With her bestie Ian Daniel in tow, she traverses the world, seeking out LGBTQ experiences for a brand-new TV series|
by Stephan Horbelt, published on February 18, 2016 - 9:10 AM
There’s a line in the trailer by Angeline Jackson, who is an incredible activist and an incredibly inspiring person,” says actress Ellen Page, 28, referring to a promo reel for her series Gaycation, premiering March 2 on the brand-new cable network Viceland. “She says it’s about being able to live, not just exist. We met all these people who are working to make that possible—some of the most courageous, brave people you could ever meet. It was definitely an incredibly inspiring and humbling experience.”
The concept of Gaycation is simple: to investigate and celebrate the current state of the queer experience, Page and her best friend Ian Daniel set off on a journey across the globe. The show’s first episode finds them in Japan, wandering the streets of Ni-chome, the city’s gay district, and hanging in a ‘drag bar’ complete with wardrobe rental, a safe space for Tokyo’s gender-nonconforming population. Later episodes pin the duo in (less-friendly for LGBTs) Brazil and Jamaica, with a layover in Iowa, where you may remember Page’s viral encounter with a GOP presidential candidate last August.
Gaycation’s Jamaica episode is one that Daniel describes as “very emotional” and “tense on many levels,” nothing that when visiting the notoriously anti-gay island, many people didn’t want to expose themselves or put themselves on camera. “Most of their lives are really lived indoors,” he says. “They stay in their apartments, work indoors. They don’t really travel around on foot, and they take cabs everywhere.”
If this series were your average travel show, difficult circumstances might produce a lackluster episode, but Gaycation examines real issues and attitudes. Daniel says, “That’s the episode where you see people trying really hard to overcome just being born.”
Page herself made headlines back in 2014 when she slung open her closet door at a Las Vegas convention, giving a speech during which she proudly proclaimed, “I am tired of hiding, and I am tired of lying by omission.” Since coming out, Page says, “I feel like a completely different person, and I’m getting to explore things creatively that in the past I probably couldn’t have, you know? I’m more happy and inspired and grateful than I’ve ever been.”
The luxury of being paid to traverse the world is hardly lost on Page, who refers to herself as “one of those lucky little people” who gets to travel, which she calls a “major privilege.” As for the spark that initially got her interested in making Gaycation, after traveling the world for various film roles, she wondered, how would those trips have been different if she’d been an openly gay tourist, girlfriend at her side?
So after traveling to far parts of the world that few people are lucky enough to experience, what have the best friends learned? Is there a throughline that applies to LGBTs the world over? Anything that connects all of us, from Japan to Jamaica?
“I think it’s that people in the face of adversity are surviving and persevering,” says Daniel. “It’s different in each country, but that’s always the throughline. Like, there’s conflict here; there are people that are against who I am. How do I navigate my world? How do I exist?”
“Obviously there are going to be different stories everywhere you go, but things are changing in a lot of places,” says Page, citing last June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision as one major improvement in the overall queer experience. “And I have hope that things are going to continue to change—because of the extraordinary, truly brave people who fight for equality in these countries.”
If nothing else, Gaycation is a perfect method for bringing those fearless individuals to the forefront, piping their stories and struggles into homes around the world via laptops, smartphones and televisions, educating the LGBT masses while hopefully changing the hearts and minds of those who tear us down.
Gaycation premieres March 2 on Viceland, www.vice.com