Interview with Russ Wilde, DM for Prism Pals

Russ is the DM for Prism Pals, an all queer, all nonbinary/genderqueer, actual play podcast about trying not to be murdered by a creepy guy and also babysitting the children you’ve accidentally adopted just because you were all arrested at the same time. Russ is an absolute sweetheart and one of my favourite people in the podcasting community, so this interview was a lot of fun. Russ uses he/they pronouns.

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Where do you draw inspiration for the world of Prism Pals?

Well it depends. A lot of the initial world building inspiration came from music. I love listening to music when I write and I find that it shapes my world in strange and mysterious ways. Newer parts of it have come from movies or books. But the best place I have drawn inspiration from is from stories that disappointed me or let me down.

What made you want to DM this game rather than being a quote-unquote “player”? (DMs are 100% still players) 

I was okay with either role, but quite frankly, I was more worried about DMing than I was about playing. I feel like the DM for a “public” game faces a lot more criticism than players face, over things like whether a ruling was unfair, or they messed up a monster rule, or if there are plot holes etc. etc. I wasn’t super confident in my DMing and I’m still not. There are certain days where planning for the game feels like it’s weighing down on me, and after games I deal with what I call a “DM Hangover”. But honestly, I was the only one who could. Sam didn’t feel comfortable with DMing. Kyle and Ollie had never DMed, and Ben was terminal. In the end, I tried to swallow my fear and went for it.

I think a big part of it was how much I wanted the show to exist. I think that’s why I choose to DM. Because without a DM, the show couldn’t really exist, and if I was the only option then gosh dang it I don’t care if I’m horrible because this show could mean something important to someone.

Prism Pals does have an overarching plot, but as a DM you’re known for leaving a lot of events up to chance. How do you balance those two sides of the game?

That depends. When it comes to main story beats, such as the Arrival of Malachi or the Trials of The Platinum Ambitions, those aren’t chance. I have decided on those moments beforehand. But a lot of that was just setup for the story. Since then I’ve been relying more and more on chance because everything is tee’d up already! I think a lot of the worry about chance when it comes to TTRPGs is the question of “well what happens if they do this??”, and I think the best answer to that question is just “Figure it out if they do it”. I like improvising and honestly I don’t do a ton of balancing. I trust my players and they know there’s a larger story. So I have to trust them to play the game and see what they do, just like they have to trust me to not throw a TPK at them! [Editing Note: A TPK is a total party kill.]

Not all of the players are in the same room when you record. Do you find there’s a difference between how you play when you’re in the same room vs over video call?

Oh totally! When I’m in a room with people, I am much more emotive and my physical actions are bigger and bolder. When I’m playing online and I can’t see my players faces because I have all of my notes up, I am a little more reserved. It’s something I struggle with when it comes to character voices and things because often times movements help me get into a character.

A lot of people question the appeal of actual play podcasts. What interests you about this genre of podcasting, and what led to you deciding to make one of your own?

I cannot emphasize this enough… I. Love. TTRPGs. So that was enough to get me interested in AP podcasts.

And then I started listening to shows along with friends, such as Sam! Sam and I are co-creators of Prism Pals, and we decided to make our own podcast when we were listening to other shows and realized, “Oh hey, we could do this!”. The barrier of entry to podcasting, (while not super accessible), is much lower than things like streams and other methods of entertainment.

What drew you to create the guild masters that you did?

Well, I made the active decision that I wanted a very diverse group. So I went through and designed all the guildmasters over the course of several months. The party only reached Mal’ra and the Guildmasters in episode 14. I started planning for them around episode 4 (which was our second recording session). The Guildmasters were incredibly important because the Platinum Ambitions is a global organization in the world and I wanted it to be clear that this is a world where traditionally marginalized groups have power. These are some of the best battlers/thinkers/inventors etc. in the world of Tahim’Ka. Every single one of them got where they were because they fought for it and they proved themselves.

Creating a fantasy world with marginalized characters can sometimes be difficult, as you try to balance not wanting to make that world have the same problems as our world (colonialism, racism, homophobia, etc.), but also not wanting to dismiss those problems as trivial. Did you find that you struggled with that at all?

