To celebrate Pride Month, Audible Originals have released Hot White Heist -- a weekly, narrative podcast about a group of lesbians who stage a heist...a heist that involves robbing a government sperm bank hidden below the Space Needle in Seattle. Directed by Alan Cumming, the story centers on a group of people who want to steal genetic samples from Presidents and billionaires, and sell them to some Russians, to make money so they can buy an island and create a paradise for LGBTQ+ people. As you might expect from a project like this, creator Adam Goldman made sure to cast a 100% LGBTQ+ cast to bring his story to life.
Goldman joined ComicBook for a look ahead at the podcast. You can get episodes here.
So despite a pretty funny premise, is there a looming darkness to having the government people involved and the potential for serious consequences?
Definitely. I mean, it starts off really light. I think the tone of the whole thing is really light, but as it goes on, it's a heist. So there are, I think we avoid a lot of the classic heist stuff that people expect, but there are some twists and turns and things get a little heavier.
Because it's the government is involved, and they're trying to sell the sperm samples to the Russian deep state, they have to tread carefully. So it's got some fairly ruthless people. That's something that in my work I like to do, if you can get people laughing, it's a lot easier to get a message in there, or get something a little bit heavier in there, in a way that people are not resistant to. There's definitely some themes under the surface that are serious, but we try to treat them really lightly and make them palatable.
How did you guys land on Alan Cumming to direct?
We're friends. A few years ago, I made a show called The Outs, which was a webseries, and Alan tweeted at me about that and he was like, "I'm obsessed with this show." I tweeted back at him, and we started chatting. And one of the great things about Alan is, everybody loves something that he's done. He's got this incredible backlog of Eyes Wide Shut, or Josie and the Pussycats, or Spice World. Or you'll like like X-Men 2. Or, he's really incredible in GoldenEye, just down the line.
And so he was like, "I want to be on the show," and then we stayed in touch and we became friends. He started a production company called Club Cumming Productions, and I was just talking to him and I said, "There's this idea that I've been tossing around, that also actually grew out of a tweet. I was like, "I wish we had a queer heist."
And then I was like, "That's a joke. No, they're not robbing a sperm bank. That would be so stupid." And then I thought, "Oh, I guess I should write that." So it all happened really organically, and it was one of the first projects that his production company is doing.
He has great relationships with a lot of our actors, and he speaks the language of actors, obviously. So as we were recording this all remotely, because of COVID, he was a natural. It made total sense to have him be in the directors chair.
As horrible and toxic as social media can be from time to time, is it sometimes fun that you never know day-to-day what insanity you're going to encounter there?
I agree with the sentiment of what you're saying, but not in the way that you put it. It's cool because, if there's an artist you like, it can lead you to other people. If you tweet at Beyonce, Beyonce is not going to see your tweet -- but a lot of people are really engaged. And if you tweet at an artist who you like, or who or you appreciate their work, they might read it and they might get back to you.
I tweeted at Carrie Coon recently, and she liked it. And I was like, "Oh God, I love Carrie Coon." She likes my tweet. It can be really toxic, but I think it's a technology that can be used in so many ways. It has been used in incredibly nefarious, corrosive, damaging ways, but if you can focus in on it and say," I'm going to use it for my career, I'm going to use it to tell jokes," or whatever, then it can be super helpful. I owe this whole project to a pair of tweets, which is insane.
Why do you think heist movies seem to be coming back around right now?
Well, I think it's cool because everybody recognizes the tropes of a heist movie. And particularly, I think, in the teens and up to now, that means the Ocean's movies. So it's cool -- they're all going to be slick, fast talking, there's going to be a jazzy soundtrack, and all of that stuff.
And there's a really rich, cool history of different heist movies up to then. And I watched a lot of them to do research. Like, "okay, there's going to be a hacker and there's going to be a planning guy and there's going to be a this person and they're going to, then you can play with it," right?
And so I think what you see now is people saying, for example, "what if a heist, but funny, and with queer people?" Or you see Zack Snyder saying, "what if a highest, but zombies?" And so this is mash-up thing, and hopefully you find an interesting, fun way to filter it.
There was that the movie Widows a few years ago. I liked that movie and I appreciate that movie, but the concept was, "what if a heist but not fun?" And there was a funny friction there, that I think made the movie good, but it was taking itself really seriously. I think there's a lot of different ways you can go with something that people think they know what they're getting when they sit down.
Do you think part of that is that we now have so much content, that content that's a little bit smart, and meta, and maybe a little bit of a mash-up, is the way to capture people's attention?
Yeah. I think that's true. And I think, it's this cliche of having an elevator pitch, or having a log line and so you want to be able to just say sperm bank heist, and I think that's how we got Broadway Video's attention. That's how we got Lorne Michaels' attention.
Then the other thing that people want is a cast. And just as we worked on this thing, we amassed this incredible group of people and whether you're queer or not, whether whatever. You look at this list of people and it's, Cynthia Nixon, Jane Lynch, Bowen Yang, Shannon Woodward from The Last of Us 2 and from Westworld, and just a really incredible group of people. You like someone in that cast. And I think that's what people want. They want a unique idea. They want an unbeatable cast of characters. And we have, hopefully, both of those.
Shannon Woodward is such a great addition.
It's so funny. Cause we were talking when she got in there and she was, we were just hanging, where we found everyone. And I was like, "Oh, I'm such a Dina's fan from The Last of Us," that I was like, "It's got to be her." And that she's such a perfect match for the character. And there's a lot of scenes with her and Bowen and it's perfect. I'm so excited to share it with people.
When you're shooting or recording remotely, I assume a lot of people were recording tracks separately. Is it harder to have those little moments of discovery during production where, "Oh wow, these two characters really bounce off each other nicely?"
It's definitely harder. And the way that we did it was, I would be on the line and Alan would be on the Zoom line, and we'd have people one by one come in and do it. But there's a cult of lesbians in the show, which is Jane Lynch, Margaret Cho, Stephanie Beatriz. And those were the main lesbians, and Cynthia Nixon. And so for those, we had those people together. We worked out the schedule since they have their scenes together that they were able to do them together.
But yeah, it's definitely harder doing it remotely. Hopefully through the magic of movies or the magic of podcasts, whatever, you don't notice it as much. And I think it turned out really well, but it's definitely a challenge.
Who are the primary leads that we're supposed to be rooting for going in?
Bowen Yang is the center of the story. And he's this lazy cynical character, who wears heels a lot, and it's a running, if you will, a running gag where he's clacking all over the place in this audio medium.
The central heist team is Bowen, Abbi Jacobson, Cheyenne Jackson, Bianca Del Rio, and Shannon and Mj Rodriguez. It's structured a lot like a movie. So the first two episodes are spent putting the team together and going and meeting everybody and figuring out what their deal is and what sweet spot they need to hit to convince them to do this really risky job. So that's when you get to know everybody.
And the show really sings when all those people get together in a room, and you have all these disparate personalities, and different needs, and different wants coming together. And there's some fun bickering and also talking about queer politics and all of that s--t.
Are these people who were already friends or is it the heist that brings them together?0comments
It's the heist. I think that there's a lot of conversation in the piece about what is so special about Bowen's character whose name is Judy, and what exactly qualifies this very low level scam artist to pull something like this off. Ultimately it's his ability to talk to people and charm people and tell them what they want to hear.
So there's definitely some tension about what everybody wants and whether he can hold the team together. And if people have goals that are at cross purposes, that can be a problem, obviously. So it's more about Judy being able to put the team together.