Damage Control Politics, Scandal, and Lies
William Liam Coldwell – Creator and Writer and Director
Devin Barrington Ward – President of Impulse Group Nonprofit Organization, Executive Producer/Co-Creator
Michael Reese, Jae Seymour, Charles Grant Jr., Larry White, Adu Adadey
Damage Control begins with Richard Thomas 3rd, Michael Reese, fighting for the mayoral candidacy position. After winning as Mayor, the show takes a spin when he is confronted by an openly gay worker and things change. Richard faces troubles from there with his wife, his health, and finding love. It becomes gritty and enticing, but at the same time educational.
William ‘Liam’ Coldwell and Devin Barrington Ward both were important in crafting the entire show. With both individuals co-parenting the development of the series, they were faced with many obstacles in which they both faced many trials working together and understanding how they were going to include politics, HIV/Aids understanding, as well as their own personal work ethics. Creating characters that our community was able to relate to.
I love the fact that they are what you can call “TRU ACTIVIST” in the HIV/AIDS world. Creating a show such as this one that has a primary focus of HIV prevention and STI education. Devin who is the President of Impulse Group in Washington DC has a strong political view and has been doing work in the Public Health sector. Branching the organizations interest in the entertainment field was a challenge that he decided would be great for the succession of the organization and bridge a gap in the African American LGBTQ Community. He sought out William who is the Owner of Will-C Productions to help create that vision, they decided that because SEX is the primary way most individuals contract the virus, they decided to develop a script and storyline that doesn’t stray away from the truth but tackle it head on.
Can you tell me about the show and its origin?
Devin: So, Impulse Group is an International HIV Initiative with 18 chapters opened and adding 2 more chapters in Africa in the new year. We approach all of our projects with an 80% Entertainment and 20% Educational module. We came to Damage Control to spearhead this module to provide the Entertainment and still inform people. Will and I met at the US Conference on Aids in Washington DC, which started as an hour conversation and ended up lasting 3 hours. Will was able to create an amazing script. With my background being in politics I was able to see the vision that Will brought to life.
William: I have been in this industry for a while. My first project was a book that I wrote called Boy Pull Your Pants UP. After that I started a new project called The Devils Playground. This helped me create a target audience, which focuses on HIV/AIDS related ideas and being able to infuse them within my work. Devin was able to see that project, which deals with sex addiction. Devin and I sat and spoke about the idea of Damage Control and he told me about how he wanted to mirror current shows like House of Cards and Scandal and fusing them around LGBT lifestyle and including HIV/AIDS subjects. So after extensive research, I was able to develop a storyline based on politics and being gay.
What has been the greatest challenge that you have had to overcome in the development of the show?
William: The biggest challenge for me was working with Devin. It’s hard for me to trust and in order for me to do it, I would do it myself and when you find those people that you can work with, you don’t stop and you continue to work with them. So partnering up with someone was a different ball game for me and was very challenging to me. It was very difficult to articulate what needed to be done on the production side and for him to truly understand that and to truly trust me. Finally, we both sat down and realized that we are just a like; both being alpha males and believing that we have to do it ourselves. Which at times it was hard to walk away without looking over each other shoulders, going back checking to make sure things were getting done, and things of that nature. So largely it was more so a trust issue. But, once the project was complete, we can now see that everything that we have gone through was not in vain.
Devin: This by far has been one of the most challenging projects that I have ever done. Managing so many people at the same time with different personalities. Reporting to my senior leadership team in Los Angeles and also managing the expectations for my team in DC. Then working with William and Will-C Productions, his team, and cast. Although I have an affinity for the arts, the arts are not the space that I work in; politics, government, and public health are where I am most comfortable. So it was a learning experience for me. So working with someone who is in the same level of leadership in their line of work and being able to view each other not as a threat but to come together and say we are equals. Let’s make this ting work. It was challenging but far one of the most rewarding work experiences I have had thus far.
Michael: The hardest thing for me was coming from a project called “Whoreism,” which is closely in part of who I am, to now Richard Thomas the Third it was completely the opposite of who I am. So going into that, there was a lot of pressure knowing that William did not want to cast me for the part but Devin wanted requested that I took on the part. After knowing of Devin, he was like a boss, so I felt like I really had to perform this role. I had to do research and learn the character. I did not want them to say it was ok, I wanted to be as good as everyone else wanted it to be.