I did struggle with it. I did a lot of reading and research for the story and looked at ways that other stories had failed. I looked at those mistakes and have tried my best to avoid them. In addition, I did make a very active choice to include racism in the world located within the country of Hashar, and that was a choice I made for the specific reason of my own personal intersectionalities. I have dealt with so much racism within my life from areas of the queer community, and it was important to me to show that as it is part of my own experience.

The party has met multiple gods/children of gods over the course of the campaign. How did you choose which gods/god children you wanted to feature?

So far (as of the time of this interview) the party has met one god and four god children. Forge and Galvana were always going to be a part of the story, just because of Holland and Vayu and how those characters were built. When it comes to the others, such as the unnamed child of Dust, Mistress Aqualis, and Scaldron, they were all chosen based on where we were in the story/how the plot was moving. I really want to feature more of the gods because of how much I love the system I built for the gods. It’s meant to be an amorphous entity with a lot more flexibility and the meaning of “Worship One, Worship All” is something that I really want to come through in the story.

Do you have any DM role models?

Of course! Mark Hulmes and Griffin McElroy are my two biggest DM role models!

If you could do a crossover episode with any other actual play show, who would you want the pals to meet?

The gang from Titans of All’Terra! Gibs would absolutely explode with excitement about the Stone Golems and Holland would have some people to help babysit the kids for a minute, and Vayu would get to chill with another super relaxed monk. It would be a good time (and Gibs would 100% try to drive a golem).

Do you have any advice for fledgling DMs?

Rules are great and all, but they mean nearly nothing if you aren’t having fun. Don’t be afraid to try a bunch of new systems! D&D is great for some people, but if you have trouble with Planning, something that is Powered by the Apocalypse is much better. I personally adore Dungeon World. If you can’t remember a rule, make it up! You are the DM and you get to make that call. ALWAYS HOLD A SESSION 0 TO MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR PLAYERS ARE ON THE SAME PAGE!! WITH NOT ONLY YOU BUT ALSO EACH OTHER

If you lived in the world of DND, what race/class would you want to be?

Dragonborn Wizard. I wanna be able to cast spells, and also breath weapons are cool af.

Last few questions! What are your favourite audio fiction shows that include marginalized characters?

Wolf359, Godsfall, The Bright Sessions, and The White Vault

What would you like to see more of when it comes to representation in audio fiction? What would you like to see less of?

MORE FAT LEADS. MORE DISABLED LEADS. MORE NEURODIVERGENT LEADS. MORE TRANS LEADS.

LESS RACISM. LESS TROPES. LESS BURY YOUR GAYS. LESS “MARGINALIZED PEOPLE ARE THE VILLAIN” STORIES

What is your absolute dream story?

Dream Story – A lot of queer folx. Oodles of found family and diversity. A delicate slice of life story showing their lives and the beauty and struggle of queer lives. Takes place over a year and as the lives of the main cast changes so do the seasons, very visibly. Each season of the show (which corresponds to the actual season changing) contains a huge event. Whether that be a funeral, someone moving, a birth, a wedding etc. Each season contains a big event which changes the following events. Each season shows the lives of this queer family who found one another and loves each other no matter how many arguments or petty fights they get into. Start in summer, end in spring.

Interview with Sammy Madafiglio, Game Master for Queer Dungeoneers

Sammy Madafiglio is the Game Master for Queer Dungeoneers, an all queer actual play podcast about trying to stop the apocalypse and not getting killed by a demon for bringing your girlfriend back to life. It is one of my favourite shows, and interviewing Sammy was so much fun. Sammy uses they/them pronouns.

What drew you towards using the Dungeon World system for Queer Dungeoneers?

Like a lot of people, my first tabletop RPG was Dungeons and Dragons. It’ll always be my first love, but as a DM, I found it so cumbersome to plan sessions knowing there were so many details I had to have nailed down ahead of time, or otherwise I’d be fishing through a bunch of sourcebooks trying to bring things together. I first experienced Dungeon World through Friends at the Table, and the collaborative way they played just seemed a lot more keyed in to what I was interested in. You don’t have to make everything up front; make what’s interesting, and dive deeper into that. Having my friends to draw on as a resource is also such a boon, since they’re funny and smart and all have their own experiences, and that style is at the core of a Powered by the Apocalypse game like Dungeon World.

What made you choose to tell a more humorous story rather than a more serious one?

