The Cast of "The Cavanaughs" (left to right):
Ryan Kibby, Adrian Morales, Kevin Makely, Matt Trbovich
Ginger Snappz, Percy Rustomji, Cwennen Corral, Grant Landry,
Deborah Phillips, Nathaniel Vincent and Amanda Broadwell.
Not Pictured: Daniel Rhyder and Camille Bennett Wilson.
“THE CAVANAUGHS” Treads Fearlessly into Difficult
but Important Territory
by Terrence Moss
November 30, 2011
“It’s a social issue that needs to be discussed,” says Cavanaughs producer and writer Adrian Morales, who also plays the character of Bryan in the dramatic web series that is currently in the middle of its third season.
The Cavanaughs takes place behind-the-scenes of a now-successful television show where the cast and crew have not only become friends but also a family.
The program, which frequently tops the Indie Soap of the Week polls conducted by the website We Love Soaps, took a midseason break and returns on December 1 for the final five episodes of the season.
Before the break, it looked as if Charley, had slipped off a rooftop during a suicide attempt. Charley had just been outed as a lesbian by a gossip site and rejected by the parents whose approval she so desperately wanted.
It was also revealed earlier in the season that the deceased Shea (played by Mike Lamar in season one before Kibby took over the role starting with season two), who was terminally ill, had also taken his own life – aided by his lover Bryan.
I met with Adrian, Deborah Phillips (who plays Charley) and Ryan “Doctor Nice Eyes” Kibby (who plays Shea) at Eleven Bar in West Hollywood to discuss this season's TWO suicide subplots.
Shea (Ryan Kibby) and Bryan (Adrian Morales)
“The storyline is based on a close person who did commit suicide,” Adrian explains when asked about having two characters involved in two different suicide storylines concurrently. “I want to tell a variation of what happened to him and how something like that can affect a lot of people.”
“It was intense,” Deborah recalls. “I didn’t go to bed all night. I was crying all the way to the set the next morning. That’s a heavy thing. It’s very serious.”
“Charley and Shea are really close friends in this series,” Ryan adds. “You have the two characters – someone has a terminal illness and someone who has an emotional crisis because of the rejection of her parents. Those are really strong things that can lead to suicide.”
Prior to being outed, Bryan had just told Charley that Shea’s death was actually a suicide. It begged the question as to how, with this knowledge, she could still even contemplate taking her own life.
Charley (Deborah Phillips)
“There’s a lot going on with Charley,” Deborah notes. “You see people make mistakes and you’re like, ‘I’d never do that.’ But then you’re now in a situation…you feel like there’s nowhere else to turn especially because of the issue with her family not accepting who she is and she’s doing this all for them.”
“Charley was so overwhelmed that her family banished her that she forgot she had friends around her.” Adrian piggy-backs.
Now that the show within the show, also called The Cavanaughs, has become a big hit, Deborah also points to the pressures of Hollywood as to why Bryan and Justin may not have been enough to talk Charley down. “This isn’t a normal industry. It’s not like someone at school said, ‘By the way, guess who came out.’ This is the entertainment business so that escalated it times a million.”
Ryan feels that Charley didn’t accept herself, to which Adrian concurs. He goes on to say that she was imprisoned by society, her family and her parents. Deborah adds Hollywood as another prison. Then Ryan also notes that she was outed on the internet (which is never a good thing) and felt rejection from all angles.
Charley's situation is different than that of Shea's, who was terminally ill. Does that make his suicide justifiable in any way? Ryan answers with great delicacy.
“It’s definitely a scary thing to deal with…you know you’re going to die. You have that looming over you. Then you see everyone around you having fear for you. That’s a lot to put on somebody. It’s a lot of gray area.”
“There’s no right answer,” Adrian adds. “That’s why I’m putting the story out there – so people can think about it.”
“As an actor, it is our job to really go there. I found that was really difficult. I personally can’t relate to that. With teenagers it runs through their minds because kids are cruel and you think that’s your world and that’s your life and that’s where you plateau but life actually begins after that.”
“It’s completely conflicting,” Ryan continues before settling on an answer. “[But] it’s not justifiable by any means.”
Adrian takes it further. “That’s why it’s really important there’s stuff like the Trevor Project. I’m so glad it’s there. It gives people a place to go. In his mind, [Shea] was so down that he forgot there were other people out there he could talk to. Just like with Charley. Charley forgot she had friends around her.”
“It is a family,” Deborah says.
“The entire Cavanaughs story is about these friends who actually create a family,” Adrian states as he relates the series to his own experience. “I found moving to LA that I had a family but my true family is actually the friends I’ve created around me.”
“You have Thanksgiving but maybe you don’t have money to afford the plane ticket,” Ryan points out. “Or you’re in some city and you don’t have too much family around if you’re pursuing something creative. Then you’ll have Thanksgiving with friends.”
Adrian purposed The Cavanaughs in memory of the friend who committed suicide. “Maybe what he did is not in vain. Maybe there is some good that can come out of it. Maybe it can have an outcome to where we can tell someone that there is a place you can go to. There is always another way.”
Ryan offers his own take. “It comes down to human relationships. Have good relationships with people. If you feel depressed, there are other things. Music helped me get through a lot of things. There are so many things out there. There are different levels of issues but the way you deal with it, it’s so personal.”
“We all have our own personal ways that work,” Deborah reasons.
Both Adrian and Ryan pointed to finding your passion in life. “When you find your passion in life, you’re giving back. You’re helping inspire other people,” Adrian says.
This is why Adrian and I write.
A lot of people have thoughts of suicide. For me it was as early as the age of ten. I didn’t know what it was all about but I heard about it and it sounded good to me at the time.
But I was saved twice – by a middle school teacher and then a high school teacher who saw more in me than I saw in myself. Both pulled out and heavily utilized what they saw.
When I have such thoughts, I think about how devastated my mother would be sitting in the front row at my memorial service.
For Adrian, it’s the people he’s met, his mentors and the stuff he does in life that keep him going. He also believes in spirits. And when he gets really, really down, they speak to him.
It’s all easy to say, it’s hard to do because life itself is hard. But as Deborah concluded after relating her story of how a strong faith inherited from her mother got her through some very trying times and allowed her to now have a much better life…
“You never know where life is going to take you.”
• The Trevor Project Lifeline is 866-488-7386 or you can log onto www.trevorproject.org
• For more information on The It Gets Better Project, log onto www.itgetsbetter.org
• "The Cavanaughs" returns on December 1 for the final five episodes of its third season with an improvisational character piece
• You can find The Cavanaughs on Facebook and Twitter (@The_Cavanaughs)
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