Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Apple’s ‘Little America’ scores big telling immigrant stories – including queer ones

Published

on

Adam Ali dances with Haaz Sleiman in “The Son,” the 8th episode of the Apple TV+ show “Little America” (Image courtesy Apple+)

When “Little America” dropped on Apple TV+ on Friday, expectations were definitely high.

Coming from a writing and producing team that includes “Big Sick” writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, alongside “Master of None” co-creator Alan Yang, Lee Eisenberg, Joshuah Bearman and Joshua Davis, the immigrant-themed anthology show was already being critically lauded, and the fledgling streaming service had so much confidence in their new series they they had renewed it for a second season before the first had even made its debut.

Judging from the response of critics and audiences after the January 17 premiere, Apple’s confidence was well-founded.

TV Line called it Apple TV’s “best show yet,” while BGR Online said it “justifies a subscription all by itself.” The LA Times proclaimed it as “the crown jewel of TV’s immigration wave.”

On social media, viewers have been equally enthusiastic in their praise, with comments on Twitter under the “Little America” hashtag saying things like “Loved Little America so much that I watched it all in one go,” and “This is something special that should be shared.”

Based on a true stories series in Epic Magazine, the show goes “beyond the headlines,” as the official description reads, “to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and unexpected lives of immigrants in America, at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever.” Each stand-alone episode relates the narrative of a different American immigrant, following the hopes, dreams, and hardships of the immigrant experience. The stories are powerful enough in their own right, and inescapably political in today’s oppressively nationalistic climate – indeed, as the Pakistani-American Nanjiani recently observed in an interview, “Just by saying that immigrants are human beings with hopes and desires and likes and dislikes in this climate is a radical statement” – but the show’s fine writing and acting keep the focus on character, which makes every episode just as inescapably human.

While each episode is a gem unto itself, LGBTQ viewers will undoubtedly find particular affinity with the season’s final installment – “The Son,” directed by Stephen Dunn, who also co-wrote with Amrou Al-Kadhi. It tells the story of Rafiq, a closeted Syrian man whose inadvertent outing to his family sparks an escape that will ultimately bring him to America. Based on the real-life story of a Syrian named Shadi, it’s an emotional roller-coaster ride that offers a layered and compassionate document of authentic queer experience; for LGBTQ audiences, the young protagonist’s journey – his escape from the homophobia and repression of his family and their culture, his building of a “queer family” along the way, and his joy upon finding himself in a place where he can not only finally be free, but be and accepted and loved, just as he is, by the people around him – should be profoundly relatable.

What makes it all the more profound, sadly, is that the true story on which the episode is based would have a very different outcome if it happened today. As revealed by Dunn in an interview with Queerty, the real-life Rafiq would have been denied his asylum request if it had been submitted in Trump’s America; indeed, the episode “almost never happened” because the actor chosen to play Rafiq’s more effeminate friend Zain (Adam Ali, a Lebanese-born resident of Manchester, UK) was unable to enter America for filming due to Trump’s “travel ban.” Fortunately, the producers and the studio were willing to undergo the considerable difficulty of moving production from New Jersey to Canada – a decision that Dunn says left him “floored.”

Watching “The Son,” audiences will undoubtedly agree with Dunn’s assertion that Ali was the only actor for the role; he is utterly genuine and endearing, and his own journey is reflected onscreen by an inner strength and resilience that can never really be faked. He is the perfect grounding force for Haaz Sleiman, whose quietly desperate longing as Rafiq captures our hearts from the moment we meet him, and between the two of them, these actors bring us to a climactic scene that packs a bigger emotional punch than most of us would ever expect from a 32-minute-long episode of television.

No spoilers here, but once you’ve watched, you’ll never listen to Kelly Clarkson the same way again.

Watch the official trailer for “Little America” below.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Celebrity News

“Sex and The City” star Willie Garson has died at age 57

Garson found professional success on shows including “Sex and the City” but his favorite job happened when the cameras stopped rolling

Published

on

Willie Garson image via Titus Welliver Twitter

NEW YORK – In a tweet on Tuesday, actor Titus Welliver broke the news of the death from pancreatic cancer of his friend and fellow actor Willie Garson. Garson’s 20 year-old son Nathan, a student at The College of Wooster, a private liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio, added his own heartbreaking tribute to his father in an Instagram post.

The actor was in New York City reprising his role of Stanford Blatch in HBO’s Sex and the City‘s revival series,  And Just Like That.

According to an exclusive interview by Page Six in 2020, the actor’s favorite role however was that of ‘Dad.’

Willie Garson found professional success on shows including “Sex and the City” and “White Collar,” but his favorite job happened when the cameras stopped rolling. […] “He’s an adult and soon to be taking care of me which is really why I got him to be honest,” Garson said at the time. “He’s lovely and a really special guy. He’s wonderful and he’s in college in Ohio.”