I wouldn’t say I chose it; it chose me. The way we play is very improv heavy, and I think as a group we lean towards the boisterous and extravagant. I guess I never really consider being funny in my prep, or in my play; a lot of the stuff that people find humourous is unexpected, or jarring, or strange. But those are all qualities of the kinds of fantasy worlds I’m interested in!

I guess the humour is a lens that makes absorbing our world enjoyable. I hope what’s left once the jokes wear off can resonate with people.

How do you balance the serious parts of characters’ backstories and the plot with the humour that Queer Dungeoneers is known for?

I often don’t! There are certainly times that we make jokes during the serious moments. I think it helps integrate those moments into the rest of the show, and gives that authentic feeling that we’re five people experiencing something new together. In the same way as a serious moment doesn’t mean there can’t be humour, there’s rarely times where we’re just making jokes without underlying stakes. Even if it’s funny, those kinds of moments often don’t make the cut.

Had you played with any other members of the party prior to Queer Dungeoneers?

We’d all been playing RPGs together for over a year when we started! It’s really how we became friends. The full group for our other games is larger, but I had to set a limit for this because I didn’t want to DM for like 7 people (Hi MASKS group!!!! I know you’re reading this). I think that experience is why we have the trust and the confidence to bounce things off each other, knowing that the other person will “yes and” you.

I think it’s also helped me understand everyone’s specific strengths, so I know what kinds of moments to throw to each of them.

Do you find there’s a difference between playing TTRPGs when you’re recording them versus not recording? 

In our setup we try to minimise the difference. We have one mic in the middle of the room, and we’re all spread out around it. Because of the level of editing I do, I’d rather that everyone just stays in the moment and enjoys the game, and lets me handle whipping the recording into shape. Having said that, there are times I have to break that feeling by telling someone to stop making some noise, or by doing retakes. I also think the nature of releasing episodes of the podcast each week changes the way we conceptualise the game, since the players listen back to the sessions and are much more primed on what happened on whatever point we’re up to in the released episodes. Also, since the episodes are so edited, their memory of past sessions becomes shaped by what I chose to include. A handy (if ominous) trick for keeping things on course!

Do you have a favourite NPC to play? 

Oof. My two favourite genres are oblivious, sweethearted characters who just want everyone to get along, like Boulder the halfing oresperson, or Brumpo the dog, and catty characters who stir everyone up, but still have their vulnerabilities, like Samira the wind elemental. I think I like that second kind because  it lets me embrace a side of stereotypical femininity that I’d really rather not test out on my friends. A lot of my PCs end up falling into that trope, and it’s a lot of fun to rile people up! (I don’t end up very popular when I play those characters though :P)

Which Queer Dungeoneers PC is your favourite?

Is this question even legal???? I would say probably Nim or Kremora, but they all find ways to surprise and delight me.

What is the most rewarding part of making Queer Dungeoneers

Having a growing library of now 30 episodes that have helped bring my friends closer and make them more confident in their own abilities, with great goofs and a storyline that gets deeper and more interesting and could literally go anywhere, with a small community who get to find some joy in this weird world by listening to us. What’s not to love?

You clearly have an idea for the plot and where you want the story to go. How do you plan for sessions knowing that the party could decide to just completely ignore those plans but you still have to deliver a satisfying conclusion for listeners?

In the beginning I had no idea where this was going – no plot, no worldbuilding, nothing. Through the player’s actions, a kind of trajectory has emerged, and I’ve started building up world details and future events around that trajectory. At this point, I certainly know a lot more about what’s going on than the players, including their task after this arc is complete – but I have no idea how this story will end, or if they’ll reject their task and find another way to resolve their current situation (which is something they’ve discussed). How will I wrap it up in a satisfying conclusion? By continuing to ratchet up the stakes, and trusting my friends to work with me.

Increasingly, I realise my role as a game master is largely to introduce problems. The players have the toolset and the creativity to come up with solutions (and they have every time so far).

Has there ever been a time that a player completely threw your plans out the window?

I don’t know how to answer this question without spoilers, so here’s a list of episode numbers where the players completely flummoxed me:  8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 22, 25, 29. And they sure rattled me plenty of times in between. My plans are always short-term, and these moments help cement what comes next, so I’m grateful for them.

Queer Dungeoneers has a set timeline for saving the world. How do you keep them on track, particularly since so much of their travel is randomized? 

