Over three seasons, the critically acclaimed, award winning web series drama OUT WITH DAD has entertained and touched the lives of millions of viewers through its honest and realistic portrayal of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) teenagers and their families.

Created by Jason Leaver, the series stars Jonathan Robbins (CLUTCH: THE SERIES) as Nathan, a single father whose teenage daughter Rose (Kate Conway) has only now begun to accept her sexuality after coming out to Jason.

At the same time, her ex-girlfriend Vanessa (Lindsey Middleton) has also come out to her parents, only to end up being castigated for it by her mother Theresa (Wendy Glazier) and Steven (Robert Nolan).

As a result of her parents not accepting her sexuality, Vanessa abandons them and embarks on a search for a better, more accepting place to be. Vanessa’s quest grew out of the series proper and became the basis for a special spinoff series, VANESSA’S STORY. (More on that later).

Also featured is Caitlynne Medrek (CLUTCH: THE SERIES) as Rose’s new girlfriend Claire, a young woman whose outgoing personality and high sense of confidence differs from Rose’s otherwise shy and reserved manner.

Recently, I spoke with Conway, Middleton and Medrek about their most memorable moments on and off the set of OUT WITH DAD, their work with series creator Jason Leaver and the entire cast, the unique qualities they bring to their portrayal of their characters, and how the series’ incredible response from LGBTQ teenagers and their families has personally impacted their lives as a whole.

How did you become involved with OUT WITH DAD (casting wise), and what qualities do you bring to your role?

Kate: I saw a casting notice (or breakdown, as we call them in the biz) for the show on Mandy.com and they were looking for an actress who looked young. The character was described as a fly-on-the-wall high school student who would be coming out of the closet.

She was quiet and reversed in public settings, but outgoing and playful when around her father and closest friends. These qualities perfectly sum up my high school personality (minus the coming out part). So I sent Jason Leaver my head shot and resume and got an audition.

Lindsey: I became involved with OWD 4 years ago when they did their original casting session. I remember really wanting to get to be involved with this show because it had a different feeling than any other audition I had been too. I read for both Rose and Vanessa and Jason actually found his original casting notes the other day and he had written that I would be a good Rose!

But I love playing Vanessa. Vanessa and I are very different, I’ve also been very set and determined with who I am and what a want in life where I find Vanessa to be the opposite of that. I also think of Vanessa as the empty shell of myself that still needs to be built. What would I be like if I didn’t have any family support, or had lost my best friend or didn’t understand my own sexuality. I strip away all I know about myself and that is how Vanessa came about.

Caitlynne: I had previously auditioned for Jason in regards to a different project than OWD, he liked me enough at that audition to then bring me in for ‘Claire’.

The role was supposed to go to another girl he had in mind but she didn’t show up to the audition, so magic happened and I booked the role!

I knew I wanted to be involved with the project! The role was so good and the story was going to help people, including my own friends, who are struggling to come out as LGBT youth!

In addition to OUT WITH DAD, Middleton starred in a spinoff series called VANESSA’S STORY, which takes place immediately after Vanessa (played by Middleton) is immediately shunned by her parents upon coming out to them. For Middleton, the opportunity to expand her character and to show viewers the continuing problem of homophobia in today’s society through VANESSA’S STORY was significant in a variety of ways.

You (Lindsey) also worked on a spinoff series, VANESSA’S STORY, where your character, Vanessa, breaks away from her parents who are not accepting of her sexuality. What was that like, and were there any differences/similarities to portraying the role on that series?

I am so proud and honored to be able to work on Vanessa’s Series. It was my first adventure into producing with Jason and we had so much fun doing it, even though the content was a lot darker, we manage to have a great time.

I believe Vanessa’s Story is extremely important because Out With Dad does a great job of showcasing what coming out to a supportive family is like Vanessa shows the darker and harsher side of coming out, which is a large reality for many people.

I approached the character the same way as I did in Out With Dad but I did feel as if the stakes were a bit higher for me. It was my first film lead, it was the first time (to my knowledge) that a young bi-sexual teen was be represented on the web and I really wanted to do Vanessa’s Story justice.

How has being on OUT WITH DAD and doing VANESSA’S STORY impacted you personally?

Doing these two shows has changed my life. As an actor it has opened doors into other projects and let me travel around with this beautiful show and our family. As a person I have grown immensely. Learning more about the LGBTQ community and educating my friends and family has probably been the most rewarding part!

As one might expect throughout a long-running series like OUT WITH DAD, the show’s main characters have each undergone gradual change over the course of 3 seasons. As Conway explains, the changes that her character (Rose) has experienced are just as significant in real life as they are throughout OUT WITH DAD.

How has your character grown over the course of the series? 

Kate: Rose has grown a lot, and still has a lot of growing to do. She’s right in the thick of it. But she’s at the point now that she has no choice but to be honest about who she is.

Fortunately, she has a lot of support around her. She remains very aware that it’s not always going to be a walk in the park, but being honest to her family and friends and allowing their help is the most important step she needs to take in order be happy.