The New Jersey-born actor also told us that he “always wanted to have a child,” so he decided to pursue adoption as a single parent.

********************

Continue Reading

Online Culture

Video: A straight & a gay guy react to “That’s what I want” by Lil Nas X

StanChris is a 20-something vlogger from the Northeastern U.S. who chronicles his life as a young everyday average gay guy

Published

on

StanChris (Screenshot via YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – The twenty-something StanChris, the Out YouTuber who has been building his audience on his channel by vlogging about the ordinary everyday experiences of his life as a young gay guy, is back with his straight friend and together they react to the brand new Lil Nas X’s new music video THATS WHAT I WANT which was released on September 16, 2021.

WATCH:

Continue Reading

Out & About

Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera come to Gay Days Disneyland

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in Anaheim

Published

on

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

ANAHEIM- Broadway is back, and it’s come to Anaheim. The legendary Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera, two absolute Titans of musical theatre, stopped by Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel Friday night for two intimate back to back engagements for the crowds at the annual Gay Days Anaheim, or as it is more popularly known: Disneyland Gay Days. 

During Gay Days thousands of LGBTQ+ Disney fans celebrate in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, with a weekend filled with scavenger hunts, meetups and parties. The park and the hotels almost feel like West Hollywood on a Friday night. The energy this year is especially lively, as Covid prevented last year’s celebration. 

Gay Days began in 1998, attracting a crowd of 2,500 visitors. The weekend now pulls in over ten times that, with 30,000 visitors joining in on the magic in 2019. In a massive group photo outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the entire group is decked out in the signature Gay Days red t-shirts – the 2019 edition featured a fabulous Star Wars Storm Trooper with the text “May the Fierce Be With You.”

While the event is not officially sanctioned by Disney, it is supported by it. Disney Pride, as well as several other branches of the Disney empire, have joined in as sponsors for the weekend. It’s also a favorite weekend for the Disneyland cast and staff. 

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, Inc.

The schedule is simple: Friday is arrival day, Saturday is about Disneyland and Sunday is about  California Adventure and the pool party. But Gay Days has got so much more than just a park visit: it now has Hollywood Bowl level-talent coming in for concerts. Kicking off the return to Disneyland this year is Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera. 

The two stars headlined Broadway Night at the 23rd annual Gay Days, kicking off the weekend-long celebration which ran from September 17–19. Drag Race fan favorites Nina West, Jackie Cox and Jan Sport joined in the weekend’s entertainments, with shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Friday night is buzzing. In the hotel lobby, Gay Days visitors are striking up conversations, getting to know each other, sharing stories about Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse and that time they worked with Debbie Reynolds. Gay Days is definitely a great way to meet your Prince Charming. 

Three-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera began the evening with An Intimate Conversation With Chita Rivera featuring the Broadway legend in conversation with theatre historian Eddie Shapiro. She’s a decorated performer with a score of firsts. She was the original Velma Kelly in Chicago, she was the original Anita in West Side Story, and she’s the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. 

When Rivera was called out on the stage she kicked her leg out high from behind the curtain, and then strutted her way to her chair. She’s 88 years old, but has the bright energy, wit and sparkle of someone decades younger. With charm and humor she tells a captivated audience about that time she won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, dancing with Dick Van Dyke and why she loves gay audiences – “they get it.”

She looks back on her storied career with humble gratitude, unexpected for someone who has an award named after themselves (The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography). When asked about a star studded concert she appeared in recognizing entertainment’s greats she simply said “it’s God’s way of saying you’re doing something right.” Chita Rivera left the Disney audience spellbound. 

An hour later, Audra McDonald walked out on the same stage for a piano concert – with Chita Rivera in the front row! Audra is a record-breaking icon. She’s a 6-time Tony winner, and has won at least one Tony in all four acting categories. But, like Chita, she is down to Earth, well-spoken and incredibly gracious. Between songs she peppers in stories about her daughter, playing Mother Superior in Sound of Music Live and Chita Rivera’s influence. 

Audra McDonald sings with a flawlessly smooth, often operatic quality. Standouts from her set include her cover of “Children will Listen” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods and an eerie reimagining of the title track from “Cabaret”, which she performed at The Met Gala by Anna Wintour’s request. She also included a moving performance of the song “I’ll be Here” from the lesser known musical Ordinary Days. The narrative of the song centers on a woman’s relationship with her husband who dies in 9/11. In the capable hands of McDonald, the audience is moved to tears.

The evening is a shining example of the exceptional programming Gay Days has added to an already incredible weekend. The two live performances are signs that a pre-Covid world is slowly returning.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular