Bisexual people tend to be an observant breed — whether it’s in the behaviors of others or in tracking their own journey of self-discovery. And nobody knows that better than Gabrielle Reublin, creator/performer of the queer web series Metanoia, which is turning heads on both YouTube and Vimeo. But there is much more to this artist than her gripping college drama.
Recently Reublin sat down with me for a COVID-safe (AKA Zoom) interview* to discuss the importance of diversity in production, how to stoke creativity during a pandemic, and to drop a fun announcement.
JENNIE ROBERSON: How did you come to identify as bi?
Gabrielle Reublin: It wasn't something where I necessarily grew up knowing; I thought I was no different than anyone else. I thought that everyone felt this way about women and girls. I look back at how I was back then and think — I was not naive, I was just so innocent. I really had no idea. But growing up, I wasn't really interested in boys. That definitely set me apart from a lot of my peers who were, like, really boy crazy, especially going through puberty. So people always would call me a lesbian — not in a mean way, just joking about it.
And it never really occurred to me that I was any different, per se, until I had a friend in high school who was just, you know, loving and supportive of me. And [she] was like, “Well, you don't have to necessarily be a lesbian. You can be any of these other things.” And she would send me a graph of all the other sexualities.
I was like, “Wait, what? I never knew this.” Which is really funny because I was so unaware of that. That really helped me. I was like, “Oh, okay. Then this makes more sense…” I realized, Oh yeah, I think I'm probably bisexual.
Yeah. It's so funny how much we're forced to grow up in a binary form of thinking. And how so often — especially with the internet — we see that there are other ways of living or other ways of realizing who we are.
GR: But also, I think that even though I grew up with the internet that I was so unaware of that. I'm sure I’d heard of it — I just wasn't completely educated on it.
That makes sense. So how do you see yourself as an artist, and how does being bi fold into that?
GR: Well, I consider myself a performer/artist in many ways because I'm interested in so many things under the umbrella. I'm an actor, I'm a singer, I'm a dancer. But then I also love production. So obviously, I like writing and directing, and I really believe in creating your own content — things that you might not see with on-screen representation, you can do it yourself. There are no limits. So I always was interested in creating my own content. I don't consider [myself to be] one thing.
I didn’t really consider myself a writer before this [project]. I just remember in high school one time having this idea for Metanoia, and thought, Well, maybe I could just write this down privately and not create anything. So I wrote this little short script, which was a version of the pilot episode. And then, obviously, many things happened and developed it into what it is today.
But I think being and having so many resources to create your own content, that's something I want to take advantage of. And that's where I see myself — not just an actor or a performer on stage or in front of the camera, but also writing and creating content behind the scenes. So that's my goal in the future — to perform and be an actor, but also have a life in production as well.
I understand. I'm an actress and a writer myself, so I’ve produced my own projects as well. And it's interesting how, because of the fact that I am bi, that can filter into diversifying how I work. It's fascinating to hear another creator reflect that [mode of thinking].
GR: It helps to create more complex storylines and definitely work with other creators similar to me as well.
What has your experience been like being out as a bi artist?
GR: Well, it's kind of interesting because I really consider Metanoia as me coming out. It's still something that I don't really talk about a lot. I just use Metanoia to speak for me. So this has really been a big hurdle in my process of coming out.
I remember when I started, it was just a short film that I did for a film class. We had to bring in a script and pitch it. And I remember thinking, I had this idea from when I wrote it back in high school — should I bring that in? I don't know, probably not. Everything was telling me: No, no, don't bring that in — you can do anything else. But then I thought: I haven't really integrated my own content — why not take this opportunity to test it out?
Once I decided I was going to do it and sent it in to my class, [I’d] be up at night, [thinking:] Oh, no, just take it back. Don't actually do it. You don't need to get into this. ‘Cause I knew it would be something bigger than me, about my identity.
I'm now thankful I didn’t [withdraw it]. I feel very strongly that art is a very good medium to express things you might not be comfortable saying out loud. And that's what Metanoia has been for me. I really haven't shared my journey with a lot of people, but when a close family or friend has seen this, they're like, “Oh … oh, wait.”
You see that the puzzle pieces start to click for them.
GR: I can just share this with them instead of having to say it out loud. So I think that's something really great and meaningful and beautiful about art — you can use it to say things you might not be comfortable saying yet in your own life. That's what I've used Metanoia as … starting that conversation without me having to start that conversation about myself.
Is there anything about yourself that you would like people to know that maybe isn't part of your public persona?
GR: That's a good question … I just want people to know that I'm still growing and developing in my journey and that Metanoia isn’t the endgame, and I had just discovered everything about myself. And I'm all good now.
Then also on another end, I think I would love people to know that I'm always interested in creating content and creating and collaborating with people. So I love when artists who have watched Metanoia reach out and talk about it with me and then connect, and we say maybe we'll work together in the future and collaborate on something. So that's also something that's important for me, especially at this level of presence. I don't have a huge internet following. He hasn't been seen by thousands of people yet, so I'm always down for collaborating and jumping on every opportunity.
I appreciate that you're making it clear that mainstream media often centers coming-out stories as the end of LGBTI narratives because it's the easiest arc for people to understand. But that doesn't mean that's the end of our development.
GR: Even for Emma in the series, this is just the start of her journey. This is not her whole understanding of her self-identity. That's just the beginning.
Why did you choose the specific word “metanoia” for the title?
GR: There are different aspects to it. One thing is just that I have a background in theatre — I’m definitely a classical theatre nerd. So when I was looking for a name, I wanted something Greek. And I remember coming across the word “metanoia” and I thought it was perfect. I wanted something that meant development, meant growth, beginning, and obviously means spiritual rebirth. I decided that we would call the series [that], and the first episode would be represented by metanoia. And then we have another word that explained what was going on in each [subsequent] episode.
