Finding queer representation done right on TV is still a rare thing, and that’s why I try to bring you all TV shows that hit the right spots as far as sexual diversity is concerned. I got to know Hit the Floor about a year ago, and I was hooked. Not only did it have an amazing queer couple, it also featured WOC in lead roles. I got the chance to interview creator James LaRosa, and you can tell by his responses that he takes queer representation very seriously. Check out our exclusive interview!
Owing to the nature of TheGeekiary, the questions of the interview focused on queer representation and racial diversity in Hit the Floor.
When did you come up with the idea for Hit the Floor, and how did you manage to bring it to life on our screens?
A few years ago VH1 asked me to develop a scripted soap in the world of professional basketball. I created the Devil Girls. These weren’t your stereotypical cheerleaders. These women lived high-stakes lives. They had ambition; they were complex, they weren’t afraid to throw down in a man’s world. And they were also, at times, their own worst enemies. Just like life. We’re all messed up, that’s what makes us epic.
Casting the show was a bear. Our leads needed to be able to act, dance, and look like they belonged in this world. We auditioned nearly every actress in town. It took some time (and some sweat, including mine) but we finally found the perfect fits.
Filming the pilot was insanely fun. I purposefully cast actors I wanted to spend time with, hoping viewers would as well. It turns out the cast all wanted to spend time with each other, too. They were birds of a feather. It’s been a party since day one. The love is real.
Zero came on in Season 2 of the show. His relationship with Jude (who also came in S2) developed amazingly on the show. How’s the reaction been to the couple, lovingly called Zude?
Reaction has been amazing. I knew they were going to hook up from the beginning, but I didn’t want to tip it. Mostly because the characters didn’t know. It didn’t come out of nowhere – they were scheming together from the moment they made the scene – but they didn’t know the feelings they had until those feelings were suddenly in their faces. The overall viewer reaction was shock, which I love. Shock that it happened, shocked that we went there, shocked that I’d take a baller and flip him upside down like this – it changed how some fans saw Zero, which of course it would. That was the point.
Ultimately, I think it made viewers identify with Zero and Jude in a much more visceral way. Not identify with them as gay, or bi, or queer, but identify with them as people who’ve gone through this kind of relationship – wanting something that you can’t have. Jude wanted Zero and ultimately had to say goodbye even though both their feelings were so strong. Sometimes life sucks like that, and the empathy they both earned has been amazing to see. Their scenes on YouTube are some of the most viewed of the entire show. People care about their Zude.
Did you always think of writing a queer couple when you joined show business? Is the writing process for queer couples different from straight ones? Do you think a sense of ‘responsibility’ to the LGBTQ+ community comes along with it?
I want to write every kind of couple into everything I do. Having two men together in the traditionally male-dominated world of pro sports was exciting to me. It allowed me to ask questions you couldn’t ask on other shows. More is at stake than just what people think. It’s people’s multi-million dollar careers. It’s the support of your team in the locker room.
The only responsibility I feel is to be real. The LGBTQ+ community is made up of complex folk just like any community. No one on this planet is a saint. So whoever I’m writing – gay, straight, whoever – needs to reflect that or else what’s the point? There are no token characters on this show. Jude and Zero did some pretty messed up things in season 2. And yet we feel for them, because they’re lonely souls who happened to find another lonely soul to be flawed with. Again, just like real life.
Any thoughts about the current state of queer representation in TV shows? Do you think some shows ‘queer-bait’ their viewers in order to get them to watch?
It definitely feels “in” to be queer, which you won’t hear me complaining about because my whole life it wasn’t in at all. If having the random queer character be less than defined or there for mere titillation means we get this kind of visibility on TV, then bait me. There are certainly shows that get it right. Shonda for instance nails it more often than not. I’d rather see shows try and fail then not try at all.
Hit the Floor boasts an impressive POC cast, and actually has female POC characters as the leads! What are your thoughts about the current level of diversity in television?
There are a shocking number of brilliant actors out there who haven’t gotten as many at-bats as others simply because they didn’t fit the original watered-down character descriptions. Now networks are being challenged to represent, to give something different, to hold our attention. Cuz we viewers are a fickle bunch and we’ll change the channel like that. I love that that means getting a few different spices from the rack. Keeps things tasty.
In the Season 2 finale, Zero told Jude his real name but their relationship was left kind of hanging. (They ended up marrying and raising kids together in my mind but that’s another story.) Can you tell us where we’ll find Zude at the start of Season 3?
Season 3 picks up four months later, at the beginning of a new basketball season. I can’t give any story away but I will say feelings that strong just don’t go away, even if we try to will it. And even though Jude quit as Zero’s agent, they might just be working together closely in another, unexpected way…
Jonathan Bennett has joined the show as Lucas, a sports agent who will cause friction between Jude and Zero. Will our beloved ship face serious relationship trouble in Season 3 or should we hold on for something good?
Every relationship gets tested. It’s how you prove its strength or weakness. We shall see…
Anything you want to let us know about Hit the Floor Season 3?
Um, it’s amazing? We just wrapped production; everyone did a spectacular job, from writing to acting to dancing. It’s crazy strong, crazy juicy and just plain crazy. Totally worth the wait, I’m excited for you guys to see it!
Because TheGeekiary is all about having FEELINGS! I have to ask, what gives you FEELINGS/FEELS?
I got a whole bunch of feelings writing out thank you notes to my cast and crew last week. Turns out gratitude is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver. Music gives me feelings – the right song (or the wrong one) can launch me into a whole other emotional state in an instant. I…might be oversensitive. And a bitchy line, some cut eye and a walkaway gives me all the feelings. Like, all the feelings.
Hit the Floor Season 3 is set to premiere later this year. While you wait for the show to return, get acquainted with Jude and Zero, or better yet binge watch the previous two seasons!
Have you watched Hit the Floor? What do you think about Zude? Are you excited for Season 3? Let us know!
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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