The BFG Interview: Brandon Alexander III

It’s Pride month, so let’s revisit ‘First Period,’ a Pride cult classic, with the man who wrote it

It’s Pride month, and it’s time for you to see a Pride cult classic. First Period (2013) is a ridiculous riot of ’80s teen tropes, from jocks, mean girls, and giant colorful hoop earrings. There’s the mandatory pool party, a teacher who sucks up to the cool crowd, and a talent show that shows the school true values. But there are so many delicious twists, such as Judy Tenuta playing a psychic, a rap battle with insanely original lyrics, and the two female leads are played by two actors in drag.

Actor Brandon Alexander III wrote this delightful concoction, which you can stream on Amazon or on a variety of channels that look like obscure Scrabble words (Roku, Vudu, Tubi). Alexander spoke about his movie and his role as Cassie, the indelible rocking superstar extraordinaire of the show.

Brandon Alexander.

How did this movie get made?

Dudley Beene, who plays Maggie, actually approached me about making it into a feature film. I had originally written First Period as a short film called “Becoming A Woman” and it was a parody of Lifetime movies. I was in a play with Dudley who I thought was very, very talented and asked him to be in the short film. I was new to the film industry at the time so it never got made, but Dudley approached me a year or two later, asking me to turn the script into a feature. I asked him if he had the money to produce it. He said he’d find it. I just wrote a whole new feature script and we made it. It was a lot of work and we were very new inexperienced filmmakers, but I am so grateful for everything that film taught us.

How did Cassie come to life? When did you create her?

Usually in teen girl movies, the main character is always some cute girl with self-esteem issues who thinks she’s an outcast or a freak. I never understood why, because I always loved those characters and thought they were dope. I wanted to make the opposite, a girl with too much self-esteem and personality who thought she was naturally popular and someone who belonged on the inside. I feel like that’s the way it should be. Weirdos are cool.

How much of her is you?

Mostly just the body. Personality-wise, I’m way more introverted than her. I’d love to have her impenetrable confidence but alas, I’m human and social media still exists. Our humor and positive outlook are the same, though.

How did you create her signature line, “Totally rocking superstar extraordinaire–you’re welcome”?

Honestly, I don’t know. It just kind of happened. She seemed like the kind of girl that would have her own catchphrase that she made up and thought anyone meeting her was now a fan, so she should do what all gracious celebrities do when meeting a fan: accept their gratitude.

What accounts for Cassie’s wonderful confidence?

There’s actually a scene in the movie between Cassie and Dirk in her bedroom where she explains why she is so confident. It’s something about putting the real you out there and eventually you’ll find people that respond to it. Which is what people should do in life, in my personal opinion. You just gotta find your tribe and be confident in the person that you are. If people aren’t into it, then those people aren’t your people. Find different people.

Did you write the nightmarish child’s nursery rhyme? (Sample line: When girls get hairy, they want to marry…)

Sure did! All nursery rhymes are nightmarish if you read into them enough.

Who wrote Maggie’s incredible rap songs?

Dudley Beene, who played Maggie and is the Executive Producer of the film, wanted to write his own lyrics for Maggie’s performances.

How did you get Judy Tenuta? A brilliant casting move.

I knew Judy and wrote the part specifically for her. I think she is so funny, love her characters and her standup and she is such an 80’s icon. I had to have her in this. I had produced a short film with another character of hers called “Slutvinka” and she is just so much fun to work with.

There’s a moment like that when Cassie confides to Dirk, “It’s hard having to constantly remind yourself that you’re special when no one else seems to think so.” Please elaborate on that scene.

Yeah, that’s the scene I was talking about before!!! One thing I love about movies is when they mix genres. I wanted to do a funny nonsense movie but mix in a little bit of realism and self-esteem issues is a real thing people deal with. Cassie is supposed to be a completely super confident person, but even confident people have doubts. That’s what I wanted to show in that scene. Sometimes you’re the only person rooting for you, and sometimes that’s gotta be enough. That’s how I got through a lot of my own personal issues with depression and low self-esteem. It’s so easy to give up and be a victim and stop trying, but life is so much better when you’re obnoxiously enjoying it and knowing you’re the star of the show.

What inspired you to write a movie for men dressed as women?

Mainly “Kids in the Hall” and “Strangers with Candy.” Amy Sedaris is my Queen! But I loved that in “Kids in The Hall,” they’d do characters as women but men playing them. But they’d still just be women characters. I wanted to do that for this. Obviously, I was going to write myself into it, but it was going to be about two female girls. I just had to make sure that everyone knew that these characters were girls and not men in drag. Everyone seemed to get the concept right away thanks to “Kids in the Hall.”

I also didn’t want anyone to think I was making fun of women. so it was important that people understand that this is a parody movie and they’re all characters. So men dressed as women playing characters kind of gives the audiences the heads up not to take it too seriously. I just wanted to make people laugh and hopefully not be too offended. I’m also a gay man and doing drag is kind of a part of our history so I figured why not! Thankfully we had a professional make-up artist and costume coordinator because I didn’t know how to do any of it!

Where do you think Cassie and Maggie are now?

That’s a great question! I like to think Maggie tried out her rapping career but was kicked out of the industry for poisoning her competition. She bought Madame Mulva’s psychic shop with the money from her first album and lives quietly with her two cats: Murder and Mittens. Cassie probably got really good at selling makeup and became a teen model for Walmart and insurance ads. Bought a lingerie shop right next to Maggie’s psychic store and settled down with lesbian mechanic named Chris. But who knows?

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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