Jonathan Lisecki: We’re having a “Gayby”!
With his first feature film, “Gayby,” writer-director Jonathan Lisecki tells the story of a straight female woman (Jenn Harris) who asks her gay best friend (Matthew Wilkas) to have a baby with her. Not your standard romantic-comedy fare, which is just how Lisecki likes it. Metro caught up with Lisecki by phone from the Hamptons while he standing outside a “Gayby” screening at the Hamptons Film Festival.
You’re in the Hamptons?
I am in the Hamptons. It’s disgusting. (laughs) They’re playing the movie in the film festival. It’s screening Saturday night and it’s actually screening now during this, then I have to go back in to do the Q&A, then I have go home, back to the city.
So you’re actually not in the theater now? Because that would be very rude.
No! That would be amazing, actually, if I was like, “Oh hi! Yeah, I’m watching the movie! Yeah, it’s the part… yeah!” (laughs)
Did you ever find it a struggle keeping the focus balanced on both characters?
No, not at all. I wrote the script so it would be a two-lead movie, and that’s kind of what I wanted — with a nice ensemble supporting cast. The movie was about both of them and both of their experiences, and that’s why I think, like, I’ve been lucky enough to play in all these festivals that are general interest festivals because I feel like it is a movie you could say is about a straight girl and a gay guy. It’s not either or.
How did you decide to cast yourself as one of those supporting characters?
One of the reasons why I actually started doing films is because I was having all of these amazing experiences doing downtown theater, but so few people were seeing them and there was no way to really show it to anyone down the line — because I don’t know if you’ve ever watch a play taped, but it’s kind of horrifying. It never really translates well. So I always wanted to bring the complete package of the fun I had onstage, and that included me so that’s why I put myself in the movie.
You have some depictions of gay characters audiences might not be familiar with.
People are always like, “What’s with the comic books? Do gay people read comic books?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course!” There’s a whole subsection of gays who are into comic books. We can be nerdy, too. We can like our “Battlestar Galactica.” But also, the whole thing was like a flip on the standard romantic comedy. I wanted the girl to be able to have sex if she wanted and feel empowered and not feel ashamed, and I wanted the boy to be the one who was heartbroken and sad. I just feel like there are so many movies where it’s the woman sitting at home pining over some man. And plus the real thought behind that was just that I wanted Matt to be like the Renee Zellweger and Jen to be like the Hugh Grant. (laughs) The important thing is none of the humor is mean. I wanted people to walk away from the movie feeling good. I didn’t want to have that negativity.
You take a few jabs at Astoria, though.
Yes, but only because I grew up in the Bronx! So when you grow up in the Bronx and then you’re a certain age everybody has to move to Brooklyn for at least a little bit. Queens is the final frontier. (laughs) I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a date when you’ve gotten a little tipsy and then you wake up in Queens and you’re like, “How did I get here?” It does feel like it’s never the funnest place to wake up. It’s a long train ride back to the East Village from Queens! I love Queens, though. I have family in Queens, I have no problem with Queens. I don’t want to start a war with Queens. If any place, Staten Island. We don’t mention them at all. Those poor people have to take a boat!