We have written before about previous seasons of Daddyhunt: The Serial, that ongoing gay digital drama put out by the makers of the hookup app Daddyhunt, which has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and elicited no end of comments. In past seasons we have watched hunky "twink" Ben and hot daddy Graydon evolve from neighbors to lovers, watched Ben's HIV-positive and undetectable black sidekick AJ give Ben Wanda Sykes–like sassy advice on loving and dating, and watched Graydon's bitchy, possibly alcoholic ex, fellow daddy Andrew, try to undermine Graydon and Ben's burgeoning romance.
But now Season 3, which Daddyhunt says has gotten 1.6 million YouTube views since its October premier, gives us AJ navigating a new relationship of his own with HIV-negative black thirst trap Richard, Ben slipping into suspicion and jealousy toward Graydon -- and, of course, shady Andrew stoking the flames! We chatted about all the new developments with principal storyline creators Casey Crawford, Daddyhunt's general manager, and Dan Wohlfeiler, cofounder of Building Healthy Online Communities, which partners with gay hookup apps like Daddyhunt to promote HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) education and prevention and overall sexual health. (Note: We talked with them separately but have merged their replies here.)
Tim Murphy: Hi, guys! So what were your overall aims with Season 3?
Dan Wohlfeiler: In past seasons, we proved that you can get people's attention incorporating a storyline about HIV and STI prevention without hitting guys over the head -- and also while driving them to our PSAs. In Season 3, we wanted to diversify the cast. So now two of the lead characters, AJ and Richard, are African-American. They're dealing with AJ's undetectable viral load, because a lot of guys out there still don't know that being undetectable means being unable to transmit the virus. We also wanted to highlight the issue of notifying your sex partners if you have an STI and normalizing the idea of getting STI checks as part of your overall care being on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). You see a character get a syphilis diagnosis and notifying his partners. We try to bring the issues up in the plot, then offer more information about them in the PSAs, which are linked to the serial segments on YouTube.
TM: It's rare that in film, TV, or otherwise we see a gay relationship between two black men instead of one of them being with a white or non-black guy.
Casey Crawford: We thought we should create a love interest for AJ, so we worked on integrating that storyline while keeping things authentic and not forced or preachy. We also didn't want to introduce another black character just for the sake of checking a box. We thought originally of putting AJ in an interracial relationship, but then made a pointed choice to say that relationships between loving black men exist as well.
TM: Were there discussions while making Season 1 about maybe not doing the usual default of making both of the lead characters, Graydon and Ben, white, and making AJ the sassy advice-giving sidekick? That's kind of a tired trope.
CC: I wasn't with Daddyhunt when the first season came out. I don't think there was a conscious decision made other than that there was going to be a daddy and a daddy-hunter. We never thought Season 1 would be as successful as it was or that the show would keep on going.
TM: So let's talk about Ben and Graydon. Ben is sneaking peeks at Graydon's texts and drawing all kinds of suspicious, jealous conclusions. How does that relate to sexual health?
DW: We wanted to show how guys can have misunderstandings but work through them with good communication.
CC: The storyline in Season 3 is all about trust -- and you have to trust your partner. And a lack of trust feeds into jealousy. In the online comments, people are always saying that Ben and Graydon seem like the sexy perfect couple. We wanted to say that just because someone like Ben is handsome doesn't mean he can't have insecurities -- but that two people being honest can work through these issues. And it's the same with AJ and Richard. Richard didn't carefully read Ben's online profile where he says he's positive and undetectable. Richard is ignorant about what being undetectable means. But then he gets educated and goes on PrEP, and they start working it out.
DW: We used to have Ben being a lot needier until we realized that it wasn't attractive for him to be totally depressed and neurotic. So now he just has insecurities like a lot of guys have.
TM: What about Andrew, Graydon's bitchy ex? He reminds us of a lot of older gay men who veil their insecurity and loneliness with shady and sometimes undermining remarks and behavior.
DW: He's conflicted. On one hand, he is close with Graydon and wants him to be happy, but he also wants him back for himself. He hasn't had a successful relationship since Graydon and you can really see him struggling. He has some of the same insecurities as Ben.
TM: All the actors are hot. Have any hooked up in real life?
CC: Not to my knowledge.
TM: Why do you think "daddies" have become "a thing" in recent years?
CC: We're living longer. And a lot of daddies in their forties, fifties, and even sixties are doing a much better job of taking care of their bodies. Confidence is a very attractive characteristic, and a lot of twenty- and thirty-something guys now look beyond age.
TM: What do daddies see in younger guys?
CC: That's a good question, and I'm not sure I have the right answer.
TM: Is there a Season 4 in the works?
DW: We're still thinking about it. Right now, we're concentrating on getting Season 3 publicized. The materials are open license, and we encourage community organizations and departments of health to use them.
CC: We're not sure when Season 4 will come out. We'd like to see the relationship between AJ and Richard evolve into something serious. But we probably also would create some kind of love interest for Andrew too.