One of the things I really loved was the diversity in your casting. Was this a deliberate choice during your process?
GR: Yeah, I definitely wanted diversity. I think that was important in general and just the standard for any production now. I originally cast the first episode through the theatre department of my university. I also did Backstage auditions as well for local actors in L.A., but I actually found the actors at my university were perfect for the roles.
I didn't go into it thinking, though, I want this actor for this [role], or we're going to have this ethnicity for this character — everything was open ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity. We just picked whoever was perfect for the role. That was the most important thing to keep in mind that we wanted a diverse cast… knowing that diversity is just a standard that I work on and work by.
So like many other viewers, I was so frustrated when I saw that the final chapter of Metanoia has not come out yet! I’m guessing that's due to the pandemic?
GR: I know! We do have some exciting news, which actually I can tell you now, ‘cause we're going to announce it soon on our own social media.
You probably saw we said we were going to conclude with our third and final episode, but in people's feedback, people would always say, “We want more episodes.” Then we started to feel like, Oh no, we're letting them down if we only do a third and final episode. So I came to the conclusion that instead, we would do a third and fourth episode, and the fourth would be the final.
So we're actually coming out with two more episodes, which have already been written and are in the pre-production stage, and we are ready to film when it's safe.
We planned on filming last year, but, obviously, that couldn't happen. I know I hate when I watched shows, and the next episode’s not out, so I know how people feel. There's a cliffhanger at the end of the [second] episode, and that makes it worse.
So know that those [episodes] will be coming as soon as it's safe to film in Ventura and L.A. County.
Do you have any specific cinematic auteurs you draw from, as far as style or content?
GR: Yeah… There’s one called I Origins, an indie film. I love the cinematography in that. I love the close-up shots with the eye they use in that. And that's something that I developed in wanting to include in this [project.]
There was also a film called 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days. It’s a foreign film with… a lot of chaotic energy. They would just follow a character for a long time, moving with them, and you can just really feel the tense energy; that’s something that I wanted to incorporate as well.
And then, in general, I love the style of Spike Lee’s work — especially his TV adaptation of She’s Gotta Have It.
I reviewed that for this website. I loved it.
GR: That's one of my favorite shows. I mean, I definitely drew some inspiration, artistically, from that.
Even going into like the lighting and cinematography of Euphoria, which I love that as well.
I grew up watching so many films. I grew up watching classics at a very young age. So that definitely has, I think, even unknowingly, subconsciously developed the way I think about filmmaking.
Also, the looking into the camera, breaking of the fourth wall point-of-view stuff, I really like in shows. Fleabag is one of my favorite shows. It's very different from, from Metanoia, but I still love that breaking of the fourth wall — that’s something I find [to be] very interesting, so there's a little sprinkle of that in there.
Most of our lives look different these days due to the pandemic. Do you have any favorite discoveries from the past several months — whether it's an artist you really dig or a hobby you picked up? Anything like that?
GR: I mean, I definitely had a lot more time to watch TV and film, so I've been catching up on a lot of TV shows. I think that's always a good thing, but obviously, that can become monotonous — especially if that's the only thing you're doing.
The thing I have tried to focus on is just embracing this new medium of remote learning, remote communication. It’s definitely been a change, and being an actor myself, everything is going to self-taped Zoom meetings. I have an acting class that’s now on Zoom, my voice lessons are now on Zoom. I'm just like, there's nothing I can do about it. I might as well just embrace it, try to make the best of it. I've been doing remote things with different actor friends and trying to make the most professional products I can while I'm remote.
So my best advice for people — I know it's depressing, it's hard, but just try to embrace it and make the most of it rather than waiting for it to become normal again. Because this might be the new normal for a while.
So are you working on any other projects, or is it just focusing on getting the last of Metanoia out to your clamoring fans?
GR: My main focus is Metanoia, obviously, and we're in pre-production for that, casting a few new roles, trying to figure out how we could do it the most safely. A lot of the scenes I've converted to being set outside without bringing the COVID aspect into the story — just making the locations safer, less indoor shooting.
But I always have little side ideas going on. I can't go a few days without having another idea for something, even if I want nothing else going on. Also, being an actor, I’m always working on little things to showcase myself as well.
I definitely want this to just be the beginning of the content creation I do. I'm very interested in the miniseries medium, and will probably want to continue to develop projects in that format in the future.
Do you have any advice for those who are newly identifying as bi?
GR: It is going to take time to develop. There's no set age or pace that you have to go at to understand your own identity. We can really see that in Metanoia; obviously she's in college, but she still hasn't discovered it. So there's no right or wrong time or speed to go at identifying who you are and understanding your sexuality. I think that's very important. That's something I wanted to focus on in Metanoia; I wanted to take it out of high school. I think we see a lot of high school or young coming-of-age stories — which is great, it’s very common. But I wanted to make [Emma] a little bit older, and that's why I put her in college.
It's very important to know you can be a very self-aware, educated individual, and still be figuring out your sexuality and becoming aware of different sexualities. Everyone's path to self-discovery is going to be different, and I think that's what makes it beautiful. And if you're an artist in general, or you find art to be a good medium of expression to transfer, I would dump your feelings into a piece of art. That really helps you express how you're feeling.
That's something for specifically queer artists, with people who are feeling like they're questioning their sexuality — put it into art in some way. I think that will help you figure out more about yourself. Even if it's just something personal, not something you have to release publicly — great! That's what I did when I was in high school. I just wrote it down as a little script for myself — I had no intention of making it public or into a real series.
* Interview has been truncated and edited for brevity and clarity.