Hello, gentle readers and all my lovely Pop Tarts! I’m absolutely thrilled to share with you the very first trailer for the upcoming web series WHATTA LARK! The show stars Tara Platt as “Megan”, an accomplished children’s book author who is trying to decide if having children is the right thing for her to do, and also stars yours truly as the fabulous drag personality, “Whatta Lark”. My part was certainly type-casting! I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Tara, who also created and co-produced the series, to discuss the show.
Poppy Fields: First of all, let me say that I had one of the best experiences of my career shooting “Whatta Lark.” It was a delight – every single moment.
Tara Platt: Oh, I am so happy you would say that. It is the project I am the most proud of as well, and I can’t wait to share it and “her” with the world.
PF: What inspired the creation of “Whatta Lark”?
TP: I was going through my own life crisis about whether or not to have kids. It’s so hard trying to see the future in terms of not only what you think might happen but deciding what will bring you the greatest joy and give you the biggest learning in life. I was really caught between this idea of having to choose between the career that I felt I wanted, the life that I currently had, and this idea of what an imagined future with a child would look like. And it isn’t even as simple as just making a decision yes or no I want this. I mean, who knows what the universe has in store, both from a biological perspective and an opportunity perspective. I was looking for answers, much like the character I created in Megan, but I didn’t really know where to turn.
And then, I found myself at the very first RuPaul’s DragCon and I had this moment where everything seemed to click into place. I was listening to these fierce queens who had made serious life choices, where they oftentimes had to confront scary and dangerous consequences by getting clear with themselves about their own path, and here I was sitting on my safety cushion thinking about what I wanted but not really forcing myself to get real. It was a jolt. It really helped me hone in on my answers but also become attached to this idea of the person you least expect being the one to help you find your way. The character of Whatta Lark ignited in me that day and I knew I had a story that I needed to share with the world. The show Whatta Lark sort of just fell out of me at that point and I started bringing the team together to build the show.
PF: And I’m so glad that spark ignited! Now, both you and our wonderful writer Danielle Evenson did your research, didn’t you? I remember we had a meeting/interview many, many months before we actually went into production. How did that impact the character of “Whatta” and the content of the show?
TP: Yes! I think that if you don’t know something you should really go to the source to get accurate information. Not really knowing anything about drag culture, but wanting to have a character who represents that, I was worried about honest representation. And more than anything I didn’t want a two-dimensional stereotype that is there only for comedic value. We were doing a comedic show because I feel that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine of reality go down and I didn’t want a drag character to be a punchline. It was really important to me that the character of Whatta and the world she is living in would feel real to anyone on a similar journey, and to inform even in small part anyone unfamiliar with that world.
I am so torn, especially these days, when there is so much anger and frustration in the world and a striving towards equal representation. I have heard both sides – the side that believes you shouldn’t write a character you aren’t (as it is inherently through your own biases) and the side that believes that art is about stepping into the unknown and embracing a different perspective than your own. I tend to fall in the second camp, but that doesn’t mean I want a character to be false. It was super important to me to feel that Whatta is three dimensional with her own needs, wants, fears and hopes. And in order to have her spring to life off the page, the only way for Danielle and I to capture the truth of her essence was to do research. So months before we started putting the story on paper, we reached out to members of the drag community and did interviews in an effort to understand more about the lifestyle and the struggles that a drag queen may face. It was illuminating, and, honestly, your interview helped us carve out who Whatta would be and was instrumental in us really getting to meet “her.”
When it came time for casting, we kept flashing back to you and things you said that resonated and we had to see if you could bring your own special craft to Whatta. So it was really thrilling for us to get the chance to have you come aboard the project too. Partly, because we wanted the drag characters on the show to be portrayed by actual drag performers, but partly because the essence of Whatta is in part the light that is you and Poppy. Obviously they are different people, but they share many similarities in the scope of their heart, their inner light and the humanity they share. In terms of content, we actually created different story arcs based on information we got during interviews that helped us hone and fine tune what the character of Whatta might be dealing with and how she may overcome her own battles. It was an education, a delightful, and often sparkly education!
PF: I’m sure I’m blushing, and you’re going to make me cry! Thank you. But back to business … what did you learn during the writing or filming that you weren’t expecting?
TP: Haha. That’s a great question. So much! Hahha. So much about myself, my own limitations and my strengths, and the ability to really work as a team where the show is so much bigger than any of the pieces. I learned a lot about drag culture that I didn’t know – the idea that a drag mom guides, mentors and fosters the new generation of performers is just such a lovely element, I seriously wish that mentality were more prevalent in other aspects of life! I learned how to better ask for and accept help. I learned that I was going to be a mother! I mean from the spark of the idea until the final edit and locked picture I took the journey of motherhood to a whole other level. I can’t believe I am saying this but my son is over a year old now and he wasn’t quite a glimmer in my eye when I started writing the project down.
