For Seattle writer and director Wes Hurley, the recent mass shooting at the Orlando gay bar Pulse shows more needs to be done to protect the rights and lives of gay people. Count him in, and join him at the Seattle Pride Parade.
Even up to that last Sunday, the one before all those people died, Wes Hurley heard some people in the Seattle gay community saying that all was well. They were done.
“We had accomplished everything,” Hurley said of their thinking. Equality. Marriage. Gay people are having children and being elected mayor.
The whole premise of the annual Pride Festival seemed — for some — a little less urgent and political.
Then 49 people were shot to death in an Orlando gay bar. And Hurley, the writer and director of the gay-themed web series, “Capitol Hill,” went numb. And then he realized that there was still much work to do.
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“I’m still really excited about where we are as a community,” said Hurley, 35. “But the shooting did shut some people up, and drive home that we are never going to be finished.
“Gay people are not considered human in large parts of the world,” he said. “We live in a bubble here.”
Inside that bubble, though, Hurley has been able to accomplish the filmmaking dreams he had as a child growing up in the Soviet Union (he moved here in 1997, when he was 16).
“American movies are what made us want to come to the States,” he said. “That state of depression and hopelessness. They pulled us out of it.”
Hurley studied arts and drama at the University of Washington and just got a grant from 4Culture to produce an autobiographical short film. “Potato Dreams of America” will be about Hurley growing up gay in the Soviet Union, then coming to the states with his mother, a mail-order bride.
“Capitol Hill” — featuring drag stars Waxie Moon and Jinkx Monsoon — just completed its second season. The show, inspired by ’70s and ’80s-era shows like “Dynasty” and “Murder She Wrote,” is a campy, somewhat raunchy production filmed all over Seattle. It’s been picked up by a small network in Europe and another in Canada.
But it also caught the attention of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which in April hired Hurley to produce commercials to connect with the gay community — and recruit volunteers for an HIV antibody trial called the Antibody Mediated Prevention Study, or AMP Study.
The commercials — featuring transgender actress Alexandra Billings of the original Amazon series “Transparent” — precede every episode of the show.
At Sunday’s Seattle Pride Parade, members of the Hutch team will walk with cast members from “Capitol Hill” then gather in a booth at the Pride Festival, where Waxie Moon will pose for pictures, and Hutch staffers will answer questions about the HIV trial.
Statistics released by Public Health Seattle – King County in March showed 6,898 people living with HIV and 1,248 diagnosed in the past five years.
“Young people need to be safe,” Hurley said. “They need to be reminded that, despite all the gay community’s other accomplishments, HIV is still out there.”
The study is also a way for members of the gay community to pull together to keep each other healthy — and to help the researchers trying to cure a disease that killed 5,110 people in King County between 1981 and 2014 — almost half of them aged 35 to 44.
“For us, with our crazy little show, to feel like we could be part of an HIV vaccine,” he said, his voice trailing off. “That would be so amazing.”
He imagines it will be that way for Pride, too, this year: So many people, gay and straight, gathered to celebrate life and carry on in the wake of the loss in Orlando.
“I want to be with my people and feel there’s strength in numbers,” Wesley said. “I think it will be incredibly meaningful.”