U – Can you start with telling us a bit about yourself and what you do?
JORDAN GRAY – My name is Jordan Redford Gossamer Gray. I’ve got a 2nd weird middle name because there’s no process in the UK to change just the title from Mr to Miss. Most transgender people will go from like Lucy to Bob and it’s not an issue but if like me – Jordan, it’s a fairly gender neutral.
So I changed my middle name because I really like spiders. Gossamer is the scientific term for spider silk.
I was a pop singer for 10 years and now I’m a stand up comedian and comedy screenwriter. I work out of Comedy Central and Viacom International Studios. I very much like what I do. Comedy is my entire life and
I think it’s really funny to be funny.
It’s really important nowadays. I’m a comedian first and everything else comes after that.
U – The theme of our second issue is Dreams, what do you dream about?
J – I feel like I have anxiety dreams every other night. I’ve done a bit of reality tv and I think it’s left me with a bit of a
weird psychic hangover.
Before I did The Voice, I dreamt I was on The X Factor and I was getting it really wrong. Every single person from the series was on the stage at the same time and there was me. Then Simon Cowell says ‘Do the dance number!’ and I’m like ‘That’s not why I’m here!’. I dreamt that 3 times in the week leading up to my audition for The Voice.
I have loads of anxiety dreams about getting things wrong and riddles that I can’t solve. My whole life I just wake up in the morning really annoyed with myself. I can’t figure things out and the irony of that is that your brain has made them up!
U – How do you incorporate queerness into your work?
JG – I’m not naive to the fact that I’ve had quite an easy ride in that regard.
I’m a transgender woman. I’ve always been into girls which means I’ve never had to question my sexuality, other people have. So now I’m a transgender lady with a wife, which is a step removed from the ‘straight normality’ – but I didn’t do that, that’s other people’s labels.
I’ve had a really easy ride, I’m in the arts and creative industry. It’s very liberal and left wing so it’s a really soft landing. For me, I wasn’t championing queerness, until I realised that people were projecting that kind of thing onto me.
Also when you’re a comedian, you’re sort of like a clown.
It’s really nice to be a colourful, genderless clown figure.
JG – I just think I’m a comedian first and everything else comes second. I don’t have an agenda other than to unite people who don’t understand our community and the community itself.
That’s my connection to queerness. I’d like more people to find it comfortable.
U – If you’d have to give your younger self a bit of advice what would it be?
I’m 31 and I feel like between 30 and 31 you age about 10 years. I feel like an older lady now. The older you get the more you want to say ‘stop being afraid of everything’.
Stuff that I wish I believed in more now – stop being afraid of things, just do ‘em.
But also I was really into superheros and science fiction when I was a kid and this journey of transitioning, epigenetically and pyscogenically is literally like sci-fi. You take a pill and everything changes.
I’d say ‘Don’t worry ‘coz I’ve had a boob job (for example) which means I’m technically I’m like 5% prosthetic – which means I technically quality as a cyborg.
“Don’t worry because you’ll be a robot one day!”
U – Who’s your favourite bi or pan icon?
JG – Oh good question. There’s so many amazing people doing amazing things. I used to be prone to hero worship when I was a musician, but now that I’m a comedian it’s not quite the same. It’s more people in my actual everyday life.
And they’re all younger than me! Which is a really weird position to be in, when you grow up and you have these heroes that have already done things.
This is gonna sound so wanky but…
Like you guys…
U – *we’re blushing*
JG – You’re actually doing things that I wish I could be doing. So yeah you guys are my heroes. I’m saying that unironically.
U – Have you ever had any weird dreams, like losing your teeth?
JG – Yeah! Like those dreams where you find money and you wake up and you’re like ‘where’s that money I found?’. When you wet yourself in a dream, you wet yourself in real life. Why is it not the same way when you find money?
I remember reading in a book if you dream about spiders it means stop getting caught up in the illusion. I do dream about spiders a lot, but I like them as well.
U – Tell us about your Comedy Central miniseries, Transaction?
JG – It’s a 6 episode short form series created by me for Comedy Central UK.
Short form is really the thing nowadays. You make tasters and if people love it then it gets made into a tv show.
I play the titular character of Liv, I co-star with Tom Gray who got YouTube famous a few years back with that ‘Lads Lads Lads’ video. And I love him more than anything in the world.
We work in a supermarket during the night shift when things get quite trippy and very dreamlike. That’s kinda the whole point of it. As the series goes on, things will become more surreal because people are hopped up on caffeine and they’re so tired that they’re not sure what they’re seeing and what they’re not. Even with the neon lights and everything.
I play myself, but with a different name. Which of course means my character is transgender. The great thing was that they didn’t step in for a second and ask me to change anything. It’s a big massive corporate machine in tv, especially Viacom CBS.
I could have been making it all up, I could have been saying this is the transgender experience – I get a cake every day, and they just would have said ‘yeah ok’.
They didn’t try to mold the character to be a saint or villainess thing. It just was whatever came out.
The whole point of the show is to show that transgender people are just people
some people are just dickheads, and some transgender people are just dickheads.
The character just happens to be one of those.
It’s really funny and I like it! It’s got a lovely response from both sides of, I wouldn’t call it a debate, but you know people that wouldn’t be so sure they’d like it, and from our community. They seem to have taken it to their heart and it’s really nice.
U – What was it like to write and star in your own show?
JG – It certainly fits me like a glove. My whole character (not my personal one) is based on ‘I think I’m better than everyone else’.
I love that. The warm lovely thing about that, is that the day that people don’t laugh at that, is the day that it means I must actually think I’m better than anyone else.