PF: During shooting you were barely showing, but how you were filmed was so ‘crafty’ … it was the magic of the cinema. I’ll admit, it was a bit challenging playing everything through an imaginary video chat browser. We were looking straight into the lens of the camera, and yet I totally felt connected to you in our scenes. Do you want to briefly mentioned how we did that?
TP: Right! Well, being seven months pregnant means that we had to be very clever with camera angles, haha. Luckily, we had already planned to do a to-camera vlog style show so that helped a lot with being able to hide my belly. But it was still a challenge. Luckily also for us, our amazing DP Raphe Wolfgang was brilliant with lighting and angles to help things feel like there wasn’t anything “amiss” below the camera line.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with doing a to-camera style show was, like you said, we each were working off the camera instead of actually seeing our scene partner’s face and getting to react off of that. Our brilliant director America Young helped by having a detailed rehearsal period for us to carve out the scenes together and get to really work together, but when we were on set day-of, we each did our best to stand off camera and read lines with the other, but we were basically acting off a camera lens. I have to admit, now when I see the show cut together, I often forget that we weren’t actually seeing each other since it feels so real. I think it helped that I felt so connected to you and you were such a generous scene partner and delight to work with, but I seriously hope we get a season two where we get off the video chat browser and into the same room and get to really work off each other – it will be explosive!
PF: I think there was only one part of one scene during which I couldn’t stand off-camera for you to play off of, and I HATED not being there. Of course, I was changing clothes during that moment. Story of my life. Tara, who do you think the target audience is for this sort of show (other than all my fabulous fans, of course)?
TP: Of course your fans! But honestly, I really do think the show has the potential to appeal to a large audience: from women struggling with their own questions of motherhood, womanhood, femininity and their place in society; members of the LGBTQ community looking to see representation on screen; to people who just enjoy comedy and strong interesting characters and storytelling!
PF: I completely agree. Do you want to talk about the “Curse of Whatta Lark” – our inside joke?
Well, I sort of started talking about it when I mentioned that I became a mother….BUT, haha, the “Curse of Whatta Lark” is that on a show about motherhood/and deciding whether or not to become a parent, 4 of the team members became mothers during the course of working on the show – and since we had several couples working on the show, 7 of the team are parents now, which when you look at the size of our production which isn’t that large, that’s some powerful fertility magic! Of course, I like to think of it as a positive curse, one where you get what you need and you become stronger, brighter and more magical for it!
PF: Absolutely! So what are the upcoming plans for “Whatta Lark”? When can we expect to hear more about this, or have an official release? The world wants to know … at least, the world in my head in which we’re both Emmy winners.
TP: Right?!! Well, for now, we are actively searching for a home for the show. We are shooting for the stars because I feel the show is amazing, but I mostly want it to find the right home that can help get it to the audience who would most appreciate it. We have taken a few pitch meetings and even started submitting to a few festivals (which is tricky since it is a series and not a film, so we have to be really selective). Over the next few months we hope to narrow down our options and make a decision on the best next step for the show. I want the world to see it so badly, that I have to take a breath and fight my instinct to just put it all on YouTube today and start sharing. For now, I’ll have to just be content with folks enjoying and loving the trailer and keeping my fingers crossed until I can share Whatta with the whole world!
PF: I’ll keep everything crossed with you, darlin’! Fingers, toes, legs, arms, and four sets of false eyelashes! Well, thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me, and here’s to a great future for “Whatta Lark” and all the cast and crew!
Megan Revere – Tara Platt
Whatta Lark/Jason – Christopher Graham (AKA Poppy Fields)
Amy – Charlie Patton
Elisa – Tanya Ihnen
Megan’s Mom Diane – Julie Cobb
Shahana Khurmi, Publisher – Deepti Gupta
Dave – Yuri Lowenthal
Gemma Stone – Jonathan Reinhart (AKA Anita Procedure)
Barbie Wire “Trixie” – Antonio Yee (AKA Vander Von Odd, winner of Dragula Season 1)
Super Fan – Jenny Robinson
Directed by America Young
Written by Danielle Evenson
Created by Tara Platt
Produced by Allison Vanore
Executive Produced by Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal
Whatta Theme Music by Rob Gokee
Costumes by – Antonio Yee
Production Design – Katie Moest
Editing – Aimee Durrant
SFX – Robb Padgett
Trailer Editing – Robb Padgett
Trailer songs “Reggae” and “Amerika” by Jason Weastell for www.theaudio.agency used with permission