Consider this: a queer woman-centered series written, directed, and produced by a badass couple consisting of two queer women. Now, imagine a show that is honest, relatable, politically correct, and inclusive while also incredibly binge-worthy.
“I was tired of seeing this inaccurate representation of LGBT women everywhere I looked,” says Lily Richards, one of the co-creators and stars of the web series Twenty. “Whether the character was a predatory lesbian, or a straight woman hooking up with another woman for the pleasure of a male character, it seemed that relationships between two women were never intended to do anything more than serve as clickbait B plots. I never felt like I was seeing the community represented accurately and that’s why I decided to create Twenty.”
Richards and partner Caitlin Combe met at Emerson College in Boston, Mass. where they fell in love and decided to merge their creative talents to produce Twenty. Combe serves as producer and marketing director while Richards is the writer, director, and stars as the series’ main character, Maya.
Twenty tells the story of 21-year-old aspiring singer/songwriter Maya as she weaves and maneuvers her way through personal obstacles. Maya faces challenges within her friend group, family, and romantic interests, past and present. The series is almost annoyingly relatable at times, with an effortlessly calculated comedic aspect to balance the delicious drama.
“We wanted to make queer content that was approachable for non-queer audiences as well,” said Combe, explaining why the couple chose a more comedic direction for the series. “Also, lesbian storylines end in tragedy so often,” Richards said. “I wanted to give people who might be still coming to terms with who they are something positive–I wanted to show that there’s happiness in being who you are authentically.”
The cast encompasses an array of diverse actors who are wildly talented and add to the realistic nature of the series. More than half of the actors that were cast for the series were also students at Emerson College along with Richards and Combe.
“Twenty was made easy because of these people. I knew exactly what character I wanted each of them to play because I know them so well,” Richards said. When writing the script, Richards says she took an element from each actor’s personality to create their character.
“I feel like [Richards] took a quirky element from each of them and put it to the extreme,” Combe said.
Since the launch of Season 1 in May 2017, Twenty has garnered a total of 21,000 subscribers with a viewer count of over 3 million (and growing). The couple funded the entirety of the series’ expenses out of pocket for the first season, but crowdfunded Season 2 on Indiegogo.
Twenty helps to normalize to the lives of queer individuals, and show that their obstacles aren’t so different from anyone else’s. Richards and Combe hope the success of their series will help inspire other LGBTQ creators to make content that reflects their own existence and realities.
“If you have an idea for a project, just do it,” Richards says. “Now is the time to release this content into the world; your story deserves to be heard.”