In Loving Color
A Romantic Comedy About Love Shared Between
African American Gay Men
By Mike Bahr
Don’t Marry Griff tells the story of Lyodell, his fiancé Griffith, and best friend Sutton.
The friendship between Lyodell and Sutton is shaken to its core when Sutton confesses his love for Lyodell. Things get even more complicated when Lyodell begins to open his eyes to the true state of his union with Griffith.
Directed by Steven L. Coard, who also stars as Lyodell, Don’t Marry Griff is the first of a series of films that will tackle love stories featuring gay African American characters. “I have always dreamed of the day when I could produce my own independent film for the gay community of color,” Coard explains. “It’s important for African American gay men to have characters they can identify with while being entertained.”
After all, gay black men are striving to achieve the American Dream just like everyone else, Coard says. They want the white picket fence and adoring husband. It’s certainly what Coard wants. “Although I am not looking for the children part,” he adds with a smile. He explains more.
What inspired “Don’t Marry Griff”?
Steven L. Coard: One day, I began to wonder to myself: could a gay African American couple survive domestic violence? I wanted to explore the idea and see if I could tell a story that was filled with drama and suspense while also adding my signature style of comedy.
What is the state of urban gay relationships?
Steven L. Coard: Most men in the urban communities have so many levels of dysfunction that it makes it impossible to get to know the real person. It comes from being ostracized by all levels of society. From family and friends calling gay people despicable names and telling us we live a filthy homosexual lifestyle. Or rappers and sports figures we idolize spewing hate against our community. It forces many of us to live our lives in hiding.
Is that why films like “Don’t Marry Griff” are so important?
Steven L. Coard: As a young man growing up, I didn’t see many representations of myself on television or in movies. And when I did, it was often in a way that demoralized people who looked and felt like me. I vividly remember watching the Men on Film skit on “In Living Color”. The black gay man was the butt of the joke, made to be an over effeminate representation of the urban gay community. It hurt. I think that’s when I decided I would create films that depicted gay men of color living successful lives, searching – just like everyone else – for the true meaning of happiness. My dream is to create a gay hallmark channel and bring unique and original love stories to men of all colors.
Without giving too much away, the relationship between Lyodell and Griffith is alarmingly unhealthy. What has been your experience with toxic relationships?
Steven L. Coard: All of my past relationships have been toxic. There was a time in my life when I was only attracted to men who were no good for me. I can reflect on it now and realize that I found a sense of comfort with the abuse because, growing up, verbal aggression was all I knew from my parents.
Did you base the character of Lyodell on yourself?
Steven L. Coard: No, Lyodell is actually based on my grandmother. She often told me stories of how my grandfather was very abusive to her in the fifties.
Is that why you chose to play him?
Steven L. Coard: I originally had another actor in mind for Lyodell but two weeks before filming, he dropped out. I didn’t trust anyone else would be able to bring the emotions to screen in such a short amount of time so I took the part on myself.
Who is Griffith based on?
Steven L. Coard: Oddly, Griffith is based on me. I was in a relationship several years ago where I lost control in an argument and lunged at my ex. Luckily, I caught myself before it turned badly. After that, I decided I would never be in another argument with another individual again.
Sutton is one fine man. But is it ever a good idea to mix love and friendship?
Steven L. Coard: I think it’s a great idea! Having someone who you have so much in common with makes it easier to find success together in a relationship. I hope to one day be with my best friend. I’d rather a quality man than some guy who is going to being me temporary happiness with his great ass or smile.
Have you dated a friend?
Steven L. Coard: No. I have told a friend that I was in love with him but he rejected me. Our friendship eventually ended but not because of my confession. A few months later, he began to reveal his true character. I dodged a bullet.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Don’t Marry Griff”?
Steven L. Coard: I want people to leave believing in true love. I want people who have a best friend they are in love with to take the risk and see if that person feels the same way. What’s the worst that can happen? I want to unite the urban gay community, and I want to help stimulate a passion for gay black cinema and help to create future storytellers.
Don’t Marry Griff releases November 18. For more information, visit www.colorofloveproduction.com.