By Kenneth Jones
16 Nov 2011
The series about a male sex worker who finds himself wanting more as he hits age 40 is populated by Broadway stars including Shannon Lewis, two-time Tony Award nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega and Chicago's Brent Barrett.
The first of eight episodes can be found at www.blip.tv/HustlingTheWebSeries. Subsequent episodes, running about ten minutes each, will continue through February 2012, LaCause told Playbill.com.
"The series is about a man dealing with reaching an age in his life when he's realizing he hasn't always made the best choices," LaCause explained. "It's about how we present ourselves to the world versus how we perceive ourselves from within. It's about discovering the hidden talents and passion that lie within it us that we can't see until we're forced to really investigate. Plus, there's comedy in it."
He explained, "I play Ryan Crosby. He's been making his living working as a hustler, among other things, since his early 20s. This is a guy who sort of fell into turning tricks at a young age [and] realized that he could make a lot of money off his looks and body, with very little effort. Suddenly he's 40 and the work is starting to dry up and he's left wondering, 'What the hell did I do with my life?' We meet him at a turning point when he's trying desperately to figure out how to change his life but has absolutely no idea how to do it or if there's even anything else he can do.
"This series is about this guy trying to get unstuck and discover what his true passion is. The subject matter is definitely adult but regardless of his 'life situation,' his struggles as a human being, I think, are quite relatable."
View the season one trailer for "Hustling":
At this point, with "Hustling" available for free on the web, with some potential for revenue based on advertising and traffic, the project is not a rocket-to-the-moon moneymaker, LaCause said, explaining, "Your show can earn revenue based on the number of views it gets. It's a very miniscule amount but it's revenue, nonetheless. The main objective, at least for me, was to simply take control. To create something that I could be proud of. I wanted to have an outlet to express myself creatively in ways that I didn't even know were possible until I was doing them. That was first and foremost.
"And then the project started taking on a life of its own and people were becoming intrigued by it. And I started getting approached by some of the industry wanting to know more about what I was doing. The dream would be to have it produced on a larger scale. I definitely set out to make something I thought was interesting and something that I hadn't seen out there before — to showcase not only myself as an actor, a writer and a director but also to showcase some of my talented friends.
"Anything else that may happen to follow is icing. It's already changed my life by showing me that I am capable of doing things that I had never really even considered before, and it has reinforced how important it is to be active in your pursuits."
Starting in June, LaCause wrote the eight episodes and shot all of the footage over the weekends in August and September. Shooting began Aug. 1.
"It's basically like making eight short films," he explained. "It definitely has an improvised feel to it. It's all about the characters and the relationships and the dialogue. I [was in] the improv program at the Groundlings when I was in L.A. last fall, [and] when I came back to New York I jumped into classes at UCB, which is a totally different improv style — based more in reality. I was inspired by the art form and wanted to incorporate it into a scripted series. So I made sure the actors knew that they should feel free to improvise if they felt. Some did and some didn't."
Working with associate producer and friend Andreas Anastasis, LaCause's duties on "Hustling," aside from being shirtless a lot as an actor, included directing, lighting, production design, costumes, scheduling and, for some of the shoots, director of photography.
"For most of the shoot I had my small but mighty crew of three, consisting of myself and two other actors in the series, Max Carpenter and Gary Cowling," LaCause said. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into, which I think was a good thing. Had I known, I think I'd still be sitting at home with a script."
When he wrote the show, did he have actors in mind for the roles or did he audition?
"I wrote almost every role with someone in mind — people that I enjoyed and knew that I would have fun playing with," LaCause said. "Once the scripts were done, I sent them out with offers, and fortunately everyone said yes. There were a few roles that I had written without someone specifically in mind and I did read a few people for those roles."
Here's what LaCause said of some of the performers in "Hustling":
"I first met Brent Barrett [Chicago, Off-Broadway's Silence! and Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Follies] when I was playing Harry in the Broadway revival of Chicago and Brent was playing Billy, of course. This was 13 years ago! We have remained somewhat friendly over the years but I hadn't seen him in quite a while. When I started writing the role of Conrad, and I was thinking about who this man was, elegant, handsome but with a naughty side...for some reason, I thought of Brent, ha!"
"I finally had the pleasure of working with Shannon Lewis [How to Succeed in Business...] on the first national tour of A Chorus Line. We had known each other for many years but had never worked together, and now we were Zach and Shelia. We had a blast playing in the scenes, so I knew I wanted to write something for Shannon, and the role of Cary was a perfect fit."
"Daphne Rubin-Vega [Rent, Anna in the Tropics] and I met during the Rocky Horror revival and hit it off and became quite close. I absolutely love everything about this woman. She's sexy and charming yet full of complexities and depth. We had fallen out of touch over the last few years after she had her son but when I was thinking of someone for Rosa Juarez, I thought of Daphne. It was the perfect opportunity to rekindle our friendship."
"Stephen Guarino [ABC's "Happy Endings," "The Big Gay Sketch Show"] is not known in the theatre world, but the man is a genius. A comic genius. He is a master improviser, and I admire his work immensely. His role, Don Dixon, was a last-minute addition that is really a stand out."
Other "Hustling" cast members include Jessica Press, Gerald McCullouch, Gary Cowling, Brian Keane, Max Carpenter, Andrew Glaszek, Gregory Gunter, Emily Shapiro and Todd Riegler. Original music is by SirPaul and Okai.
The web series has a fan page at www.facebook.com/HustlingTheWebSeries.
Kenneth Jones is managing editor of Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter @PlaybillKenneth.