That’s up to them! A lot of the tension I’ve tried to build in is around that time limit, and their management of it, especially now they have optional secondary goals and very little time to achieve them. I think the way I’ve tried to do things, is they’ll have enough time if they stay on task, but I try to introduce temptations along the way to get them to squander time. I think in the second mission, we’ll see a much more open setting where they’ll have a lot more freedom (but also responsibility) in how they use their time.

Where do you draw your inspiration? 

This is always a hard question because I think the brain is just a melting pot of everything you’ve consumed, but I’ll call out some stuff that I love. Steven Universe is heart-filled fantasy with fantastic representation, a strong set of beliefs that resonate through the entire show, and great pacing in the way episode-long plots build up details of something much bigger.

I also love Final Fantasy, especially Final Fantasy X. I believe the FF games are fundamentally broken, but there’s something about the combination of splashy, inspired graphics and stilted writing that reveals an actually quite interesting story that makes certain entries in the series really sit with me in a very deep way. Right now I’m playing all the Kingdom Hearts games, which have a very similar vibe, and I find myself getting genuinely invested in the characters despite – or because of – the numerous flaws. If I ever make something that creates that feeling that Final Fantasy does without being saddled with all the baggage, my job will be complete.

If you could do a crossover episode with any other actual play podcast, who would you want your characters to meet? 

I think Jacque and Charlene from Heartbeats could use a bit more chaos in their life. Let the QD crew loose in Heartbeats, I don’t think there’d be much left afterwards.

Do you have any advice for fledgling GMs?

*gets out megaphone*

*Unfurls banner I already had prepared*

MAKE 👏 SURE 👏 YOU 👏 HAVE 👏 FUN 👏 TOO 👏

You’re doing great and it’s a game and please just enjoy it!

Queer Dungeoneers is an explicitly queer show. Do you ever feel any extra pressure to deliver good queer representation because people come to the show expecting it rather than having it be a pleasant surprise? 

Occasionally. One difficulty is that non-player relationships aren’t really at the forefront of what I’m doing, and so when relationships are portrayed, they’re generally fraught with disaster. On the gender side of things, we have a lot of characters that use they pronouns, but no big exploration of the trans experience (despite the fact 3/5 of us are trans). I think that’s fine, though – the guarantee we offer is that we’ll look beyond the default social lens, and generally be accountable for what we’re portraying in our fiction.  We’re not trying to narrow what we do to just exploring queer issues. I’m sure over time and over seasons, we’ll touch on a lot of issues, and provide different examples and perspectives – but we’re in no rush.

Some of the Queer Buccaneers that the party meet are in a polyamorous relationship. The relationship itself is very complex, and the characters involved have a complicated history. Polyamory is rarely represented in fiction. Were you worried about the reception of your portrayal of a bit of a messier dynamic?

As I mentioned before, one of the struggles with representation in this story is that for a relationship to be relevant to the players, it generally has to be dysfunctional in some way. There have been two polyamorous triads in the show so far, one which is fairly fraught but ultimately seems to resolve happily once the members start communicating, and one which is tragic. I think these are two messy representations of an underrepresented group, but they’re messy in different ways. In the future, we’ll keep introducing polycules, and they’ll likely be messy in different ways again! So, I was worried, but I think the path to representation lies in layering lots of different perspectives on the same issue.

Of course, this gets trickier because I’m not poly myself, and my experience with polycules is mainly with triads where the partners are exclusive with each other. I hope I can keep growing and learning and stay open to feedback and the experiences of others to portray polyamory thoughtfully.

What are your favourite audio fiction shows that include marginalized characters? 

Flyest Fables does a great job of touching on different marginal identities in an uplifting way. Of course I’ll always love The Adventure Zone too, and while I hesitate to hold up work by successful cis white men as touchstones of diversity, I still love Lup, so too bad. Oh shoot, and of course Friends at the Table!

What would you like to see more of when it comes to representation in audio fiction? What would you like to see less of?

MORE: #ownvoices, effortless diversity, looking beyond social norms and breaking apart the assumptions of your world instead of just slotting diverse characters into a world that still considers them different.

LESS: Making a “big deal” of diverse characters in texts. Not in the sense that it doesn’t matter, but in the way that it can actually be really othering to have the existence of someone like you treated as astonishing. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t show your excitement over a character that represents you – more that people from outside that experience shouldn’t be putting so much focus on the representation that it leaves no room for the character to just be a person.

What is your absolute dream story?