I think that’s an important lesson for any teenager, LGBT or not. Your family is the most important part of your life. As you get older, this becomes more and more recognizable. However you define them, there are people in your life that really love you and want you to be who you are. Even if sometimes their actions don’t match their intentions. Try to learn to understand them as they learn to understand you. Each and every one of us gets a little bit wiser each and every day.

Lindsey: I think Vanessa is still growing. There is still so much for her to figure out and accept but I think one day we will see some tremendous growth from her.

Caitlynne: She’s more confident in Rose and Rose’s abilities to accept who she is. Claire sees she is slowly cracking Rose’s nervous shell and wants to help Rose grow! We’ve learned that Claire has her own family “closet” skeletons (pun intended) but I feel she has found someone who will now help her see she has made the right choices about who she wants to be.

How were you able to identify with your character, and with the show’s message of acceptance and respect for the LGBT community as a whole? Were there any personal experiences that you drew upon that helped you with the role?

Kate: The way the character (Rose) was first described to me, she sounded like the spitting image of me in high school minus being gay. I was an extremely self conscious teenager who only really felt comfortable around my closest friends.

Being an actress was a way for me to express the inner weirdo who dwells within. But I was so self conscious, I even gave that up for a while. There is also Rose’s struggle with her romantic feelings for others. This is something any teenager can identify with. There’s a long list of people I admired from afar. Don’t worry. No shrines or voodoo dolls were used.

Identifying with Rose being gay was obviously the biggest challenge. I relied on research and personal stories from family and friends. I was raised to be accepting and respectful of the LGBT community, and my association with the character has made me feel even more proud of being an ally. Toronto is one of the best places in the world for it’s LGBT support, but every now and then I witness homophobia or transphobia, and it really fires me up.

Lindsey: I grew up in a very small town at a time when being gay was looked at as a terrible thing. When I got cast in the show (as Vanessa), I was a little worried to tell my family and friends about the content of the show because I didn’t want them to disown me.

In a way, I kind of had to come out to them in my own way, which made me have an even stronger attachment and respect for this project.

People speak to me as if they assume that I’m straight and agree with them that being gay is wrong. They don’t realize that the things they are saying are hurtful to me and push me even more to spread the message of positivity, acceptance and love that OWD proudly stands for.

Caitlynne: I grew up in the performing arts community, so “gay” was never out of the norm for me. I never saw them as “different”, they were just my friends, as they should be! So the idea that my friends were not supported in a world where I’ve never even considered them “different”, made me realize (that) I can, and will, make a difference!

For Conway, Middleton and Medrek, there were plenty of memorable moments during filming of OUT WITH DAD’s third season. As they recall, the camaraderie and rapport that its cast and crew developed over the show’s 3 seasons has made the otherwise daunting task of filming it a lot easier.

What is it like working on set, not just with all the actors but especially with Jason and Jonathan Robbins, who’s assumed the role of Nathan in season 3?

Kate: Being on set is a whole bunch of things at once: Scary, exhausting, fun, goofy, and sometimes tense. Season 1 was actually my first real experience being on a set that wasn’t a one day short film shoot. So these last 4 years have been crazy educational as an “acting for film” class. One thing that has been truly amazing is how well we all get along. Actors and crew alike.

A lot of the same people have stuck around as part of the production, so we’ve all become good friends. To me, a good sign that bonding is taking place is that even after a tough day of late starts, late wraps, accidents, grueling weather and running out of coffee, everyone wants to grab a drink together. And our crew has had a few drinks in our time.

Jason is a great director. We have great chemistry working together. It really is a collaboration. And he’s not a “fly off the handle” kind of guy. If there is an issue, we will sort it out calmly, while respecting everyone’s opinion. Jason and I both firmly believe there is never an excuse to be d*ck.

Jonathan (is the) sweetest man ever. He took on such a huge responsibility, which takes a lot of courage. Fans have a hard time accepting a casting change, but Jonathan has done a wonderful job winning them over. He’s a season(ed) vet actor (and director), so all that stuff I said about working together and becoming friends goes for Mr. Robbins as well.

Lastly, I haven’t said much about working with the other actors. All that needs to be said is that they teach me. When filming scenes with them, I just try to soak up as much of their talent, focus, passion and fearlessness as I can. They inspire me to find those qualities within myself and deliver my very best, each and every time.

Lindsey: The OUT WITH DAD set is my favorite set I have ever been on. Jason is very positive and likes to keep momentum moving. Our team is incredible and every single person excels at their job but also goes above and beyond to help each other out. It is like a family. We really do all love and care for each other.

Adding Jonathan to that family last spring was very easy as he fit right in! He is a very hard working and giving actor, as well as a person. I remember doing an interview and being asked what it was like working with a new dad and I was confused because I had forgotten that Jonathan had only been with us for season 3.

Caitlynne: Jason and Jonathan are an actor’s dream. Both creatively and as fellow actors. I have said to the cast and crew MANY times that I don’t believe I’ll ever find another set as well oiled and as smooth running and HAPPY as the OWD set.  We’re all best friends making great art. It’s the dream.

