Interview: Trans Comedy Executive Producer Shadi Petosky on her new Amazon TV pilot

Transgender comedy Executive Producer Shadi Petosky is a co-creator and writer for the new TV pilot, Danger & Eggs, which became available to watch on November 5th as part of the launch of Amazon's Pilot season. Danger & Eggs, created by Petosky and Mike Owens (Yo Gabba Gabba!), follows the adventures of fearless D.D. Danger, an energetic future stuntwoman, and her ever-cautious best friend, a giant talking egg named Phillip.

The show is produced by Petosky and Chris Hardwick of The Nerdist, along with PUNY Entertainment, Petosky's interactive animation and media studio, which was purchased by Hardwick earlier this year. Danger & Eggs features the voice talents of Saturday Night Lives's Aidy Bryant and comedian Eric Knobel.

In addition to her owning PUNY Entertainment, Petosky also advocates for greater representation of transgender people in film and TV. GLAAD had a chance to speak with Petosky about the inspiration behind Danger & Eggs, her thoughts on working in animation, and her advocacy work for transgender equality. Check out the interview below, then watch and review the pilot episode of Danger & Eggs on Amazon.com!

What inspired you to create Danger & Eggs?

It started with Co-Creator / Director Mike Owens who showed me the egg character Phillip and I kind of made some modifications and gave him an origin story. Then we produced a grown-up short film that played in festivals. Eric Knobel did the voice and we fell in love. We all worked and reworked a possible series for six years. A lot of hands took a shot at it. We had several false starts, and some really great bizarre stuff but finally landed in a place that I think is kind of sweet and down to earth. 

You've worked with several animated TV shows before Danger & Eggs, including Yo Gabba Gabba!, The Hub's Aquabats! Super Show!, and Cartoon Network's MAD. What drew you to working in this genre?

I was a total AV club / film / theater kid, but I also grew up in a rural area and my transness forced a kind of introversion. I was saved in high school by indy comic books and devouring everything the video store. I haven't analyzed it but animation was probably a way to tell stories but also hide. I do voices in a lot of the cartoons I make, I play the third lead in Danger & Eggs. I love performing but don't love my body in front of a camera. I do like being behind the camera though. I shoot photos a lot, I've directed live action for brands, I directed a Pepsi commercial, among other things. I've tried to get writing jobs on live action shows -- but I just have zero positive reinforcement that people are going to hire trans writers. There is one that I know of, and 97 of us tried out for that job.

The way I get to write on a show is if I create it, and animation is a thing I don't have to convince anyone I know how to do. I like the collaboration. I like the painstaking work. When each job ends I think the next thing might not be animation, but then something interesting in animation comes along. 

Your animation and interactive production company, PUNY Entertainment, was recently purchased by Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist. How has it been working together?

Great! Sympatico. Chris is a person who similarly just LOVES stuff and does a lot of things and also never sleeps. He hosts two TV shows, with a third coming up, has Nerdist, is on the board of Legendary films, just got engaged, is fixing up his house and he still has time for PUNY. He's famous for people not understanding how he pulls it all off. He actually did a self-help book called The Nerdist Way that is kind of a "this worked for me" book about obsessive minds and I read it at exactly the right moment when I was doing A LOT of therapy. Having him as a partner pushes me to be better. 

I'm not back in LA yet, I've been focused on Danger & Eggs, a short film, and I'm directing a segment for a current TV show - but I am EXTREMELY excited about the future of PUNY with Chris. We have a lot of ideas and a lot of friends with ideas we can produce. Janet Mock says to surround yourself with advocates. Chris is just nice, like the real nice, and is always encouraging. It's such a privilege to have those people in your life, business or otherwise. 

What has your experience been like working in the film and television industries, while also being a vocal advocate for more fair and accurate representations of transgender people in the media?

Uh oh. I've definitely seen negative consequences. I know people have been scared to meet me or have not wanted me in a space. I was told by a showrunner that she was afraid I might "confront someone in the hall" which really bummed me out for a long time. I was at the Upfronts in NYC last year and a show runner friend was like "I love you but tone down that Facebook stuff." 

I have a very biting, black and white writing style when it comes to advocacy. It's a persona and it's not always easy. I get just enough feedback that it works though. I was just messaged by a very famous actor/producer who says he's been culling trans defamation from scripts for the last couple years. One show runner at a primetime network told me he wrote a character in based on my Facebook posts. If we do our work, it'll be invisible. It'll be measured in horrible misrepresentation that didn't happen. 

I've felt a responsibility because I've had some access. I can get scripts. I go to the parties with all the TV writers. I know a ton of comics. Also, I'm not an actor with their politics so I can talk about things they can't. 

If I have those privileges and don't do anything because it might hurt your career? Seems very unethical. I BELIEVE that trans stories are valuable and interesting. It's backed up by million view transition videos on YouTube. Why are LGBT people so underrepresented in the telling of their own cultural stories? It's just weird. 

Where can people watch Danger & Eggs, and how long is voting open?

Ha, I was on a different train of thought. Ok reset. Please do support our show at http://www.amazon.com/pilotseason. The thing to do is watch it all the way through and give it a good review. They don't leave their pilots up very long, they make a quick decision because they want new shows in series production ASAP. 

For more from Shadi Petosky, follow her on Twitter, and watch Danger & Eggs on Amazon.com.