Netflix's adult animated comedy, Q-Force, about an elite team of LGBTQ+ undercover agents trying to save the world with flair, is set to premiere on September 2nd. Think of a gay James Bond mashed up with The Venture Brothers and you are not too far off. One of the brilliant minds behind this epic action-comedy is creator, producer, writer, Gabe Liedman. If that isn't enough pressure, Liedman also plays Benji, the dude in distress and the love interest of Q Force leader Agent Mary. Recently, Liedman chatted with Bleeding Cool about where the idea for an animated LGBTQ spy series came from, the all-star cast, and the challenges of appealing to a straight and LGBTQ audience.
Gabe, you're known for writing for "Pen 15", "Broad City", The Golden Globes, and you had a pretty nice run on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" that people like so much, and now you've got your own show, "Q-Force" on Netflix. Why did you decide to present this story as an animated series rather than a live-action movie or series?
Gabe Liedman: We wanted to tell kind of twisty, fun exciting stories that take a little bit longer than perhaps 20 minutes. So we wanted to arc out the season and a couple of big chunks to tell more satisfying, more surprising stories than you might get in your weekly sitcom. In animation and in television, you can do things that maybe a big studio isn't going to put into a movie like this. I don't know if there's a big studio that's going to make an action movie starring Sean Hayes as James Bond but it's still a character he wanted to play and it's still a world that I really wanted to write. I'm a comedy writer, so I don't know if there was an action movie coming my way at this point in my career. This was us taking an opportunity to do something unexpected in our own careers. And with animation, you can really pull off things that are hard to pull off in live-action. You can do crazier stunts. You can tell crazier stories. Our locations are all over the world, which is not something that you can pull off on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine".
You mentioned Sean Hayes, who stars as the leader of "Q Force", Agent Mary, and serves as executive producer. Can you talk a little bit more about how you guys got together and came up with the idea for the show?
GL: We got together for a Hollywood meeting where he and his producing partner, Todd Milliner, had the seed of an idea- just "gay James Bond" And I guess the way I came up with the concept was I'm not sure that there ever really would be a gay James Bond. I think that a more interesting story is what if you are James Bond? What if you're that good, but no one cares because you're gay? It seemed like a good opportunity to tell an underdog story, which I think makes great comedy, and also to tell an ensemble story. He's not the only gay or queer person out there. So what if he puts together his own team and gives us a chance to tell a larger story about the LGBTQ community, not just the gay guy, and that that was really the birth of "Q Force".
You had a little bit of crossover from "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" with Stephanie Beatriz as Princess Mira Popadopolous. What member of the "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" squad do you think would work for "Q Force"? Captain Holt maybe?
GL: I love Capt Holt. Such a funny character and so on. Such a funny take on a boss. Just always made me laugh. There is a reason I reached out to Stephanie. I worked on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" for about 70 episodes and really bonded with the cast, really got to know the characters inside and out. Rosa is so different from Stephanie, the woman. It was something that I think would surprise audiences was how from the top of her head to the tip of her toes she is doing a full character when she plays Rosa. It is nothing like the woman that walks onto the set. So when we're writing to the princess, who's a very girly, very party girl, silly character, I think I surprised a lot of people by wanting Stephanie for it because they didn't know what her real voice is. But I knew from knowing her and working with her that she had the range to pull off the girly girl. And I think she nailed it.
You managed to cast some pretty big names for this show- Gary Cole, David Harbour, Wanda Sykes, Jane Lynch, Eric Bauza. Is there anybody that you were unable to get for the show?
GL: For the most part, we got the people we wrote the part for. It was a surprise every time someone said yes, but it was mostly yes's. And yeah, we've had Allison Janney, we've got Dan Levy, Jane Lynch, and Niecy Nash. Niecy Nash was the get of a lifetime for me. No one beats her comedic acting, in my book. We were blessed with people who liked the material and made time for us under incredibly weird, difficult situations. To let us into their home and into their laptops. We were lucky.
What do you want to see happen with Benji and Agent Mary in Season 2?
GL: Well, I think things need to get complicated. I love the cliffhanger that we ended their relationship on at the end of the finale. I don't want to spoil it, but I think it very purposely introduces what seems like we can have an easier time, but it's really going to introduce a ton of complication and danger. And the original idea of having a civilian boyfriend for our main character was to inject real-life stakes in this complete cuckoo universe where it seems like anything is possible. These aren't people who are invincible, and I wanted them to have real heart and really be scared at times. The way we end season one with Mary and Benji is setting up for a season two that is going to not just be funny and sexy, but also scary and dangerous, which I think really feeds into action and action-comedy.
Is it challenging to aim for the LBGTQ community while also aiming for a broad audience?
GL: It's a balance, you know? I want everyone to like it. But I also think I lost a lot of stuff made for straight audiences and I love it. But it has references and jokes that don't necessarily have anything to do with my experience in the world. So I'm hoping that we put out this alternate perspective with jokes that maybe they [straight people] don't fully get but you can tell are funny. But for the queer audiences, hopefully, it'll strike a different cord. Sort of what straight people are experiencing when they watch "The Big Bang Theory", or whatever.
What am I missing? What do you want to make sure that everybody knows about?
GL: Well, I hope everyone knows that this is a show from LGBTQ plus creators and writers and artists and actors that we're putting out into the world, trying to just create some laughter and some fun. The intention behind it is to be wild and funny and that it comes from the heart.
Q-Force premieres Thursday, September 2, and stars Sean Hayes, Gary Cole (Office Space, The Brady Bunch), David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow), Patti Harrison (Together Together, Raya and the Last Dragon), Laurie Metcalf (Rosanne, The Conners), Matt Rogers (Our Cartoon President, Gayme Show), Wanda Sykes (The Upshaws, Pootie Tang), and Gabe Liedman (PEN15, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). Created & executive produced by Liedman, with Hayes, Milliner, Ben Heins, Mike Schur, and David Miner also executive producing. Q-Force is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group in association with Hazy Mills, Fremulon, and 3 Arts Entertainment.
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