We’re obsessed with this new queer series, all about the friendships and relationships that shape us
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS
Lockdown number two is tough. Not being able to see your friends, coupled with the darker and colder evenings full of boredom doesn’t leave you feeling great. Stumbling across ANNE+, a hugely underrated dutch TV series, felt like a lifeline in this lonely time.
Anne is a lesbian – the “+” in the title refers to women she enters into relationships with and the friends in her life. The show is all about Anne’s turbulent love life and how the diverse group of girls she’s dated have contributed to who she is today.
Based in Amsterdam, we watch Anne navigate adult life and it’s the most relatable show I’ve seen in ages. I saw so much of myself in Anne’s struggles and the way she interacts with her friends – I almost felt like I was a part of her friendship group, too. It’s funny, it’s refreshingly upbeat, and it accurately depicts the diversity within the LGBTQI community today. Am I praying for a third series? You bet I am.
We caught up with writer and creator Maud Wiemeijer, creator and director Valerie Bisscheroux (with a few interruptions from her cat which I’m not complaining about) and co-creator Hanna van Vliet, who plays Anne, to find out more.
DIVA: How did the idea for ANNE+ come about?
MAUD: I met Valerie back in 2015 in a gay club. We started talking about TV and film and how there wasn’t enough representation of lesbian and queer characters. We knew we both wanted to change that. A few months later I came up with the idea for ANNE+ and I went straight to Valerie with it. We started working immediately and Valerie knew Hanna beforehand so we asked her to join us. That’s how it all started and later on Millstreet Films got involved.
How did you find the process of working together?
VALERIE: It worked very well. It was my first project as a director and Maud’s first project as a writer. We had to find the right energy of the series and our style together. It took took a while to develop everything and to make sure that it was going to happen because we were working on a voluntary basis so everything was very slow in the beginning.
HANNA: The fact that it was on a voluntary basis, in the beginning, made it such a special ambiance to work in. Everyone was doing it because they loved the idea and thought it was important.
How was the casting process? I read that a lot of the cast members are your friends.
VALERIE: Hanna was on board from the beginning. Then we started talking about the other characters and we knew a lot of actors our age. In the beginning, we asked friends and later on used a casting agency to fill the other roles. We were searching for other queer actors who thought it was an important project to do because we had to ask them to do it for free.
Was it really important to you to make sure there were plenty of genuinely queer actors playing these roles?
HANNA: The cast wasn’t 100% queer but it was important to us that there was a big percentage.
VALERIE: I think the way queer actors can relate to a queer role adds to the energy of the series. It creates nuanced and realistic characters. Also, it’s all about representation. On screen as well as behind the scenes, we want a queer team to represent the stories we tell together.
HANNA: We really tried to hold onto the initial ambiance when we made the second season because the first season was made without that much money. It was a challenge to make sure the same vibe would be in the series and on set as well when we had an actual budget.
How much of the show is based on real life?
MAUD: We talked a lot about our own experiences, the way we talk, the things that are going on in our lives. We wanted to make stories that were really relatable. We didn’t want to write stories just about gay problems, but about millennial problems. There’s a lot of our own experiences in there, but not exactly the same things. It’s just our our world.
Hanna, do you see similarities between Anne and yourself? Or would you say you’re quite to different to her?
HANNA: Of course, in the sense that the places she goes to are to places I go to. A lot of the places where we shot are queer spaces I love. I also relate to the way she interacts with her friends and the humour they have together – because a lot of the actors are my friends! But she is a character. It’s not me, luckily. She does create a lot of problems for herself.
Were you conscious of showing Anne’s flaws as well as her good parts?
HANNA: It was important to make a character that has many different aspects, just like normal females in the world. There’s lots of different female characters that we see next to each other who each portray something new. That’s important to us besides the queerness, we’re also female filmmakers who like to see like nuanced female characters.
VALERIE: Female characters are always about perfection in their looks and their behaviour, and I think it’s a new way of showing female characters. Anne can be annoying and that makes her a well rounded character.
MAUD: It’s what makes her interesting, she’s human! We all recognise ourselves in some of the stupid things she says, or the stupid decisions she makes, or thoughts she has.
Is that really what the queer scene is like in Amsterdam? It seems pretty close-knit.
HANNA: I think it’s quite a small community and you see the same faces at every lesbian party you go to. But there’s lots of different communities as well. We are three white queer women, but there’s definitely other communities too.
MAUD: I think there are different communities within the queer community. There are also queer people that don’t necessarily want to be part of the whole community. It’s fun, but you really do keep meeting the same people.
Is there a big queer following for the show online?
MAUD: That’s where I think it all started. When we came up with ANNE+ we knew we wanted to create a big audience so we immediately made an Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube channel, and it keeps growing. There’s a real loyal community on Instagram that talks to us and engages with us.
What were the reactions like when you put the show out initially?
VALERIE: It obviously took a while in between starting the whole social media campaign and premiering the first season. It was actually quite interesting to see what would happen and if people would actually see the show because we made so many promises, but we didn’t know if anyone would actually like it.
MAUD: It’s also really cool that we had two huge premieres which doesn’t always happen for TV shows. The first premiere was during the Dutch Film Festival which is the main film festival here. Then we had the premiere this year, right before Coronavirus hit the world. We had it in one of the main movie theatres here which gave fans the opportunity to actually watch it together with us and talk to us.
What elements that you like in other TV shows did you want to bring to ANNE+?
MAUD: Queerness and authenticity. I think it helps that this queer show was made by queer filmmakers, that’s very important if you tell queer stories. That’s what we wanted.
VALERIE: I like to see progress in a series. It’s important to show the darker side of being queer and not to deny the problems. It’s also refreshing to see another side of it because I think a lot of queer people already have the negative side in their lives and it’s important to see some characters who are living their lives happily and to the fullest. ANNE+ does that and it makes it very refreshing.