It’s a fantasy story, in a world that doesn’t behave like our own. Details are dripped to us slowly and satisfyingly. Halfway through, something happens that casts everything in a different light, and makes it worth revisiting the whole first half of the text. The main character is trans as hell, and a lot of cute girls smooch (there’s lots of other good representation I promise but THIS IS MY STORY LET ME HAVE THIS). The ending is satisfying, conclusive, but leaves your brain running on what the world would look like in the future. You think of the story often, and feel warm inside.

Interview with Alex Brown of The Bridge

So a couple weeks back, I got the UNBELIEVABLE opportunity to interview Alex Brown. Alex is one of the co-creators of The Bridge, my all time favourite podcast. It’s a spooky atmospheric show about a crew of people living in the middle of the Transcontinental Bridge, a bridge connecting both sides of the Atlantic. There’s sea creatures, cults, and gays. I love it so so so so much. This was a huge honour. Alex uses she/her pronouns.

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What appeals to you about writing horror?

Ohhhh good question! I think that when horror’s done right it can shine a light on a societal issue in an interesting way. Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook,” are both my go-tos for horror that’s terrifying and poignant because they take these very real things and give them a tangible form. The protagonists have something to either fight or reconcile with and we, as the audience, get to cheer them on but also acknowledge how messed up their situations are–especially as the layers get peeled back and complexity/horror of their situation starts to unravel.

On the less academic side of things I also just really love ghosts and spooky atmospheres in general. If any piece of horror has a paranormal slant to it I’m 100% there! Ghosts, in particular, are so interesting to me because they’re (in theory) remnants of someone who isn’t around anymore. As someone who doesn’t know a lot of her family history I think they’re appealing to me because they’re snapshots of what came before!

You and Rebecca briefly had a horror movie watch series called The Spooky Movie Show. You touched briefly on there about horror movie tropes. What are some horror tropes that you hate, and do you feel you can combat them by telling a story through audio?

Hopefully we can bring that show back when I have more editing time!!! And time in general lol.

And hmmm. We didn’t get to talk about Annabelle: Creation on SMS (yet) BUT I really hate when horror movies cast their one disabled character as the villain, or as someone who gets possessed by a ghost, demon, etc. I genuinely enjoyed Annabelle: Creation until they decided that their protag, who had a disability, would get possessed and start murdering everyone. That trope can be avoided in all types of storytelling by just…not being a jerk? And asking yourself why you’re deciding to tell that story in that way. And then not doing it because it’s a harmful trope that perpetuates really negative stereotypes and it completely takes away a character’s agency.

Jump scares are also not my favorite thing. I get why they’re used but I love subtle scares more in any sort of media. I think in audio storytelling jump scares can easily be avoided in editing/SFX choices and script work. There are so many ways to elicit a scare or creep someone out just using words and it’s something that we try to do a lot on The Bridge. To me, those are more effective and more fun. Rebecca’s script for The Transcontinental Museum mini-episode was SO CREEPY on it’s own merit, and without any jump scares. Sound editing that was a breeze because the material (and Stephanie’s V/O) were just amazing!

I also hate it in horror movies when one of the spouse’s (most likely the wife) thinks something is wrong/the house is haunted/a kid is possessed and the other spouse doesn’t believe them because that’s just not how I would roll. I think there are more interesting things to explore when everyone involved acknowledges that something spooky is happening but there’s still some grounding involved, for both the characters and the audience.

What horror stories were your biggest inspirations for The Bridge

Hmm. I’ll begrudgingly give Lovecraft a nod even though I’d readily punch him in the face if I ever met him in-person. “The Others” is a very good movie about isolated places and ghosts, so there’s some good stuff there. Honestly, anything that has to do with isolation and spooky happenings so movies like “Alien” and “The Thing” and tv shows like “The Terror” all feed into it somehow. Goosebumps’ “Night of the Living Dummy” definitely contributed to my thoughts and feelings on Persnickety Pete, as well as my thoughts and feelings on dolls/dummies in general. I keep circling back to “The Babadook” because I love it A LOT but definitely “The Babadook” and they way it looks at grief/trauma/mental illness. And that one episode of “Boy Meets World” where they’re trapped in their high school and it becomes a slasher flick, because that was one of the sources I sent to Jake when he was coming up with Pete’s song!

