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“It felt so important to highlight the complexity of queer life” – Creator and Star William Spetz on Tore

6 min read

This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

is home to several Nordic series and now show joins the lineup. This isn't your typical crime noir, however, as Tore is a comedy drama offering an all-too-real look into grief and finding yourself. You can read up on why FILMHOUNDS found the show to be “funny, creative, and heart-wrenching”, but we also had a chat with Tore himself, .

The 27 year old doesn't just star as the titular lead, as Spetz is also credited as the creator and writer of the six episode series. We talk to him about running a Netflix show at such a young age, but also Tore's queer representation and injecting the show with his personal outlook on life.

The thing that really kind of caught me off guard is just how devastating the show is. How much of a challenge was it for you to make sure that it didn't veer into being too dark for six whole episodes?

When I wrote it, and then when I played Tore, it was important for me to think it's not about grieving, it's a show about non-grieving. It's a show about refusing and resistance, and also what love does to you; the euphoric moments when you have your first love or when you meet new friends. I think when you're in a crisis, and in a traumatic mode, you're more open to falling into these new relationships and at the same time [you're] running away from something. For me at least, those things have coexisted when I have been in grief. When I lost a person really close to me, that was also the same time I had my first experience of falling in love and I remember how strange that was. How can I be in so much pain and at the same time, be obsessed with this person who I just want to do everything for? And I felt like that coexistence was really interesting. And that's what I thought about for the inspiration of the show, that these life experiences can coexist with the darkest moments, and it's not one thing or another.

Tore is the same age as you, so do you find that there are a lot of similarities, personality-wise, between yourself and the character?

Yeah, I think I'm a real comfort junkie. If I hadn't had acting and that passion, I sure as hell would be living with my dad still. I am not obsessed with doing new things, I'm always rewatching old shows and not watching new ones. I love safety and comfort. So I have that in common with Tore, but also I identify with [how] it's really uncomfortable to sit with your pain. I interviewed a psychologist about trauma when I wrote the scripts, and he talked a lot about this is how humans behave, this is what we as humans do because we're not really made for talking about what feels uncomfortable and being with our sorrow and our grief and our pain. Every time we take out our cell phones and start scrolling on Instagram, that's a way of running away. And then Tore is doing it in a much bigger and physical way. But we all hate sitting with our pain. And I feel like that running, that constant discomfort and dwelling into something else because I don't want to deal with my life, I feel like there's so much comedy in that and it's also pretty sad. So I took those parts of my life and injected it into the story.

William Spetz as Tore and director Erika Calmeyer crowd round a monitor.

You're 27 years old and you've written and starred in your own Netflix show, which is an incredible feat in itself, but because of your age, did you feel any additional pressure?

I was scared as hell. I'm a really nervous person in general so this is almost too much to bear and I dealt with a lot of denial, ironically enough, during this process. I've had to block out [that] people are gonna watch this, people are gonna say it's good or it's bad. All those things, you can't think about that when you're in that process and you can't think about that when you're on set and doing a difficult thing. You have to risk it, and you have to risk being shitty and bad because it's in that risk-taking that something can happen. It's been really nerve-wracking and I'm scared shitless, but I'm also really grateful because this is what I've always wanted to do. Since I was five years old, I took my mom's camcorder and made videos on YouTube as a teenager, and this is what I've always wanted. So there's a lot of gratitude in that, however it goes, and if no one sees it it's really out of my control. I don't want to go through this experience and let the result or the reactions define it for me, because holy shit, it actually happened. It actually happened. So I won't lose that gratitude but yes, I'm really scared.

One of the elements which it feels like a real core to the show is the look into the LGBTQ+ community. You've got these amazing characters like Shady Meat, and Tore himself and Viggo who are not exactly perfect people. Being part of the queer community myself, I think that shows have a responsibility in representation as we still have prejudices today. With a queer character that is morally bad, will it have a real world effect with audiences looking at them and taking away the wrong thing? For you then, was there any kind of worry or pressure when putting your cast in that light?

For me, it felt so important to highlight the complexity of queer life and queer characters. I feel like in the beginning, queer representation was a joke or something like a funny punchline. In these modern times, sometimes we can tap into the complete opposite, that we need to almost romanticise the queer experience because we want to make sure that everybody loves those characters. But I feel like the next step of that, the coming out evolution, is to show that we as queer people are exactly as flawed and complicated and messy as everybody else. And the queer life can be a beautiful world, with new friends and beautiful relationships. And it can be a pretty harsh, dark world where there's a lot of drugs, and there's a lot of complicated sex. In the male gay community, I feel like there's this macho culture element, that sex is supposed to be pretty rough, and you're not supposed to talk. And those things can lead to the encounter with Viggo and Tore, where they fall into these stereotypical positions and they feel like they need to be a part of this stereotype. I wanted to mess us up and show that we're both weak. We're everything that non-queer people are because I feel like that's the next step of where we are [going].

Carlos Romero Cruz as Shady Meat, director Erika Calmeyer and William Spetz as Tore in a club scene.

There's definitely space and time for that overwhelmingly positive experience, look at series like Heartstopper and Sex Education. But we need that real three-dimensional look as well.

We need everything. And I love those shows you mentioned, I love those shows. So it's more about having every part of the spectrum, as well as the straight culture.

Is there anything that you ultimately want audiences to take away from watching the show?

I just want somebody to watch this show (laughs). I am so nervous that no one's going to find it. So if people push play, and watch it, I will be the happiest guy on earth and they can take with them whatever they want. I feel like there's something really universal with the queer experience, because the queer experience is ultimately like a heightened version of finding who you are, wanting to be loved and accepted, and maybe falling for someone that doesn't fall for you back. And I feel like you don't have to be queer to identify with that. So hopefully people don't exclude this from their list because “oh, I don't like that kind of show.” I just hope people give it a chance. I'll just be happy they watched.

Tore is available to stream on Netflix from October 27.