IDW Entertainment’s October Faction, a thrilling sci-fi, horror, fantasy hybrid drama, based on the IDW Publishing comic books by Steve Niles and Damien Worm launches globally on Netflix this Thursday January 23rd 2020.
The series stars Gabriel Darku as Geoff Allen, a seventeen year-old out and proud gay high schooler who is forced to move from Japan to a small town in upstate New York by his globetrotting monster killing parents played by J.C. MacKenzie and Tamara Taylor. Believing that their folks work in insurance, Geoff and his twin sister Viv (Aurora Burghart) know nothing about the existence of warlocks, werewolves and vampires, but find themselves doing battle with monsters of a different kind in the bullies they encounter at their new high school.
Ahead of October Faction’s launch on Netflix The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann spoke to Gabriel Darku about portraying an LGBTQ character on screen, going back to the original comic books and the deeper messages of the series.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: “Firstly, tell us a bit about your character Geoff Allen and how he fits into the world of October Faction.”
Gabriel Darku: “Geoff is a very charismatic individual. He’s very mouthy, a little hot-headed and smart. In fact, he’s rather too smart for his own good sometimes! I think he likes to use his wit and his banter to sort shield the world from himself. Even though he’s very confident, he’s got this deep-seated need to fit in and be loved and accepted. His family of course is the number one bedrock of that, they were the ones who raised him to be completely open and honest and accepting of who he is as a young gay black man. They really instilled it in him to just be himself, to be open and honest. Sometimes he will read people for not being honest, which gets him into trouble a lot throughout the series.”
Geoff’s always there with a quick-witted quip isn’t he, whatever the situation! Are there any similarities between you and your character, is there anything you could identify with?
“There were was a lot of stuff that I did relate to that I actually discovered throughout filming, like the fact that he likes to be accepted and acknowledged and appreciated in the places that he involves himself in. Also, all the kids at his new school think that they already know him because he’s somewhat famous due to his family name, but he’s very unpopular at school. So I definitely related to that aspect of being like a popular unpopular kid in high school. I was a jock and a musician and I was really well known for having all these skills and talents and I hung out with a lot of the popular kids, but I was also the butt end of a lot of jokes and I never really had a hugely extroverted social life. But other that, he’s very different from how I am. I’m a very quiet person, I don’t talk too much or too fast, I’m not very witty and full of banter but he’s all of those things. So actually it was really cool to be able to step into a character a little bit further from myself and stretch the acting muscles. It was a lot of fun.”
What do you admire about Geoff in terms of his openness about his sexuality and his self acceptance?
“What’s not to admire? That’s what I really like about the representation that he shows on the series because it’s 100% normal, him being gay and you don’t even think twice about who this person is interested in sexually or intimately or whatever it is. It’s very much ‘this is who I am and if you don’t like it too bad.’ It’s like ‘theres’s no difference between you and me.’ I love that, I admire that hugely, especially growing up as a mixed individual. Being part of a minority I relate to that to some extent as well, being a little bit on the outside of society. Just his comfortability with everything and the fact that to his family, and to pretty much every character on the show, the whole idea of him being gay is just so normal and present in the world that people don’t even think twice about it and I love that.”
And the homophobia that is present is very well handled I think. There is a closeted character who is tortured by his sexuality to some degree and is not ready to come out yet, so there’s a strong contrast there isn’t there?
“Yeah, dealing with that character, to them it’s a huge issue and we get to see that side if the struggle. We get to see what it’s like for people who feel they need to hide that side of themselves, a whole chunk of who they are from the outside world. They don’t know whether people are going to accept them, they don’t know if it’s going to change their entire lives. He’s holding on to this so hard and he’s so worried because of an incident that happened in the past and when he finally confronts it he realises that it was not as big of an issue as he thought it was. It’s just really great to see how how these characters deal with these issues and watch them open up and realise that it’s OK to be your true self.”
Did you have any reservations at all about playing a character who identifies as LGBTQ?
“I didn’t, no. I’m pretty comfortable with my sexuality. So on the physical front when it comes to kissing someone else that doesn’t bother me at all. Lips are lips! I’m totally comfortable with that. In terms of playing the layers it was interesting, I did talk to people from the LGBTQ community about how they felt about someone who’s straight playing someone gay on screen. I was a little worried on some fronts, but to be completely honest with you it turned out really great. It was just really nice to step into someone else’s shoes and to see what it’s like for a different kind of minority to feel certain ways and because Geoff is so open and honest and non-caring about what people think of him it was really liberating and I enjoyed it.”
There’s a clear analogy in this material between the way that the literal monsters – the vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks – are treated in October Faction and the way that in the real world humans often demonise people who they view as different from themselves. I liked the way that it’s dealt with in show and it gets more explicit as season 1 goes on doesn’t it? That deeper message in there. What do you make of that aspect of the show?
“It’s clearly touching on what we’re seeing a lot of in society and it’s trying to show people from a different angle what we’re doing to each other. Essentially it’s trying to elicit empathy for people through a different way of looking at things. You know, a lot of people love sci-fi and so this subject matter will pull in a big audience and hopefully they’ll watch it and listen to the story and really see how it relates to what’s going on in society. Monsters and vampires on the show are treated worse than black people or gay people are in that world and that is to show how those people are being treated in our world currently in real life. I hope that aspect of the show really resonates with people and gets them thinking about why it is that we feel that we need to demonise ideologies or ways of living that are different from own. A big point that some of the creatures bring up is that they don’t have a choice of who they were born as. There are always two sides to every story and you need to hear the other side.”