As well as working on The Bridge, you are currently in the revision stages of a book. What do you find are the major differences between working on a story told solely through text and a story told solely through audio?

The biggest difference is that working on a book is a lot less collaborative. The thing I love most about The Bridge is working with all of my amazingly talented friends and showing them off! With the book it’s…just me, for better or worse. It can be a little daunting sometimes, especially when Imposter Syndrome kicks in.

My book also has an arc that only lasts for that one book, whereas we have multiple seasons planned for The Bridge. With this book in particular, there’s only a finite amount of storytelling that I can do. But with The Bridge I can keep the story going for as long as the story needs and not be constrained by only having one season to tell the whole thing.

With The Bridge it’s also easier to get out of the main character’s perspective and get a true sense of what’s going on in the world. We do a lot of heavy-lifting worldbuilding through our folklore and depending on the episode or mini-ep, we could have a different narrator (or a different take on an old story). In a book you only have your main character (or how many POVs you decide on). But with The Bridge we can see what the Watchtower 10 crew is doing, what POSEIDON is up to, how things are going in Ocean View with Frank and Persnickety Pete, what’s happening in Aqua Land with the Hunt Club, etc.

I think having sounds also makes the worldbuilding that much more immersive. There’s something so different when it comes to reading about ocean waves than hearing them and I think that’s pretty nifty!

You’ve made the decision to be very open on social media about your mental health, particularly your depression. You also wrote a mini episode that was entirely about your lead’s struggle with depression. Do you feel a pressure to get everything “right” with this representation?

Ohhh that’s such a good question! I don’t think I necessarily feel a pressure to get things right. For me, my experience with depression is what I talk about on social media and everything I described in ‘Home.’ I put my experiences out there because I don’t think there’s enough rep yet and that, hopefully, someone will find something to connect to. They don’t necessarily have to agree 100% with what I’m saying or how I’m describing the experience because everyone goes through life differently. But it took me a very, very long time to even acknowledge that I had depression and I want to put something out there that might help someone else recognize some aspect of what they’re going through. The stigmas around mental health are so ridiculous and ubiquitous (ohhh and that’s also a horror movie trope that I absolutely hate) but I think we can only push them back and mitigate them by communicating what our experience is. I don’t want anyone to go through what I did–carry around years of depression and trauma without seeking help and going to some very dark places–because they didn’t see it represented somewhere.

The reason I don’t feel the need to ‘get it right,’ is that I’ll never be able to get everything right. Humans, by nature, make mistakes. And I know I’ve made plenty of mistakes and will continue to do so. But my representations of depression are 100% true to my experiences and that’s how they’ll continue to be! And if I ever make a mistake I think it’s important to own it, acknowledge the harm, and not make that same mistake again. We’re all learning and have the chance to do better and be better.

Very little about The Bridge is described in physical detail. The audience isn’t given any indication of what the Watchtower or its crew look like, and even the sea monsters are given very little description. What lead you to make this decision?

Imagination!!! Since The Bridge is in an audio format we wanted the listeners to draw their own conclusions about what everything/everyone looked like. In horror especially, one of the best things a movie can do is withhold the monster for as long as they can because whatever the viewer imagines is going to be 2000% scarier than what it actually is. So, like, if we have a monster that sobs sad music and cries blood I’m not going to go into more detail because whatever response that elicits in you is going to be much more powerful than what I could conjure up with more words. Plus, it’s really fun to see the different takes that people have (shout-out to our amazing fan artists we love you and your creations). Like we never would’ve gotten Bob as a goldfish if we’d straight-up said he looked like Godzilla (he doesn’t…or does he?) or gotten really cool diverse interpretations of the Watchtower 10 crew! I think our philosophy is that we’re creating a playground for anyone who loves the show and wants to play in it–and the rest is up to you!

Also I feel like it makes everything a bit more ethereal and whimsical if we leave a lot of the details ambiguous!

What has been the most rewarding part of making The Bridge?

Selfishly: Being able to stay in contact with my friends and work on a cool project with them! But, putting me aside, it’s hearing that our show–this thing we thought like five people would listen to–means something to people. Hearing from listeners that, say, “Home” resonated with them or put words to how they were feeling, or that they love our goofball angsty children as much as we do has been an amazing thing to be a part of. It’s so surreal that there’s fanfic, fan art, and extensive essays analyzing themes in the show that we didn’t even realize were there. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve contributed to something that’s so much bigger than I am and that has so much meaning and love behind it. Knowing that we’ve changed lives and connected with others through our characters and their stories is something that leaves me in a great amount of awe each day. Our fans are so great and so fierce and I’m very thankful they found our spooky little show!

