Meet The Queer Couple Who Have Mastered The Artful Balance of Work & Play
Charles Rogers and Jordan Firstman are natural storytellers—it’s their way of interpreting and understanding the world around them, and conversely, expressing themselves so that they, too, can be understood. As writers and directors, their work often transcends boundaries of personal and professional, and Rogers and Firstman have a habit of airing their dirty laundry for the world to see on screen (which makes for great TV and, somehow, even greater catharsis). With the duo’s short Men Don’t Whisper in development for a feature film, and Rogers and Firstman also each juggling their own projects independent of the other (the former, as the creator of Search Party, the latter, with his own show in the works), they’ve got a lot on their plates—and a lot to say about relationship dynamics, work-life balance, and what happens when you bare your soul to the world (on screen and off). Dive into our conversation with the creative pair below, and watch the trailer for Men Don’t Whisper so you know what’s up.
I was just watching the trailer for Men Don’t Whisper—it looks hilarious. Do you guys take from your personal experiences when you’re writing for TV and film, or is it purely fictitious?
Charles: I mean our short, Men Don’t Whisper, which we’re turning into a feature, is very much about our relationship, and our own issues with self worth and masculinity but then also with each other. It’s weirdly cathartic. Working together has been good for our relationship. It’s all out there now—everyone else knows our problems. [Laughs]
Jordan: I feel like we came to this particular project and wanted it to be about masculinity. It’s obviously such a huge topic to tackle. We ended up just writing about our own experiences with insecurity and self worth and it all felt like it kind of tied back to masculinity. Because I think the core of masculinity is this unachievable goal, to where you’ll never be enough, and that kind of leaks into every other part of your life. Professionally, sexually, and that’s what the feature is about. We both kind of explored our insecurities through the lens of “not being enough.”
Did anything surprise you, either things between the two of you or things that you individually wrote and realized as you were writing?
Charles: One thing that’s not in the short but will be in the feature, is that we each really dig into our individual insecurities, and so much of mine is about feeling attractive, or whether or not people perceive me as attractive, which I think is pretty universal but also uniquely lame to me [Laughs]. We had a table reading for the movie and after we read the script I was just like, it’s so weird that now all of my friends know that. And that was something I kind of had as a private issue and now people know it and now i’m like, “Agh that’s one more thing to mentally factor into how people perceive me.”
Jordan: Yeah, and my character in the movie more struggles with like, maybe he’s not smart enough, or people don’t respect him enough, and that definitely comes from me. When Charles and I first met, it was under the guise of Charles being my boss, so those feelings were really strong. Especially after we started dating, we had already been in an environment where the deal was that he was more powerful than me, in that scenario, and so in the beginning that was in our relationship, and we’ve had to work on kind of leveling the playing field in every sense, because we started off with such an imbalance.
Charles: And for me it’s about allowing him to feel that way and make his own perceptions about how much power he has. Because you know I do and will always have the power. [Laughs]
Is it intimidating or just nerve wracking to get on such a personal level and then have to share it with strangers who you might never meet?
Jordan: I feel like one of the reasons that Charles and I are a good match is that we’re both incredibly open books as people. We both overshare to such a degree that we’re always wondering like, “Oh my god, did I say too much?” We love exploring what’s going on in our inner and outer lives with everyone in the world. So in both of our works, up to this point, we’ve tackled some uncomfortable issues, some ugly self truths, and so I think we’re both used to it. And I think we can both agree that Men Don’t Whisper, as a short at least, is the least far we’ve ever gone.
Jordan: So when people said stuff like that after the screening, like, “Oh my god I was so uncomfortable!” we’d be like, “Oh my god don’t watch our other work then.” [Laughs]
Charles: I feel like there’s two ways to explore or understand yourself—one is doing it on your own terms, privately and internally, and the other is trying to figure out who you are through the lens of other people. And so much of making art, making movies, is about that. The misconception is that that’s reckless, to put yourself out there, but I think it’s how half the world learns to understand themselves, and it’s just that only some people do it through storytelling or filmmaking. So it feels like a weirdly perverse thing to do but I think it’s just as innocent and natural form of self-exploration as talking to your friends or just going to the therapist.
What is it like just working together creatively and then obviously having your personal lives together outside of work as well?
Jordan: It’s definitely something that we are constantly working on. We live together, and we work together a lot on multiple projects. So at this point we share basically the same friends groups. Maybe we’re codependent, but we just like spending time together. And then Charles also goes to shoot Search Party in New York for a couple months a year, so I think that because we’re together every second, it’s good to have a month or two to be with ourselves and reflect.
Charles: Yeah. And there’s lots of issues when two partners do the same thing, it’s so tied to ego and identity. I can see why it’s really dangerous, in a lot of ways. But I think that the pros of it are, if you’re someone who’s willing to do homework on yourself, and really understand what your individual strengths and identity is, you can be coupled with someone who’s a lot like you and wants the same things as you.
Jordan: And I also think that professionally and creatively, the competitiveness is good for our art. We both want these things, we just want to make each other better. Being around other people who are like-minded elevates what you can do.
Charles: It just means you can’t rest. [Laughs]
Do you guys prefer to work on things together or to have your own projects?
Charles: That’s tricky! It’s good to have both. I mean I have another partnership with my co-directing and co-writing partner for Search Party, and then Jordan and I have Men Don’t Whisper, and then Jordan has his own show in development, so there’s just a lot of projects flying around.
Jordan: Yeah, I think the way we have it right now is ideal. I think we both need our projects alone, but we also like working together, and it’s pretty easy, at least sensibility-wise, to work together. Hopefully in the future we’ll continue to always have like one thing together and then a bunch of things separately. If you want that, Charles.
Charles: I’ll think about it. [Laughs]
So I know you guys are working on the feature for Men Don’t Whisper, but what else is on the horizon?
Charles: Jordan is in development for a TV series, that we’ll soon have an exciting announcement for.
Jordan: Yeah, I can’t say anything specific yet but it’s basically a gay West Side Story, kind of battle of the generations, between two queer groups.
Charles: And then I’m about to leave to shoot the third season of Search Party, and I’m also in development for a feature film, very, very pre-development.
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