Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Guys Feel Stuff Too: An Interview with the Creator of We Need Girlfriends

Written by Josie Schoel

Active Image    

 

We Need Girlfriends, a web series inspired by the inability to relate to the much-adored, but also heavily machismo show, Entourage, follows a familiar plot format with some unfamiliar characters—that is, if we aren’t counting our brothers, cousins, and of course, our ex-boyfriends. The show has been such a hit because the characters are not untouchable high-class movie stars living it up in Hollywood; rather, they live in Brooklyn and Queens, in normal just-out-of-college apartments with normal jobs and normal guy problems concerning love, lust, and the pursuit of the perfect girlfriend.

 

                                                                  

We Need Girlfriends, a web series inspired by the inability to relate to the much-adored, but also heavily machismo show, Entourage, follows a familiar plot format with some unfamiliar characters—that is, if we aren’t counting our brothers, cousins, and of course, our ex-boyfriends. The show has been such a hit because the characters are not untouchable high-class movie stars living it up in Hollywood; rather, they live in Brooklyn and Queens, in normal just-out-of-college apartments with normal jobs and normal guy problems concerning love, lust, and the pursuit of the perfect girlfriend.

Apparently, there has been a gap in the portrayal of modern guyhood that Adrian Grenier just hasn’t been able to fill, as CBS recently decided to turn We Need Girlfriends into a television show. I caught Steven Tsapelas, the creator of the series, in the midst of his move from New York to Los Angeles. Let’s all just hope, for sake of the show, that he keeps it real and remains true to his We Need Girlfriends roots. We might not go as far as to say we need these guys as boyfriends, but we do like them and their characters just the way they are.

Josie: Can you tell us a little bit about what initially inspired the We Need Girlfriends project? I read somewhere that each character was based on someone from behind the scenes: you, the writer, Brian, the producer, and Angel, the cameraman and editor; is this just because you all needed girlfriends? Did you all get dumped simultaneously after college?

Steven: Brian, Angel, and I had been friends since college, and after graduation we found ourselves in similar situations to the characters. We [had] all [been] dumped and [suddenly we were] single together for the first time since the beginning of our friendship. At the same time, we had been making a lot of short films together and were looking for a new way to stretch, creatively. The web series, a relatively new format, was just beginning to take off, thanks to sites like Channel 101. We thought it would be a great way to tell a longer story for a little bit of money, and [a chance to] gain an audience on the Internet. We just needed an idea.

Now, Brian and Angel are big fans of the show Entourage and loaned me some DVDs to check out. While I liked the show, I found it completely unrelatable. Here were these four supercool guys that were picking up women left and right, while even talking to a girl or going on a first date was a struggle for us. So, I pitched a show loosely based on our lives and our friendships with each other, we started developing ideas for it, and we were off and running.

Josie: Entourage is good, but yes, I would be worried if all guys could relate to it! Do you think men really need girlfriends in their lives? In the show, it seems like more of a quest for the sake of a quest, instead of a real desire to have a girlfriend.

Steven: I think it depends on the man. I know for me, personally, I hate dating, and I'd much rather find someone I can be completely comfortable with than date around or sleep around. Tom, Henry, and Rod all have their different reasons for wanting a girlfriend so desperately. Tom wants a partner that is his equal that he can spend all of his time with and share all of his feelings with. For Henry, his confidence and self-esteem are based around his girlfriend, and without one he feels pathetic. For Rod, a girlfriend represents a mental (and mostly physical) connection that he can't live without. But throughout the show, they learn that it's okay to be single too.

Josie: The character of Rod is really interesting to me because he is so incongruous to the other two, who fall into the sensitive and smart guy category. In some ways, he is really one of the more interesting characters because he puts on this mask of being really indifferent and tough, but when he gets his one-night stand pregnant, he starts to change a little. Was he on this path to becoming more sensitive anyway, or was it really the coming of baby “Ben Affleck” that changed him?

Steven: I always thought that of the three, Rod was the one that needed the girlfriend the most, but was never willing to admit it. While Tom and Henry are sad, they can function as people without girlfriends. Rod, however, needs that physical connection—otherwise he is grumpy, moody, and quick to anger. We kind of pushed this with “Episode 7: The Boyfriend” where Rod betrays Tom, and then never apologizes to him or redeems himself.

The audience really hated Rod for this, so we felt we needed to redeem him. However, we [also] felt it would take an incredibly serious situation for Rod to change his attitude, and even then it would take the coaxing and pushing of his friends, Tom and Henry. There is a change in Rod at the end of the series, and if we had gone into a second season, we would've definitely explored the new Rod more.

Josie: Do you think guys and girls deal with breakups differently? I thought so until I saw We Need Girlfriends, and I realized that guys are people too! Just kidding. But I did experience a bit of eye-opening surprise when I saw Rod, Henry, and Tom pining away for their respective girls/obsessions.

Steven: I'm not sure how girls deal with breakups, but I know that the way we portrayed it in We Need Girlfriends is how my friends and I felt after our breakups. There were a lot of personal stories packed into every single episode. We really felt lost after our girlfriends dumped us and weren't afraid to talk about our feelings with one another.

I felt like no one in film and TV was portraying the lull between relationships. It seemed that as soon as a guy in a show or movie got dumped, he was sad for a few seconds, and then was immediately getting girls again. This didn't seem realistic. We get as emotionally wrapped up in relationships as girls do, and often times have trouble shaking breakups.

Furthermore, I found it hard to date girls again, because I'd spent most of my formative years in a relationship and never learned any real dating skills. Meeting women, talking to women, working up the courage to make the first move—all of those things were difficult. I won't say any of these experiences are universal to every single guy—there are a lot of assholes out there—but I have found that since making the show, I've received countless e-mails from males my age or younger that really related to the characters on the show and the way they felt.

Josie:  We really do need more and more portrayals of guys who aren’t afraid to actually talk about stuff and show how they feel. It is one thing for a guy to do it with a girl, but seeing guys talking together seems almost revolutionary. So what are the next steps for you guys? Are you still in the process of making the pilot for CBS? Do you have as much creative freedom?

Steven: The pilot is still in development at CBS. It's an incredibly long process, far different from making things for the Internet. The difference between TV and the Internet is risk factor. For us, spending $200 a webisode meant we were free to play around, experiment with ideas and characters, and not have every moment work completely. But since CBS is putting a lot of their money into the pilot, they have to think and rethink each decision we make with the show. Brian, Angel, and I were used to being in charge of the creative direction of We Need Girlfriends and have been adjusting pretty well to working with others.

The truth is we made the web series for next to nothing in a two-bedroom apartment in Queens to prove that we were ready to work in television. So to have actually achieved that goal is an incredible opportunity. Our producers, Dennis, Darren, and Clark, have been incredible and have supported our vision throughout this project.

Josie: Great! We are all looking forward to watching! 

Share this post