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5 things ‘Tampa Baes’ producers want you to know about the lesbian reality show

Two executive producers of Prime Video’s upcoming unscripted series addressed concerns about diversity and discussed local filming locations.
The cast of 'Tampa Baes,' Prime Video's upcoming docuseries about lesbians living in the Tampa Bay area.
The cast of 'Tampa Baes,' Prime Video's upcoming docuseries about lesbians living in the Tampa Bay area. [ LINDSEY BYRNES | Courtesy of Lindsey Byrnes/Amazon Prime Video ]
Published Oct. 19
Updated Oct. 20

The trailer for Tampa Baes, Prime Video’s upcoming lesbian reality TV show, promises hookups, rivalries, friendships and lots of drama.

As one cast member put it, “Everybody knows everybody. Everbody’s dated everybody.”

The eight-episode docu-series, filmed around Tampa Bay, comes to Prime Video on Nov. 5. What can we expect?

Executive producers Melissa Bidwell and Paul O’Malley chatted with the Tampa Bay Times over Zoom about the upcoming show. Here’s what they want viewers to know:

The Baes all knew each other before filming

The unscripted reality show follows a preexisting group of 12 friends, all of whom identify as lesbians.

“Lesbians are overdue, even though we all love The L Word and that paved the way,” O’Malley said.

“We feel like Tampa is a great backdrop and a hidden gem for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Two of the cast members, couple Haley and Brianna, reached out to O’Malley in the December before the pandemic to suggest a show about their group of friends. The women range from their early 20s to early 30s, and each lives around the Tampa Bay area.

“We have some close to downtown, some further out east in Brandon, a few St. Pete ones, some up north,” Bidwell said.

Tampa Baes cast members Mel and Jordan celebrate Tampa Pride.
Tampa Baes cast members Mel and Jordan celebrate Tampa Pride. [ LINDSEY BYRNES / © 2021 AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC | Courtesy of Prime Video ]

The producers acknowledged concerns about diversity

The producers said they chose to focus on a group of girls who already organically knew each other in order to create an authentic, “fly on the wall” view into their lives. Several cast members are biracial, including Iranian and Native American women. Their backgrounds and cultures are explored in several episodes.

“We’re really proud of these girls that were willing to kind of open up about their backgrounds and how they feel on top of being a lesbian, a woman of color,” O’Malley said.

After the show was initially announced, many Tampa Bay Times readers and reality TV fans expressed concern over the diversity in casting choices, noting the lack of dark-skinned lesbians, as well as body and gender diversity. When asked about these concerns, producers encouraged people to watch the show first.

“Not every show in the history of TV can nail it all,” O’Malley said. “We always strive for that, but ultimately we’re working with a preexisting group of friends that we feel are very diverse and bring a lot to the table and that are authentically themselves.”

He continued, “We’re really proud of the diversity of producers, editors, PAs ... people who are editing stories that they identify with. So there’s a lot of things behind the camera that we’re really proud of that people don’t know about.”

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Bidwell said the women featured on the show are a snapshot of a friend circle.

“We tried to incorporate as much as we could of their friends that would fit into the time frame of filming,” she said.

Tampa Baes cast members Murphy, Haley and Cuppie visit the beach in Prime Video's upcoming lesbian docu-series.
Tampa Baes cast members Murphy, Haley and Cuppie visit the beach in Prime Video's upcoming lesbian docu-series. [ LINDSEY BYRNES / © 2021 AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC | Courtesy of Prime Video ]

Locals will recognize a lot of filming locations

Filming started in late March and wrapped up in June. There’s ax throwing and longboarding in St. Petersburg, club-hopping in Ybor and bead throwing from a float in the Tampa Pride parade.

While the friend group previously enjoyed visiting lesbian club The Honey Pot in Ybor, the club closed after the pandemic hit. Instead, they frequented White Lie in Ybor.

Filming was shaped by coronavirus precautions

Amazon Studios hired a COVID team to facilitate daily temperature checks, mask wearing, sanitizing and other safety precautions. Producers opted for outdoor filming opportunities when possible, including games of tennis and softball, exterior seating at bars like Ferg’s and Caddy’s, and even a tiki boat they had chartered for the Baes.

In addition, the cast features three medical professionals — Marissa, a registered nurse in a local COVID unit; Jordan, who moved to Florida to study nursing; and Cuppie, who paused her career as a trauma nurse to pursue a nurse practitioner master’s degree.

Olivia, Shiva and Mel visit Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg during the filming of Tampa Baes.
Olivia, Shiva and Mel visit Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg during the filming of Tampa Baes. [ LINDSEY BYRNES / © 2021 AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC | Courtesy of Prime Video ]

It’s not all parties and parades

Where there are wild moments in the show, there are also heartfelt ones.

“Each person is at a pivotal moment in their lives,” O’Malley said. “Whether it’s relationship stuff — getting married, getting engaged — or what it’s like being young and trying to find yourselves.”

The show also touches on important moments that gay youths and older members of the LGBTQ+ community will relate to, he said. Some cast members have difficult conversations with their loved ones and address how they felt growing up.

“I’m part of the community, and just hearing some of the ways the girls talk about how they came out was very different from when I came out,” O’Malley said. “I think people will see themselves in some of these girls ... some people still haven’t been come out to family members.”

Ultimately, O’Malley wants to bridge the gap between gay and straight programming.

“These women are going through quarter-life crises just like everyone else,” he said. “And they happen to be gay.”