I came up with the idea for Pickle when I was working on another project. It spun out of some short stories I was writing, inspired by awkward situations my friends had told me they’d been in and I set them to a character that looked like me. It’s like the age-old idea of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, but instead of trying to see myself in another person’s difficult situation, I was just trying to imagine myself trapped in a car with my new boyfriend’s parents or giving an awkward handjob at a party, two things that I’ve never experienced before.
Despite my intentions as a writer being to tell the story of a young, gay teenager whose story arc is not their coming out – something that I have never seen depicted in mainstream media before – Pickle as a character is not like me in the slightest; the only similarity Pickle and I really share is our face. For me to successfully make a character whose narrative was not coming out, I needed to paint the picture of someone who was sexually confident and widely regarded as a cool person. That isn’t to say I’m not confident with my sexuality or that I’m uncool (in fact, I’d like to say that I’m both), but we both hold those titles in very different ways. For Pickle, his sexual confidence comes from his sexual history and experience with boys in the past which is mentioned frequently throughout the show. I, personally, have never had anything more than a first date with a boy (for one reason or another – *violin of pity plays*), so that entire side to the character differs from me. As a result, Pickle’s promiscuity is made up of a lot of different anecdotes that friends have shared with me about their lives projected onto this character.
The friendships that Pickle has differ greatly to the friendships I have in my own life as well. While Pickle’s best friends Britt and Olivia are very loosely inspired by two of my best friends Abbie and Lianne, those characters share little resemblance to the real life models, both narratively and physically. Because the series is so short in running time, it’s only possible to focus on Pickle as a character (in this season at least) so the characters are written to complement Pickle. As a result, they’re amplified to match Pickle’s loud personality: they’re realistic, but not a mirror of my reality. The same is to be said about Pickle’s mum in the show who, while sharing some direct quotes from my actual mother earlier in the series, is so different to my real mum that my friends laughed out loud when they saw the character in action. The same can also be said for the two male leads in the show besides Pickle: the love interest Harry and the love antagonist (?) Rob, neither of whom are based on anyone in real life and are entirely made up of anecdotes I’ve heard about other people.
Of course none of this matters in relation to the story’s realistic nature – just because these characters are not my reality doesn’t make them unrealistic in the slightest. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they’re so convincingly realistic to me, it got me intrigued as to whether or not people would think that Pickle is supposed to be me or not. What really matters in this story is telling a tale that is an accurate representation of what it’s like to be a particular kind of young, gay, white male in a certain part of Britain who expresses his sexuality in a certain way which is something I think I have done. To many, it’s probably unremarkable and to me, it feels totally normal, but I hope that it shows something to a lot of people. When Pickle speaks about homosexuality in a broader sense, those are my real thoughts going out into the world, demonstrating a very small part of what it’s like to be in a pickle like Pickle. The show tackles being as outwardly and openly gay as myself, but also tackles gay characters who are colloquially known as “passing” or “straight-acting”, something that alters your experience as a gay person entirely. And while none of this is explored thoroughly enough for anyone to fully understand or empathise with the experience, I hope it gets a dialogue going.
I’m proud of Pickle for more than just being something that I managed to write, act in and pull together with my team of people. While it may be very low budget (the most money we spent was £40 on getting two copies of the 120 page script printed and bound at Staples) and some may say it’s amateur (which, by all intensive purposes, it is), I’m proud that I have pulled together a narrative that gets conversation started about something that I’ve never seen portrayed in media before; I’m excited to have birthed a character who I can finally feel like I truly relate to. Yes, the show is very heavy-handed with that sometimes and some scenes are explicit or hard to watch, but I hope that someone somewhere sees it and thinks: “oh my God – that’s a bit like me”.
My web series Pickle premieres on my YouTube channel this Sunday (September 17th) at 8:30pm. Visit the channel here to check out the official trailer and to subscribe so you don’t miss out.