‘For The Boys’ Is The Black Queer Web Series We’ve Been Waiting For
“This story is a love letter to boys like us. Period.”
— Ellis Dawson, Co-Creator, “For The Boys”
Ever so often, a piece of art is created that causes a cultural shift—an unexpected, yet welcomed reflection of the lived experiences of a segment of society that is often overlooked, if not outright dismissed by media gatekeepers. “For The Boys,” the hit SLAY TV web series now streaming on YouTube from co-creators Mekhai Lee and Ellis Dawson, is filling the void of Black queer representation on a scale that has surpassed similar projects online, and is inching closer to achieving the kind of cultural impact on a new generation of Black queer audiences not seen since the early 2000s.
“For The Boys” follows three Black queer best friends as they navigate the intoxicating and exhausting minefield of love and friendship in New York City. Set in Brooklyn, the series follows the lives of Anthony (Chandler Bryant), Jamal (Andrew Coleman), and Syed (Lamont Walker II), each on their own roads to personal self-discovery and fulfilling relationships.
In 2019, Dawson was in the early stages of writing the script for a show centering on Black queer friends. He tells The Reckoning that a Facebook status and an extra ticket to Shakespeare in the Park led to meeting Lee, who was also working on a similar script.
“We swapped scripts, and we were like, oh wow... there are a lot of similarities there. And it was really beautiful. It felt preordained, actually,” Dawson says.
“Over a span of a few months, we just kind of put those two ideas together,” Lee says. “We both had three characters, a group of friends, mine was [in their] early twenties, his were on the later side of their twenties. And “For The Boys” was born.”
Both professional actors in their own right, Dawson and Lee had never written a script before tackling the pilot and the subsequent ten-episode story arc for the first season of “For The Boys.” But they weren’t going to let their inexperience stop them from telling a story that needed to be told.
“We both went to college for theater, so we took script analysis,” Dawson says. "We understand how to break down a script and how characters work. And, I just say more than anything, we're storytellers, and in any medium, we can tell a story we will, to the best of our ability.”
“Ellis and I were looking around and not seeing a representation of Black men that we felt was whole and complete,” Lee says, in an early promo video for the series. “We never get to see Black men be vulnerable. We never get to see them be soft—to love on each other platonically and without shame. And we wanted to create a series where Black men were given the room to do that.”
Following the overwhelming praise for the premiere of the pilot episode, it was clear that Dawson and Lee were on their way towards creating an authentic scripted portrayal of Black queer life filled with nuance, great writing, cinematography, and the essential but often missing ingredient from other web series—incredible acting.
Enter Andrew Coleman, Lamont Walker II, and Chandler Bryant, who, if spotted on the street today, would most likely hear their characters' names called before their own—Anthony, Syed, and Jamal—each with their own unique story about how they became the face of the runaway hit series as openly queer and nonbinary actors who are now the vessel for Black queer representation that they also needed.
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