So, if you didn’t feel like he was lead, why choose him?
William: Um, again when Devin came to me about Michael Reese playing the role, he explained that he wanted someone who could represent the community and not that cookie cutter character or individual that you would normally see in a web series. I have worked with Michael for many years and I knew him in and out. Could he play Richard Thomas 3rd absolutely, but was this the time for him to play the role, NO! However, I pushed him and he was able to deliver.
So who is Michael Reese?
Michael: I am fun and easy going guy. I am not the life of the party but I can be the life of the party. Orin from Whoreism is very shady, quick witted, and I am all of those things but in a playful way and It can be nasty.
So you had to go from straight to gay and back?
William: Yes, and that’s what I didn’t think he was ready for. There is a transition period that needs to happen and a growth that needs to happen that I think Michael needed to do. With his last character as Orin, he did not have to show emotion, but with him playing a straight man and to come across as a straight man on the DL, I did not feel that he was ready.
Michael: You know for them this was their baby. I was never leading in Whoreism. So to come out and become lead where people see me more it was different.
Devin: From an acting perspective, I knew who Will want to cast for the role. But I saw something in Michael that I felt he would be able to portray the Richard. It would have been no problem bringing someone in that would have felt like it was uncomfortable, he would have pushed himself a lot more than someone who may not have given me or pushing to really showcase the character. There were times when Michael would chase me down and we would sit at my kitchen table hashing out the way the role should be done; I would coach him, and with that I felt like someone who was already able to portray the character would have not pushed as hard as he did. And I like the fact that he felt like it was something that I needed to work towards and I would need to do my homework, my research.
William: Moving forward you will see nothing but growth. And he’s going to be even better. I am just saying that It was just the initial because that was impactful, that is what people see and Devin and I are coming from two different places. Devin comes from political side and I am coming from the director’s side.
As lead role in the show, can you explain your methods of capturing the essence of the character and how you brought him to life.
Michael: It was a lot personally. I am not a big politician, so it was a lot of learning. In scandal I couldn’t really get into it, House of cards was interesting but I didn’t watch it for the show but to learn the mannerisms; so really wasn’t watching it to enjoy it but to learn. So as Devin says I really did come to him and say Yea can you help me a little bit. There were times in which I did say I am a little lost hear and relaying that over to Will so that he could keep me in check. Since there were times when either were on set and not on set, I just needed o make sur3e everyone was on the same page. It was a lot of research on erasing Orin, who I was familiar with.
How was the cast support?
Devin: There was a really great cast support. One of the characters that he had many scenes with, they were able to rally play off of each other. There were cast decisions that I wasn’t apart of but Will was able to hit it on the money. Bruce’s character gave a very very strong performance and when we held the showing at the East Street Cinema in Downtown DC, which we had about 220 people in attendance; and every time Jay came on screen everyone was like ‘Yes Mrs. Jay Yeees,’ and although she is married she is still a part of the community and an ally.
Michael: Jay and I had a chemistry on and off the screen and she was dedicated which made it very supportive. Everyone in the cast was very dedicated.
Being that you have continuously succeeded at the development of so many great shows, what is the key to developing successful series?
William: Story. You can have a cluster of actors but if you don’t have a story then it won’t succeed. You can have a really good web series where it has a lot of sex and eye candy out of the world and have no story. When you can read the comments and people are saying ‘you spent ten minutes on a sex scene when you could have given me a story,’ then that’s a problem. I feel that at the end of the day it’s better to have a story. I’m blessed that God has given me the talent ad vision to come up with that. Everything has been done or recycled, so to me it’s about how can I bring it, how can I put a spin on it. So that is what I think is the key.
If I wanted to view the show, where could I? Is there a cost?
Devin: Yes, you can check it out on Will-C Productions YouTube Channel. You can also check it out on the Damage Control YouTube Channel and Damage Control Website www.damagecontrol.com. We also have a Facebook page called Damage Control.
I want to say that I really enjoyed my time with these fellas. Ebanman has been inspired more and more by the brothas out here trying to make a difference in the world one small step at a time and it’s amazing. I would suggest to all of our Men to go out and check out the web series. You may learn a thing or two that you thought you knew about.