Matt Rogers, who writes for and plays the role of Twink in Netflix's animated comedy "Q-Force," said the writers were nearly halfway through the 10-episode season when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the production to go virtual. Photo courtesy of Alex Schaefer
Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Matt Rogers, who writes for and stars in the animated spy comedy, Q-Force, said he initially joined the Netflix series as a writer and ended up in the cast "by accident."
The show, which lands Thursday on Netflix, follows a team of LGBTQ agents who work for the fictional American Intelligence Agency, or AIA.
Rogers, 31, plays Twink, a "master of disguise" recruited by agent Steve "Mary" Maryweather (Sean Hayes) to work in West Hollywood alongside tech genius Deb (Wanda Sykes), master hacker Stat (Patti Harrison) and heterosexual tough guy Rick Buck (David Harbour).
Rogers said Twink stood out to him even before he ended up playing the role.
"Immediately, the character of Twink really jumped out to me as someone whom I was really excited about because I loved that he was a drag queen by day and a master of disguise by night. He could really become anything," Rogers told UPI in a recent interview.
Rogers said he saw a lot of himself in the character.
"I loved his jokes, I loved his pop culture IQ. I loved that he was unfiltered and said whatever it was that he wanted to say, whether or not it was called for. I loved how sex positive he was.I loved everything about him."
The producers asked Rogers to read for the role of Twink at the first table read after not finding what they needed in audition tapes from other actors.
The performer, who previously provided multiple voices for Showtime's Our Cartoon President, said he tried his best to "perform Twink like how I heard him in my brain."
"After the table read, they all came out of their meeting and said they wanted to offer me the role. So that was how it happened, really by accident," he said.
The dual roles of writer and actor gave Rogers the confidence to improvise some of Twink's lines in the recording booth.
"I'll give several takes of the lines as is, and then sort of 'pop off,' as they say," he said. "In the final edits of the episodes, it's probably like 95% stuff that was already in the script, and then every now and then I will hear something where I'm like, 'Oh yeah, that was one of my improvs.'"
The Q-Force writers were less than halfway through the 10-episode season when their efforts were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I had just written my episode of the show, which is the fourth episode, and then the pandemic hit. So we didn't even actually have a table read for that episode. We went virtual," Rogers said.
The final six episodes were "written during COVID times," and the actors then recorded all of their lines from makeshift voiceover booths set up in their homes.
"So, [for] all of the voices you hear in the show, you can know the actors were doing them from their homes, and it's kind of amazing and says a lot about movie magic that they could make it sound so good," he said.
The first season of Q-Force features a number of serialized elements, including the secret history of the AIA under director Dirk Chunley (Gary Cole) and the mysterious past of Q-Force's AIA liaison, V (Laurie Metcalf). Rogers said the "narrative, serialized season" allowed the writers to plant seeds early on for larger reveals down the road.
"For example, when we decided who the main antagonist of the show was going to be, we were so excited, and I don't think anyone will see it coming," Rogers said, hinting at one of the season's big mysteries.
Rogers said Gabe Liebman, whose previous credits include Transparent, Pen 15 and Broad City, deserves great credit for the show's incorporating storytelling elements that are usually more associated with dramatic shows.
He said the writers were aware they could have made the show "a stock, recyclable, episode-to-episode thing, but it's just so fun when you can actually tell a spy thriller story, and I think we succeeded in doing that.
"It doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet I think it's going to surprise people by how tight it's constructed."
The serialized elements, working in tandem with the show's oft-satirical point of view, allowed the writers to take a more critical eye to the AIA and the real-life U.S. government, while still having their characters employed by the organization.
"I think there is a really great message about speaking truth to power," Rogers said.
"I also think that, it being a queer show, that maps even more aptly onto the experience of being a spy, because it's all about realizing that you actually do have the power to stand up for what's right if you just strengthen and steel yourself and your identity and know that your moral compass points true north," he said.
Rogers said nothing was off-limits to the show's satirical eye.
"We do make a lot of jokes at the expense of institutions that are major, and I think that people will see the messages are pretty clear in terms of where we stand [about] corporate America, and oftentimes the way politics shakes out," he said.
Not 'gay James Bond'
The writers of Q-Force worked to ensure their show stands apart from others that center LGBT characters.
"I think that, in a lot of prior queer shows, you see them feel the need to educate or instruct the audience in what queer life is, or what our points of view are, and this show does not do that," he said.
Rogers said the show's "predominantly queer" creative team sought to use their experiences to tell the stories of the titular team.
"I can see people looking at this show and being like, 'It's gay James Bond,' but that's actually not true, this is Q-Force, this is a queer team of people, we have all different voices in the queer community coming together to help each other solve missions and save the world."
He said the dynamic between the characters echoes his experiences.
"When I think about my friendships, and I think about my community it's just a bunch of different people coming together to make things happen, to get things done and to support each other," he said.
Another factor that sets the show apart from some other programs is its attitude toward sex, Rogers said.
"We're not afraid of gay sex on the show," he said, citing "the way that a lot of other gay shows take episodes and episodes or hours and hours to get to the gay sex because it's something straight audiences wouldn't be used to."
Rogers stressed that the show is "not stopping to hold the hands of any straight people that are watching -- although they are welcome to watch and enjoy it."
Q-Force is streaming on Netflix.