By Melinda Paradis
She’s in London follows the lives of the staff of iconic LBQT Soho bar, SHE, their fight against a mainstream property developer to save the venue from closure, and a love triangle formed when one woman sleeps with her best friend’s ex.
Theo, who works at the bar, finds herself getting involved with Mel, which would be fine, except Mel is the ex of her best friend and flatmate, Sam.
What neither Sam or Theo know is that Mel works for the developer that’s trying to close the bar. This web series has drama in spades, and of course, friendship, sex, and love.
We interviewed Katie Bennett-Hall, creator and writer of the web series, Joanna Ludlow (Sam) and MIRI (Theo). We talked about biphobia in the queer community, the importance of saving queer spaces, and how they hope to inspire more queer UK women to make content that represents their lives.
What inspired the storyline behind She’s In London?
Katie: The storylines are based behind real-life events. The love triangle sequence with the best friend’s ex has definitely happened to people I know. The bar closing, like venues such as the Candy Bar and First Out, both have gone through situations where the owners of their leases have doubled the rent and made it impossible for them to stay. It describes economic homophobia, and really reflects what’s truly going on [in queer London].
What makes She’s In London unique from other web series?
Katie: It’s set in London! As far as I know, there is no other LBQT/UK web series.
For us, it was really important to showcase London. We wanted it to be about some of the real things that go on in lesbian, bi, and queer London. It’s set in Soho, in a real bar. Several of the cast are well known in the LBQT community, and we wanted it to be really representative of modern day lesbian London.
We have a lot of cameos and support from people in the community: clips from radio shows, a cameo from a drag king who is quite well known, a cameo from Lucy Spraggan, a popular singer who was on the X-Factor UK.
In terms of the cast, we tried to go with strong, vivid women characters. They are all quite different. One of the leads is bisexual, which was really important to me.
Joanna: It really focuses on the lesbian/bisexual women community. It needed to be done, and it needed to happen because the ladies always take a back seat in most storylines, so it’s great to see something that looks into girl power.
It’s also a good representation of queer women and how we can be friends with someone of the same sex without necessarily being attracted to them. MIRI, who plays Theo, my best friend in the show, we clicked really quickly. I am the annoying little sister she never had. It’s a miracle we ever got any scenes done! It was pretty easy for us right away to have a friendship on screen.
MIRI: Even if I wasn’t in the series, it is something I would want to watch. I feel that it can appeal to anybody, regardless of sexuality or gender, because it’s universal. The idea of it is to represent the LBQT people of London authentically, but at the same time, there are elements that you can relate to on any level. People who aren’t part of that community can have the possibility to see what goes on and relate to it. I think it brings people together, and I feel that is really major.
What about the show resonates with you?
Joanna: For me and my Mrs, when we go out, we go out in Soho. If we go out around here, we are a couple of girls holding hands, and if we happen to kiss, we get looked at and get all kinds of attention, which can be the wrong attention.
When we get to have a night out, we really like to be in our community, with our lot, where we can feel comfortable. The show is about saving that community — being a part of that community because there are quite a few bars in Soho that have been shut down, and we don’t want that to happen again. It is our safe place.
The series brilliantly portrays the reality of Soho. There is so much that happens throughout the series — me and the other cast members can literally relate to any parts of it and apply it to some of our real-life experiences. We are a very diverse group of girls, and it’s really exciting to see the dynamics between all of us on the show.
Tell us more about your characters, Sam and Theo.
MIRI: Theo is 26 years old. She is a free spirit who was in a restrictive, long-term relationship. She moves to London, starts working in a lesbian bar, and just wants to have fun, get over her ex, and explore her freedom.
Joanna: Sam, I’m not going to lie, she is a bit of a pain in the ass. I sometimes want to slap myself when I’m in character! She is a femme bisexual who felt like she had to pick a side, so she came out as a lesbian in college. Aside from being a spoiled brat, you learn to love her.
Can you both relate to your characters?
MIRI: There are elements of Theo I can relate to. She is a lot younger than me, and there are a lot of things she does that I would not necessarily do, but I think there is an element of her, her free spirit I spoke of earlier, that I relate to.
Joanna: I can identify with Sam as a bisexual. I can say happily I am nothing like Sam, but I have always been bi, and have struggled with biphobia where I have been told, “Why can’t you just pick a side?” — but you can’t!
I’m in a committed relationship with my girlfriend who’s currently giving the kids a bath. We are a fabulous team! It’s me, her, and our little boys, and although I can absolutely see myself spending the rest of my life with her, I still identify as bisexual, just like Sam.
It took me a while to wrap my head around it. This is how I can identify to Sam, definitely, and that is pretty cool.
You can’t pick a side, and people can be very cruel about it. They have a hard time understanding. I am actually quite proud to represent a bi character, as a bisexual woman myself.
What has it been like filming the series?
Katie: It has been a lot of fun. We had seven full days on set. The cast quickly developed a strong chemistry with each other. There was lot of laughter in the green room and behind the scenes.
There has been a lot of commitment to making something really good, and delivering the script, the story, and the characters really authentically.
You are launching the web series with TelloFims. What do you hope to achieve in terms of connecting with the audience?
Katie: Two things — one is to give the American subscribers something different, something British. The other is to showcase to British LBQT women what a web series really is. There are a few of us who watch web series, but it has not quite picked up yet the way it has in the USA.
For us, it’s a way to push the idea of web series, and making quality content without the backing of big studios, or companies like Netflix.
It’s a foot in the door for them to have access to a lot of content going on in the States, from TelloFilms in particular. Also, hopefully, it will generate interest in British LBQT women in wanting to create content as well. It’s a great show of collaboration because you can’t do this on a small budget without collaborating. We are showing them, “Look at what we’ve done. You can do this too.” We need to push that independent spirit.
What are your hopes for future fans of the show?
Katie: For them to really enjoy it, and I hope that it reflects people that you are familiar with, conversations that you’ve had, and for it to be quite representative of reality.
We want to hear what you would like for season two. Season two is a blank sheet. We want it to be more diverse, more intricate, more dramatic. What characters would people want to be introduced to in season two? How do you want season two to unfold? Do you have any ideas? Have you written something? Do you have skills you would want to put into collaboration with us?