Less than a year ago, queer Brazilian director/actor/writer Thales Corrêa co-developed the
series concept Poly People with lesbian classmate Melissa Girard in the Second City Writing Program. After baiting his friend and countryman Anthony Moore out of a pandemic-induced depression to act and produce, Corrêa shot the seven-episode mockumentary about the daily life of four people in a polyamorous relationship in two and a half days, with 85% queer, female and POC identified people in front of and behind the camera. What could possibly go wrong?
We talked to Thales about just exactly what. Enjoy the conversation below!
Awards Radar: Tell us about Poly People. What attracted you to this project?
Thales Correa: Poly People is a comedy about a polyamorous relationship of four people facing trials and tribulations in their own uniquely hilarious ways. What attracted me to this project was the opportunity to show a type of relationship that we so often hear about, but know so little about. The light-hearted language and relatability of the characters is something that anybody would like to watch regardless of their gender, sexual preference, or relationship status. Four people, with different gender identities, living together, united by love. It’s interesting, it’s fun, it’s beautiful.
AR: What was the independent vision for this series, and why did you decide to make it outside the “system,” independently on YouTube?
TC: One word: freedom. Independent really is an appropriate term to use I suppose. Everything I would gain in resources from the “system” I would lose in creative freedom. For this particular project making it myself allowed me the ability to represent all these characters the way in which I envisioned and I can ask nothing more as a filmmaker. This is not to say that I’m not willing to partner with a studio that shares my vision and would supply the platform to take the message to new heights; that just turned out to be the way to go for this one. Why make a show about polyamory?
Because there are 3,782 shows about monogamy, and each one has some unique take on
monogamy. So imagine the mine of untapped potential a show on poly people could be! Some may consider polyamory to be trendy right now. I consider monogamy to have been trending in western society for centuries now, and people are finally breaking through the programming to see the are many ways to love and live.
AR: Is this a very personal production? Do you have anything in common with Cuddelz? Have you ever had to juggle multiple relationships?
TC: The lack of jawline, the brown eyes, and the crooked nose are pretty similar to mine. But beyond that, every character I write has a little bit of me in them. Especially the ones I portray. As an actor, I need to find something of that character that lives in me, so I can translate it organically to the screen. But on the surface, Cuddelz has a lively personality, a light-hearted way to see life, and a can-do attitude that are definitely my own personal traits. I have been single for a while, so I’ve absolutely had to juggle multiple relationships at once, but nothing too official like in Poly People.
AR: Why the mockumentary format? How did you decide it was the best way to tell this story?
TC: This format allows the characters to live in a space that an intact fourth would not allow. The interviews give the characters the ability to deepen the subtext of the plot. The characters speaking directly to the audience enhance the feeling of connection between the actor and viewer. I’m not sure if the classic three-camera sitcom with a live studio audience would work with Poly People. We chose the format we felt would best allow the characters to be as natural as possible, not merely landing punchline after punchline. People in the US don’t think there are any other countries in the world that even exist, let
alone have a fully-fledged society. Obviously, Brazil might beg to differ.
AR: What was it like as someone from Brazil breaking into the US entertainment space? What challenges did you face?
TC: I came to study cinema in Los Angeles when I was 21. So right off the bat, I met people from all over the country, and the world, trying to make it. America for me is a different country from the one you described. It’s the land of opportunity, and those who work hard can make it, regardless of the color of their skin, accent, ethnicity, or sexual preference. Of course, this industry is tough, and everybody will have challenges to face, even if you’re from here. Being born in Brazil, my challenges were a bit different than those born here. Like the language barrier, adapting to a new culture, and being far from family. But I used all of that to implement my art and make projects different than anything you’ve ever seen before.
AR: You’ve had two films at Cannes. You know, not a lot of people can say that. What was that experience like? The first time? The second?
TC: It was an incredible experience. I was able to expand my mind of what cinema outside of America really is. I met people from all over the world, and I had a lot of fun. The second time was the same joy. I feel that Cannes is a Disneyland for filmmakers, the best movies, the best professionals of the industry meet up in the South of France to celebrate their work, mingle, and get to know each other. It was one of the best times of my life.
AR: Tell us a little something about each of the cast. How did you find them and how did they prepare for their roles?
The cast is one of the greatest joys of this show. Starting with Anthony Moore, who plays
Tucker, he’s my Brazilian co-producer, we do a lot of stuff together. Anthony helped me
produce the show, so his participation in the cast was clear from the beginning. He also co-wrote many of the scenes, he’s a great comedian, and I couldn’t do the show without him. Ilona Kulinska was my classmate in college. We did a theater class together and we’ve always hit it off. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while. Over the years, with every project I did, I tried to have her, but it only worked out for Poly People, and it was amazing. Then we have Andrea Flowers, who plays Abigail. She’s one of the best actresses I’ve ever cast. We chose her out of thousands of women who submitted auditions through breakdowns. We loved her energy, her acting choices, and her naturality portraying the character was something beautiful to see. We also had special guests on episode two: Rip Riley and Wes Brooks. I first cast Wes to play one of the Mormons for that scene, and I saw that he has a comedy channel with his partner Rip, and they both filled those roles perfectly. That was a casting made in heaven!
AR: How does this film fit in with the current national conversation about gender? Do you think it will upset anyone?
TC: Divide your answer between the queer and straight communities. We come back to the genre of comedy. Comedy allows me to make commentary on sensitive issues like gender in modern society without drawing a hard line. I can make nuanced arguments through the characters which allow the audience to derive meaning from that. I have a clear conscience that I’ve not done anything blatant enough to offend anyone. So if anyone still does, that’s something out of my control. Of course, that was never my intention to attack, but I understand that sometimes people may get things in the wrong way.
I’m not opposed to listen to the other side and be sensitive to other people’s pain. I can always listen and learn and try to do better. After all, nobody is perfect. For the straight community is the same answer. It’s a comedic commentary on a certain way of life. There’s nothing preachy on the show that dictates the way you should or should not act.
It’s a light-hearted comedy, there’s nothing to be offended about. But if it does, I’ll certainly
going to be interested in finding out what it is, because it will be something that I cannot see at the moment.
AR: Anything else you’d like to tell us?
TC: I would like to thank you for the opportunity and the space to talk about Poly People and a little bit about my career. And ask the Television Academy voting members, from the bottom of my heart, to please consider our web series Poly People for an Emmy nomination. The fact that I can even say this as a queer Brazilian blows my mind and still doesn’t sound real. This project is one of the proudest things I’ve directed and acted in, for me and my community. It was a labor of love, a dream come true and a proven work of art made for and by the LGBTQ+ community. In this Pride Month, your careful consideration of championing LGBTQ+ and POC creators would be greatly appreciated.