What difficulties did you encounter (if any) during filming of each episode? What were some of the easier parts (if any)?

Kate: Filming always comes with challenges. When doing scenes that require me to act with myself (we call those “Head Rose” scenes), I’m typically pretending that a mic stand or crew member is me, and I have to try to use memory and playback to determine what kind of reactions I’m going to have.

Then there is the issue of weather. This season especially, we had a lot of days on set where it was either cold, raining or both. It’s easy (especially for me) to slip into a state of frustration and lose focus of the task at hand. I had a few moments (I’m not proud of) of being “grumpy Kate”. Reminding myself that everyone, cast and crew, is dealing with same bad weather as me can help bring me back into professional mode.

Scenes that require a lot of emotional intensity can be challenging as well. When Jason says cut, the actors have to try to remain in their dark emotional state, even if the crew is laughing and telling jokes. Nothing feels better then asking Jason “can I smile yet?” and Jason says “that’s a wrap on Kate’s tears!” Easier parts? Um, everything else.

Lindsey: Well, all my days on set this season consisted of me crying! So that just takes a lot of focus. But nothing on that set is ever difficult because we all work so well together.

Caitlynne: Crying scenes are always difficult, but the ladies and Jason made it super easy those days! You just picture never being on a set as amazing as OWD, with as (many) talented and as generous, smart and creative people as the ones on the OWD set.

Thanks to the enormous response to OUT WITH DAD from teenagers and their families all throughout the world, Conway, Middleton and Medrek have experienced more than just professional growth while working on the series. They, plus Robbins, Leaver and the entire cast have experienced first hand how much of a positive difference the series has made on its viewers – be they those who have already embraced their sexuality or those who are currently struggling with it.

How has being on OUT WITH DAD impacted you personally? 

Kate: I would say every aspect of my life has been impacted. My career of course has benefited tremendously from how successful the show has become. I have learned a lot about acting in front of a camera, production etiquette, doing interviews, writing, etc. My personal life has been affected in 2 ways. The first being all these great friends I’ve made at OWD. I’m not lying when I say this. We attend each other’s birthdays for gosh sakes!

The second is the dialogue it opens when discussing LGBT issues with people. Like many, I have family members who don’t know how to approach the coming out of a teen and have actually looked to me for advice. I take great pride in the fact that OWD is such an excellent role model for non-LGBT people looking to be helpful and supportive to their LGBT family members and friends.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s given great meaning and purpose to my life. Coming out of theatre school, one hopes to be in at least one project that has artistic integrity and/or says something important. OWD delivers both. It inspires me to continue doing what I love, even though it is often a challenge. The chosen path of an actor is a difficult one. At any given moment, one can be dealing with frustration, disappointment and uncertainly. But like any challenge in life, the higher the mountain, the better the view.

Lindsey: Doing these two shows has changed my life. As an actor it has opened doors into other projects and let me travel around with this beautiful show and our family. As a person I have grown immensely. Learning more about the LGBTQ community and educating my friends and family has probably been the most rewarding part!

Caitlynne: It impacts me everyday. From the fan messages I get on Facebook every day, to the stories of confidence and bravery we witness in our viewers from Canada to the Middle East, we’re making a difference in peoples lives, and that is the best feeling.

Overall, considering the acclaim that OUT WITH DAD has enjoyed and all the honors it has been given (officially endorsed by PFLAG Canada), what is it like being a part of OUT WITH DAD as a whole in terms of how it’s touched so many lives?

Kate: The best word to use here is “honor”. It has been a privilege and a gift that comes with a lot of responsibility. We have received many messages from people all over the world telling us how much the show means to them (and) how it has impacted their lives. And not just people who are LGBT, but family and friend allies as well. Sometimes we get messages from very young people dealing with very tough situations who look to us for guidance.

All we can really do it try to direct them towards proper support channels in their area, which sometimes doesn’t feel like we’re doing a lot. But they thank us for just being an ear and a shoulder.

Knowing that there is someone out there, even if it’s just one person, who understands them and supports them can be enough to inspire a person to keep on fighting. And like I said, being that someone is a tremendous honor.

Lindsey: It is my proudest achievement to date. I can’t image my life without this show and the people who I work with. It really changed my life.

Caitlynne: There are no words that describe this feeling. Years later, I still get messages daily saying we have changed and saved lives. That is all one can ask as an actor. Changing lives with your art. If I had a Grinch heart, it would have swelled so much from all the love and support we have received. It would have burst already!

What are your hopes for OUT WITH DAD in season 3?

Kate: Well, we still have some fundraising left to do for post production to be complete. So if the fans could just help us spread the word that any donation, no matter how small, helps makes OWD possible. Other than that, I guess just that the show continues to inspire and help more people around the world. As Claire would say, that would be “awesomesauce”.

Lindsey: Well, I already know what happens, but I am very excited to see how the audience reacts to our last batch of episodes for Season 3!

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