Student sitcom spoofs gender stereotypes

Hundreds of GW students have chosen to live in gender-neutral housing since the option opened up two years ago – not only sharing bathrooms and kitchens, but entire college experiences.

Junior Henry Morillo saw those situations as the perfect moments for comedy.

The journalism major created GWTV’s second ever sitcom “Gender Neutral,” which premiered Wednesday. The five episodes will run once every two weeks.

The project is Morillo’s independent study through the Department of Theatre & Dance. When he interned at ABC Studios in Los Angeles, he was exposed to the process the network uses to select shows.

“Being in that environment really inspired me to create my own show, especially with this position I have with GWTV,” Morillo said.

The show follows two main characters, Alex and Sam, played by sophomore Madeline Louden and freshman Jon Hering, respectively, as they try to live together in a gender-neutral residence hall.

The catch? Sam pretends to be gay to adjust to living with a female roommate.

“He has to put on this whole big show for everyone around him, except for a couple of his closest friends,” Hering said, “which he gets more comfortable with as the show goes on.”

Despite the show’s intended comedic and satirical nature, Morillo said he hopes the show is relatable, especially as more and more students choose gender-neutral housing options. In fall 2011, 144 students were placed in gender-neutral dorm rooms.

Morillo, a theatre minor and co-director of content development for GWTV, said living in gender-neutral housing himself this year inspired him to write the show.

He said the show also has a social message, satirizing the stereotypes steeped in perceived sexuality.

“By having these characters obsessed with these stereotypes, we’re trying to prove how ridiculous those stereotypes actually are. It’s not the mission, but if we can accomplish something along the way and still be funny, I think we are in the right place,” Morillo said.

The show is carried by a cast of four, including freshman Jon Weigell and junior Emily Nichols.

In crafting a rare sitcom for the student-run station typically known for its news programming, the seven-person writing team spent the fall semester solely developing the idea and the pilot script. The show was primarily filmed on campus, including in Morillo’s room in City Hall, J Street and Kogan Plaza.

The process was also a welcome distraction for the cast.

For Hering, it offered a departure from his GW School of Business curriculum and an opportunity to pursue a professional aspiration.

“Even though I’m majoring in business administration, I really want to be a professional actor,” Hering said. “So this has been one of my dreams since I’ve started acting. Going to a premiere of a show that I’m starring in? It’s really, really exciting and new to me.”

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