Horror is obviously a genre where the main characters are going to go through a lot of pain and suffering. With all the real world tragedies around being queer, why did you choose to write a horror story with queer leads?

Precisely for that reason! Aside from my lifelong passion to subvert the ‘bury your gays’ trope at all costs, I think there’s something very powerful in having our queer leads go through some shit and come out of it because that’s what’s happening every day. I think it was in “Home” where I dropped a line that was like “there will always be bad things,” — and this, to me, will always be true. The bad things are gonna come. You can’t stop ’em. But you CAN show people banding together, supporting each other, loving the heck out of each other *despite and in spite of* those bad things. So, yes, our characters will go through A Lot but it’s very important to us that they go through this together and have support systems in place. Rebecca and I both really love the Found Family trope and that’s 100% one of the driving tropes for our show.

I also think it’s important to show the hope in a situation that might seem hopeless. Even though bad things happen to our characters, there’s still humor and levity that can be found. There’s friendship, love, care, and someone playing the piano very badly in order to get her grumpy boss to smile for once in his life. Tragedy will change one’s life. But it doesn’t have to define it. And that’s one of the things we really want to represent with our show.

Why did you choose to voice Etta?

One of the first things Rebecca and I established was that Etta and Kate were queer. Around the time we were making the characters I was thinking about my orientation, so the fact that we gave Etta a huuuuuge crush on Kate was something that I related to but wasn’t quite sure I was ready to admit or say. Etta also wound up having a lot of my characteristics, sense of humor, and flaws, so she was basically turning into a cooler version of me. I wanted the chance to explore who I was through this character and, thankfully, I was able to do just that! Etta has given me so much, including the chance to be more comfortable with who I am. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person if I didn’t voice her!

I was also worried in the beginning that whoever played her would have to sacrifice a lot of their time as she was in the first three episodes so much. I didn’t want anyone else to have their schedules impacted, so that also weighed in on my decision.

Who is your favourite character from The Bridge?

My gut reaction is Persnickety Pete, which is 100% terrifying but like he’s a possessed dummy who loves showbiz! I think Yvette Breckenridge is probably my favorite character. I love endlessly skeptical characters and, with her, the skepticism was fueled and driven by something traumatic that she experienced–the loss of her sister. I enjoy characters who can be in the middle of a haunted location–could see a ghost right in front of them–and they’d need the ghost to prove without a doubt that they were a ghost in order to *maybe* start to believe it. Yvette still has a role to play in what’s to come and I think we’ll get to do some interesting things with her. But vaguely morally gray/driven characters are totally in my wheelhouse and I love them a lot!

If you could travel anywhere on the Bridge, where would you go?

AQUA LAND!!!! Like The Kraken was a disaster but honestly it sounds so cool I’d risk it! Also I want to give the blood-sobbing monster a hug

What are your favourite audio fiction shows that include marginalized characters?

Mabel, The Bright Sessions, The Far Meridian, and The Once and Future Nerd!!!

(I’m also woefully behind on a lot of new podcasts but am hoping to have an updated list this summer! But those are eternal faves!)

What would you like to see more of when it comes to representation in audio fiction? What would you like to see less of?

More neurodiversity, more mental health rep, more trans voices/characters/stories, more experiences pertaining to various diasporas, and just more diverse folx telling the stories they want to tell with who they want to tell it with! While audio fiction is relatively more accessible to creators than other forms of entertainment there are still barriers and I’d like to help bring those barriers down. Identity is so nuanced and intersectional and I still think there are so many great stories out there that people are longing to create. I want more of those stories that people just can’t shake.

In terms of less: people who’ve always had representation need to take a step back and help boost more diverse voices. And harmful tropes like bury your gays, queer baiting, and fridging can also go away!

Addendum to the last one: more stories with queer Happily Ever Afters of any sort!!!

What is your absolute dream story?

Other than The Bridge because it’s definitely a dream story—I really want to do a fantasy that’s inspired by Filipino folklore and being a part of the diaspora! I’m not super sure what that looks like yet but it’s been on my mind for a while!!!