Few people can tap into the gay South like Del Shores.
Whether through his cult classic film Sordid Lives (which spawned a series on Logo) or newer productions like his Southern Baptist Sissies play or Blues for Willadeen film, Shores has been keeping busy with projects that feel familiar to plenty of his Atlanta fans.
David Atlanta caught up with the charming (and as you can see, quite verbose) Mr. Shores earlier this month to discuss his busy career, future plans, and when audiences may get to see a return to the realm of Sordid Lives.
In the last few years, you’ve kept busy, career-wise. You’ve produced a couple of one-man shows; directed a film, Blues for Willadeen, based on one of your plays, The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer-Trash Housewife—which is quite a mouthful to say, by the way…
It is, it’s a big one. Thus the change for the film. (Laughs) They beat me down and got me to change the title. But yeah, I shot it right there in Atlanta. Such a good time there in your finest trailer courts.
So I have to ask: how do you maintain such a busy creative pace? You have so much going on. How do you do it all?
You know what: I try to sleep. I was going to answer with something silly like drugs or whatever, which is not true—I try to live a pretty clean life. So sleep, and when I’m performing, I don’t drink too much. Those two things, and I exercise. And I make a lot of lists. It really helps me organize my day, to make lists and just check them off and figure it all out. You know, you can get a lot done. And I absolutely have an amazing team around me. I have great producing partners.
We also just filmed the play Southern Baptist Sissies, which I think will be an incredible piece for many, many people. I just blocked the picture, and it’s got a crazy-great cast: Dale Dickey’s back with me, Leslie Jordan, Ann Walker, or Miss LaVonda in Sordid Lives, and Dr. Eve, Rosemary Alexander.
You know, that play did very well. It actually had a wonderful production in Atlanta. But with the time and what’s going on politically, we’re seeing so much progress with equality, but in that, we’re seeing a response from the Religious Right. It felt like we had to film it, and I’ve staged it here in L.A. It’s been completely financed by an Indiegogo campaign, and it’s so beautiful. I’m very, very pleased with it. It’s emotional, it’s funny, and…we can’t make any big announcements yet, but we have several film festivals that have asked us to be [present]. I’m excited to share that as well.
You balance between the one-man shows and ensembles. What is it like bouncing back and forth between those two very different types of projects? With one, you more or less have free rein, and with the other, you have to collaborate with others in some form.
Yeah, you do have to relinquish some of the control. As you may suspect, I have a controlling aspect to my personality. I guess that’s why I direct, write and produce. But I have such a great team with Emerson Collins, who’s also the star of Southern Baptist Sissies and my producing partner. He’s fantastic. He started with me as an actor and then I saw how smart he was. I surround myself in a collaborative way with people who I trust, with people who are talented. I love the actors. I’m at my best, I feel, when I’m directing material I’ve written, and I like being behind the scenes.
And then there’s that little gift that happened a few years ago, where I stepped on stage again. There’s nothing wrong with being adored. (Laughs) It’s such a rush to be up there with a mic and no rules, you know. You can just say…well, I sort of subscribe to how old Southern women get. I just say whatever the fuck comes out of my mouth, you know? (Laughs) And I’m just having such a good time.
My God, I had such a great show in Atlanta. One of the highlights of my tour last year. I love my Atlanta peeps; those fans are big fans down there. They come out and support. It’s just fun. I can be political. I can be bawdy and say something that’s—maybe poignant. I guess that’s a matter of opinion. And I feel like with my work, like with Southern Baptist Sissies or Blues for Willadeen, I can certainly tackle some big subjects and put them into capable hands of actors like Beth Grant, Dale Dickey, Leslie Jordan and Octavia Spencer. I’m pretty taken care of [with] those characters.
We’ve seen Sordid Lives as both a film and a TV series. Is there any chance you’ll be returning to that world in the future?
It’s on our slate. I formed a production company last year. My other producing partner is Louise Beard from Birmingham, and she produced my play Yellow with me out here. She’s got a Tony nomination—she produced the Broadway show A Christmas Story, and got a Tony nomination.
But our whole philosophy was to tell stories and shoot stories that were less expensive to make, and also embrace the fan base that we have, especially with the Sordid franchise. I’ve worked really hard in the last year to get the rights to do that. You are actually the first interview I have done since this happened, where I am free and clear to make another movie or two. We can’t do another series, but I do have the movie rights back, and I’m very excited about that.
So yeah, now I just have to figure out how to take y’all on another sordid journey with these characters. We all love each other—the actors and myself—so we love the franchise, we love going back to Sordid. So I think most of them will come back. And if not, I’ll replace them like I did in the series. If someone doesn’t come back, the character still lives. But I think I’ll get most of them back.
Beyond Sordid Lives, what’s next for you?
Well, of course I want to support Sissies through the festival runs. I’m writing a new movie with Leslie Jordan called The Happy Holloways. It’s a mockumentary about this crazy gospel-singing family group that’s on its last toenail of fame, and it’s really hysterical. I’m having such a good time working on it with Mr. Jordan. He has more talent per inch than anybody, I think, that works in our industry. And Atlanta sure loves him—and Swinging Richards. The boys at Swinging Richards love Leslie Jordan.
So those are the two new things that are coming up. I just filmed my show that I did in Atlanta, Naked. Sordid. Reality. I’ll be editing that as well. And I’m developing a new TV show that I’m working on, and…lots of stuff, as you said. I stay busy. It helps me.
You know, I’m single again, so there’s some effort—I shouldn’t say effort, but that takes some time. You know, trying to figure that out at age 55. It’s all good. I’m happy. I wake up happy these days—I do.