Texas boy Del Shores brings his popular story and characters to television.
By Tim Brookover
When you curl up in front of the telly to watch the debut of Sordid Lives: The Series, you can take pride in knowing that Houston represents in the latest version of Del Shores’ take on the wacky side of small-town Texas. Five of the actors on the new Logo show have Bayou City ties. Newell Alexander and Ann Walker portray two of the main characters—Wardell Owens, the owner of Bubba’s bar, and saucy LaVonda Dupree, respectively. Emerson Collins, Bob Downs, and Allison Tolman also have featured roles over the 12 half-hour episodes.
Shores, who hails from the West Texas town of Winters (also the name of the town in Sordid Lives), first introduced the wildly dysfunctional Ingram clan and their neighbors on stage in 1996, then in a campy 2000 film. He is one of the producers of the Logo series, which stars Rue McClanahan, Leslie Jordan (returning as Brother Boy, Tammy Wynette-loving drag queen), Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Bedelia, and Caroline Rhea. The crisscrossing storylines include one that follows Ty (portrayed by Jason Dottley, who is also Shores’ husband), the son of one of the kooky sisters (a dead-on big-haired turn by Bedelia), and his struggles with coming out to his Baptist family while pursuing a show-biz career in Los Angeles. Turning the queer dial even higher: Newton-John, who plays bisexual ex-con Bitsy Mae Harding, performs five original songs written for the series. Also watch for guest-star bits by Candis Cayne, Margaret Cho, and Carson Kressley.
Before the launch of the latest Sordid chapter of his career, Shores answered a few questions via e-mail:
Tim Brookover: For Sordid Lives fans, what might be the most noticeable change in the transition from stage to big screen to television?
Del Shores: Well, first of all, the production value of the show is much better than the film. We had more budget and great producers (Emmy winners Stanley M. Brooks and Damian Ganczewski of Once Upon A Time Films) who surrounded me with the best crew, great lighting,and an amazing director of photography (David Sanderson). So, we’re prettier this time. As far as content and characters, Beau Bridges and Delta Burke weren’t available, so David Steen and Caroline Rhea embodied G.W. and Noleta to sheer perfection. And Kirk Geiger had aged out of the role of Ty, so Jason Dottley replaced him and is so vulnerable, beautiful, f–ked up, yet is a strong leading gay man. We get to see a lot more of Ty’s journey in the series, as we do all the characters. More dimensions, more of their twisted stories. Oh, and there is a new Odell, David Cowgill, who is really fantastic. The tone and humor of the series really honors the play and the movie, so I think our fans are going to be very happy. I feel it’ll be like visiting friends you haven’t seen in a while.
Can you give us an update on the movie version of your play Southern Baptist Sissies ? The production seems to have been delayed.
Yes, unfortunately we were in production with Funny Boy Films (Latter Days, Adam & Steve ) and they lost a big piece of financing. Hopefully, with Bush out of office and the economy getting better (I’m an optimist), along with the success of the series, we’ll be able to put it back together. It’s such an important piece for me. I have literally hundreds of letters from gay men and women—and their families—who have had a healing experience because of that play. I even had one young man tell me he didn’t commit suicide because he saw Southern Baptist Sissies. I’m hoping that an angel with a bunch of money and passion for this project wants to be in the movie business and will join us in sharing Sissies. It’s not often you get to be involved in a project that changes lives.
What is the next project are you working on?
Well, the second season of Sordid Lives: The Series, of course, so LOGO, order up! I hope to direct Sissies soon. I have a new play in the works and a couple of new TV shows in development, as well as two other feature projects. I stay busy, but this series has consumed my life for the last couple of years.
You recently visited Dallas for a benefit for the Uptown Players theater company. Will your fans in Houston see you here anytime soon?
I don’t have any plans to come, but if someone will bring me in, I’ll gladly come to Houston. Truthfully, various Dallas organizations, film festivals, theaters, even bars in Dallas have brought me and Jason Dottley (my husband, who plays Ty in the series) for various events. So, Houston bring it on! We’re ready. You can’t let Dallas trump you now, can you?