them special. However, to improve them, I’d recommend investing in a film crew who has a great camera and sound equipment. It can make a really big difference. The wardrobe was also important to make my characters pop on screen, so also make sure color and aesthetics are taken into account.
The movie Moonlight and the hit series Pose on FX has changed history for Black LGBTQ entertainment. Do you think there is more room for Black LGBTQ creators in the mainstream industry?
Keep telling authentic stories. Stories that show that our sexuality isn’t the only thing that defines us, but that we’re human and go through things everyone else goes through and more.
If you had a choice between being an indie filmmaker or a big-time showrunner on a network, which one would you choose and why?
It just depends. I’ll say just being an indie filmmaker until a big-time network offers me the opportunity to be a show-runner and actor. I just want experiences that allow me to grow in both film-making and performing arts while telling stories that can change perspectives about people like us.
What inspired you to be the leading actor in your very own web-series? I would think most filmmakers would find that being the most complicated task ever.
I’ve always wanted to act in a film, and I thought this could be a great vehicle for me to do that. It was like I created a job for myself.
Describe your future dream role, what film genre would it be in and what would the movie be about?
I love horror/suspense films and television, so I think it would be hella fun to play a character in that world. My dream role would be an emo superhero with crazy superpowers, [haha]. I know that’s hella specific.