So it’s self policing. They laugh because they know it’s not real. It’s lovely it keeps me in check. It’s nice being on telly and people are very very nice to you.
Making your own show teaches you a lot about who you are.
Everyone is so much more talented. I like to think I know everything, but then you work in this industry and everyone is a specialist that knows a million times more than you. So your whole life is about learning.
What is it they say? It might have been buddha or someone like that.
“To truly know is to know that you know nothing”
Or someone like that. I’m a bit smarter though. You can quote that ‘I’m smarter than buddha’
U – What do you think your character Liv dreams of?
JG – Like most people who work there. She goes home at 5am and dreams about the supermarket until she wakes up. That said, she doesn’t really do any work whilst she’s there, so she’s probably dreaming up new ways to prank Tom and Stu and the rest of the cast.
She’s literally like me but without any self awareness.
She might dream about herself, a lot.
U – How did you come up with the art direction / look and feel for the show? It’s quite dreamlike isn’t it?
JG – I wanted to make a show that was very much like Mighty Boosh. The industry doesn’t want to make stuff that is that surreal at the moment. They want to make stuff that’s grounded. This Country and People Just Do Nothing, are doing really well.
My favourite shows are 30 Rock and Community where they ramped up their surrealism over the course of several seasons. I wanted to do that too.
I really wanted to do a show where it was very grounded but then we could creep in with the surrealism over the course of maybe season 2 or 3. Then it wouldn’t be unusual if it was suddenly set in the future or in the 70s, or if there was a haunted aisle but no one talks about it.
It’s not like there’s gonna be a wizard or alien in the show
but there might be an episode where there’s like 5 Toms walking around and no one says anything because it’s just a device in the show.
I think it’s a surreal setting because of the neon lights of the supermarket. It’s at nighttime and looks like Blade Runner. Plus everyone is hopped up on coffee so everything is heightened, the colours are heightened and saturated to add to that feeling.
It’s a huge part of the series, the art and design, so thank you for asking.
U – Did you work with anyone specifically to do the art direction?
Yeah. The director Ruth Pickett and producer Leah Draws. We were all on board for the same look straight away. But the DOP* Annika Summerson, she’s magic. They knew how to use the supermarket, even with the stuff that’s already in there.
The Production Designer Gini Godwin and her team that went in and rearranged the supermarket itself the week before so it looked really dream-like.
* Director of Photography
U – Who are your creative inspirations?
JG – Donald Glover, Tina Fey, Dan Harmon.
I like people who think of their idea and take it through to its final stage with as little interruption as possible. That being said, I quite like the American way of doing things.
Having the writers room type thing.
U – What’s your favourite episode of Transaction so far?
JG – I love in real life when a series does a bottle episode, that they don’t need to.
A bottle episode, for people who aren’t familiar, is when perhaps a show is running low on budget for a series so they set one episode in 1 location to save loads of money. But they tend to be the most interesting episodes because the writing has to be amazing to make it work.
For instance series, like BoJack Horseman, where it makes no difference – because it’s animated. They’ll do a bottle episode because it’s become a stylistic thing.
I think our episode 5 is a bit like that. It’s mostly set in the office talking to the boss. It’s my favourite.
They bought the series based on the joke of this character, Liv, having no problem just claiming to be pregnant or on her period. – I really think that there’s like a 20% chance in a normal workplace if I said that then someone would just go ‘mhm alright ok’.
The whole series was predicated on that sort of joke. Plus I like the dialogue and the boss was amazing. All of our guest stars were amazing. That was Nathan Amzi as the boss.
Oh and the one with Marek Larwood when we’re in the supermarket and Jade Johnson is talking and the guy comes in and is like ‘You’ve got a deep voice for a girl ain’t ya?’
That guy, oh I’ve never in my life corpsed but I couldn’t get through that scene without laughing. He looked into my soul and was like…
“You’re on the right track baby you were born this way”
Every time he did it, I just exploded.
It took us 15 takes to get through that.
U – Was it a nice environment for shooting then?
JG – Yeah you get really used to it so then you start complaining about the stupidest of stuff. Like ‘oh my shoes hurt’ – oh these amazing new shoes that I get to keep after the shoot – ‘but they really hurt’.
You have to grow up a bit. You’re surrounded by so many lovely people. All day long people just keep saying ‘you’re amazing’ ‘this is great’ and ‘here’s lots of money you get to dress up and play’.
So it’s a dream.
U – What’s your dream for Transaction?
JG – Oh big question.
The natural progression of a short form show is that it goes to tv. With Viacom CBS merging, it’s opened up lots of opportunities for shows like this to do really well.
The dream is that I’ll get to write it for 10 years and it becomes popular and evolves.
You know what would be oddly amazing? – and this is coming from an egomaniac like me.
Is that the show gets so popular that you could have an episode without me in it and it wouldn’t feel out of place. It would just be that the world of Transaction becomes so big that you could just do an episode where you follow Tom through the whole thing and then maybe I pop up in at the end, like a weird little cameo. Just before the credits roll.
U – Who would be your dream cameo star to have on the show?
JG – It would be nice to bring an American contingent into it as it’s a very British script.
Obviously I’d say Donald Glover to come in as a night shopper.
If he played himself and came in literally because he was touring the UK at that time and he came in at night as he hoped no one would bother him, then my character really bothers him.
That would be amazing.
Amy Poehler. Basically people from my favourite shows.
U – Or people from your favourite publication…? We could walk down the aisle with unicorn masks on?
Yeah because it’s like a dream!
What if this shoot ends up in my show?