A lesbian vampire crushes on her pint-sized roommate, who reciprocates while also carrying a torch for her statuesque TA. Add to the mix an obsessive-compulsive floor don and her gender-questioning best friend and you’ve got the super queer web series Carmilla.
Produced by Toronto’s Smokebomb Entertainment and shift2, Carmilla is executive produced by Geometry Global and U by Kotex, the latter of which financed the show fully. The series has amassed more than 3.5 million views since it premiered on the Vervegirl TV YouTube channel in August.
If the name rings a bell, that’s because the show’s a modern-day adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 gothic vampire novella of the same title. Fortunately, the show diverges greatly from the source material, and no one’s fretting over lesbianism.
“It didn’t seem to me that this was a story about people who were coming out,” says Jordan Hall, the show’s writer and co-creator. “It seemed to me that this was an adventure story that had a group of lesbians at its core.”
“I think it’s so refreshing,” says Elise Bauman, who stars as Laura. “More than finding out who she is, she’s now figuring out how does who she is fit in with this world that she’s discovering.”
That world is Silas University, where the paranormal is quite normal. Laura’s world is turned upside down when her roommate disappears to the shock of everyone — except the university, which does nothing. Turns out several girls have gone missing, so Laura takes it upon herself to investigate. Friends LaFontaine and Perry and her crush Danny soon join her. Not even Laura’s mysterious new roommate Carmilla is enough to distract her from the mission, although it doesn’t take long before she’s the focus of it.
How’s that for female-centric?
“I’m definitely looking to claim territory in some ways for women,” Hall says.
“I love it because you don’t see that much,” says Aaron Chartrand, who plays Will. “How often do you see a breakdown that’s all female characters? It’s pretty awesome.”
But it’s not all female bonding. You’re in for a ride with Carmilla.
“The way modern television works, we’re expecting a certain amount of carnage. Especially with a supernatural story,” Hall says. “For myself, I want to be, to some extent, sensitive about that because there’s such a long history of LGBT characters being tokenized.”
“One of the things that I really love about Carmilla is that there’s this whole spectrum of cast and characters there,” Hall says, “so no one’s really been tokenized and as such you don’t have to worry about what you’re doing to an individual being a metaphor for what you’re doing to an entire group.”
Aside from a lesbian love triangle, there’s the character of LaFontaine. Many fans use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to LaFontaine, who is questioning their gender identity and sexual orientation — even if not explicitly.
“I’m comfortable as someone writing LaFontaine to have the fans using ‘they’ and ‘their,’” Hall says. “The actual pronoun that we use is the name — LaF.”
“I knew from day one. It was something that was made very clear, and I was very happy about it,” says Kaitlyn Alexander, who plays LaF. “I think it’s awesome, and I also think it’s a good thing that it’s not what defines them and it’s just part of them being in the world.”
With the Carmilla world so chaotic and episodes so short (they range from two to seven minutes), the issue hasn’t been addressed directly. But it could be. “If we went into a Season 2, it does seem like something that we would want to be unpacking,” Hall says.
Hall already has plenty of material for a second and third season but says that doesn’t mean she and story editor Ellen Simpson won’t revisit it. While that seems to bode well for fans wanting to see more of their favourite character(s) or romantic pairings, Simpson warns they shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. “You have your idea, and you don’t want to write to what the fans want,” she says.
What do the fans want? Well, a lot of them want more Danny, aka Laura’s original love interest. And why should it be Danny who conquers Laura’s heart?
“She has really good intentions, and she wants nothing but the best for Laura,” says Sharon Belle, who plays Danny.
Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla), what say you in defence of Carmilla and Laura’s love? “I think because they’re such different characters they have a lot to learn from one another.”
Negovanlis is pretty much in love with Carmilla herself. “My character’s such a dream,” she gushes. “Like, two things I’ve always wanted to play: a lesbian and a vampire!”
That just makes Belle’s hopes for her character sound a little devious. “If some big secret were to be revealed, I would want it to be that she’s an awesome vampire slayer.”
Viewers get to watch all the drama and fun play out in Laura’s dorm room, where the series was shot in video-blog format in just four days. The show also uses transmedia elements to expand the story, such as Tumblr and Twitter accounts for characters and additional YouTube videos.
Fans have been eating it up. The proof’s in the large collection of Carmilla fan fiction and fan art floating around the web. “I didn’t even know GIFs existed,” says a perplexed Annie Briggs, who plays Perry. She’s now seen her face on loop enough times to know they do.
You have to give these fans credit: they’re very patient. Despite a whole lot of teasing and with only a few episodes left before the season ends, there still hasn’t been a kiss.
Hall won’t make any promises, but she does leave fans with this: “Some things are going to wrap up. Some things are going to pay off.”
Word on a second season should be out by mid-December. The good news? The entire cast is on board to return.