How aware were you of the IDW Publishing comic book series that the show is based on before you took on the role or was it something that you got a chance to read as you were preparing to play Geoff?
“I didn’t get a chance to read the comics before playing Geoff because it was a really quick turnaround in terms of casting and then starting production. It was literally less than a week so there was not a lot of time! But I’m not complaining about that, I actually really enjoyed that. I got thrown into it and was discovering the character without any preconceptions or over-intellectualising about all the details and layers of what makes him. I got to explore and discover him throughout the episodes with my co-stars. So that was cool. In terms of the comics, I got my hands on the first issue a couple of weeks into production and it was great. I fell in love with Damien Worm’s art, it’s amazing and it sets a great tone for the story. I love the story itself and the characters. Comparing it with our adaptation, I really appreciated how much they were fleshing out the characters and trying to give them more backstory, so that we can understand more about their motivations and where the characters came from. It made me love our script even more.”
Are you quite into comic books and graphic novels generally or was this pretty new to you?
“I don’t read them like crazy, I’m not gonna lie. I was a huge fan of the Archie comics growing up though and I’ve been known to read a couple of Marvel and DC comics every now and then, but Archie was my favourite. And now I love October Faction, I’ve got five issues already and I’m planning on reading more.”
I like the dynamic between Geoff and Viv and obviously they’re twins so it’s quite a special relationship to portray on screen, can you tell us a bit about creating that with Aurora Burghart and if you bonded over anything in particular?
“Well, it wasn’t anything in particular but just bonding over the hard labour we were dealing with! The show ran on a really hefty schedule and so when we first met that was what a lot of our conversation was about. We also talked about coming up in the industry and where she went to school and what kind of jobs she’s been doing up until now. Through all that I realised that she’s one of the most present people you will ever meet and she’s super personable and very easy to talk to. So from that point on it was so easy, it was not work at all, we just meshed so easily. The chemistry was great off screen which just meant that it carried forward on to the screen. Working with her every day was a pleasure. It was quickly became the vibe of siblings, like we’d be bugging each other between takes and just like fooling around and always laughing every day and being there for each other. And not just with Aurora, but with JC and Tamara too, all four us really started to feel like a family almost right away. It was really nice that there was no pressure in that way, because you never know if you’re going to like your co-workers and with me being quite an introverted person it’s already hard enough to be talkative on set when you’re focusing on work. So just getting on to set and realising that these people are just the most personable people that’ll you’ll ever meet, it just made it all the easier.”
I really liked the scene where Geoff breaks up with his boyfriend in Japan over a video call. It’s probably the first time we get to see an emotional side of Geoff. And you have to do it Japanese!
“That was a really great scene and you’re right because you really don’t get to see Geoff emotional a lot. Geoff never cries, things just brush right off his shoulders and so that moment is beautiful for that reason and even then he doesn’t really break down into tears. He’s a very held together person, he doesn’t like to not be in control of himself or the situations that he’s in, so seeing him in vulnerable places like that only happens a few times throughout the season and it’s really great to see and I really appreciated that scene. Oh, and doing it in Japanese was a whole other thing! When we learned that we were going to be doing Japanese and that it was of course going to be legit Japanese, I was like ‘oh, my gosh, how are they going to teach us Japanese in a matter of weeks, that’s crazy?!’ But it was surprisingly easy, they had a great language coach on set and the way he broke it down for us was great. The pieces of paper that he gave us had the lines in Japanese script, and then it had Japanese written out using the English alphabet and then it was written phonetically and then finally it had a direct English translation, so we could understand what we were saying of course. It was intricate, but it was so simple and for some reason Aurora and I caught on real quick and I was really happy watching those scenes back and listening. It sounds really authentic and I’m really excited to hear what Japanese speakers have to say about it when they see it! But I think we hit it pretty darn close.”
Can you give people a flavour of what they can expect from season 1 of October Faction?
“I would describe it as a supernatural drama with horror elements. It’s a really fun ride! You’ve got Fred and Deloris, the monster hunters and their twin kids Geoff and Viv who start off in the dark, not knowing what they’re parents do for a living. They believe their parents are insurance agents and so obviously right off the bat you can expect a lot of family drama due to the fact that the parents are hiding some very important info from the kids. They’re moving back to a very small town, a small white rich town, and so there’s a lot of social drama as well with Viv and Geoff confronting students at their new high school and also their parents who have all these people back in their lives for good or bad reasons. You can expect a lot of drama, a lot of monsters, a lot of action and a lot of blood – it’s going to be great!”
Your character is left in an interesting situation by the end of season 1. If there was to be a season 2 what would you like to see Geoff do next, or what would you like to explore with him?
“Geoff learns some stuff about himself throughout season 1 that I would love for him to find out more about that in season 2 and for him to show his intellect and really start to study more about his past. Just on a general note, I’m really excited to see the show take that dark turn because the comic books are very dark and gritty and this season very much comes across as a great introduction to the characters and how the family comes to be and operate. It sets you up to see the family descend into the dark parts of the supernatural world. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read the comics, but it’s going to be great, and I’m really excited to see where this show goes!”
I love the high school set scenes in the show and I wondered if you had a favourite high school set TV show or movie?
“That’s a good question! Sex Education is a great one. I’m almost done with the first season, it’s such a great show.”
And part of the Netflix family! What do you like about it?
“The rawness of it. I love how they’re not afraid to talk about these topics on screen it’s just really great and funny to watch these students be so raw.”
By James Kleinmann
October Faction from IDW Entertainment launches globally on Netflix on Thursday January 23rd 2020 for more details on the series and to stream season 1 head to: Netflix.com/OctoberFaction.