As the world evolves, so do the people in it. People are slowly beginning to unlearn problematic notions that once caused political unrest among different communities. Yet, despite the progress, there’s still a long way to go before the Philippines becomes a wholly-inclusive country for every community.
In some instances, persons with disabilities (PWDs) have trouble accessing some of the essentials without asking for assistance. They are also victims of prejudice from those who don’t understand their conditions. Even the LGBTQIA+ community experiences this lack of accessibility and acceptance from society.
So how can someone raise awareness about the struggles of marginalized communities to make the general public understand that there’s still much to be done?
The answer, for Samantha Lee, lies in using her abilities as a director and writer. Lee is known for making queer films like Billie and Emma and Baka Bukas. This time, she created a series that trains the spotlight on the challenges of the PWD and LGBTQIA+ communities by inserting their experiences into a romantic drama.
Her series, Sleep With Me, stars Lovi Poe and Janine Gutierrez in the lead roles. They both play characters who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community and with disabilities of their own. Harry (Janine) is a radio DJ who needs a wheelchair, while her crush Luna (Lovi) suffers from a sleep disorder.
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community herself, Lee is aware of the need for proper representation of marginalized people. Apart from Lovi and Janine, the crew and team behind Sleep With Me are women or members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Still, she needed Lovi and Janine to take on the lead roles because of the scope and impact of their platform.
The series premiered at the Outfest LGBTQ+ Film Festival in Los Angeles, where it bagged the Audience Award for Best Episodic.
In playing their roles, Lovi and Janine were comfortable enough with each other to do the intimate scenes. Lee ensured that their romantic scenes were raw and vulnerable for viewers to relate to the laughter, banter, and other usual occurrences when people explore their relationship deeper.
However, it was a different scenario for the duo when preparing for their character’s disabilities.
Janine frequently kept her wheelchair with her to practice accurately portraying a physically disabled individual. She watches YouTube videos to get the nuances of using a wheelchair, from swiveling to moving the bed. Eventually, Janine realized the fact that the Philippines isn’t PWD-friendly. When she brought her wheelchair to her hotel room, she found it hard to fit it into the space.
On the other hand, Lovi learned from articles Lee sent her about a rare sleeping disorder. Her character feels lonely because her condition keeps her awake through the night and asleep during the day. Lovi shared that since people can’t see Luna’s disability, they judge her as a party animal and other similar prejudices instead of considering other factors.
With their well-researched portrayal, Janine and Lovi make Sleep With Me a relatable romantic six-part series that tackles the struggles of marginalized communities in modern society.
Sleep With Me will premiere on iWantTFC on August 15.