Cowl Girl: A TV show for fangirls (and everyone else, too)
“Like every good superhero story, her parents are dead,” Carlo Lorenzo Garcia says about Cowl Girl, the main character in the new television series of the same name. I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Carlo, an actor and writer for the show, and Yunuen Pardo, the actress who plays Cowl Girl, about the Indiegogo campaign they have started to get the show up and running. Carlo and Yunuen are both very passionate and excited about this project, as it tackles a broad range of issues including female representation in nerd culture, bullying, and Latino representation.
Cowl Girl’s mom died in a car accident when she was twelve, and six years later, her father, a police officer, was shot and died in the line of duty and she was left alone. She is watched over by her father’s partner, Jason, but the violent nature of her father’s death shocked her. As a result, she retreated into the safety of her fandoms and began interacting with the world through Skype and the internet, as she became agoraphobic. Now, she only leaves her apartment building if she is wearing a Batman mask. The show follows Cowl Girl as she deals with this agoraphobia and tries to interact with the outside world, with the help of the Batman cowl and her friends.
“She is not a victim,” Yunuen explains, “I think there is a very strong root, like the reason they don’t have parents, any of them, is because they manage to find the strength within them to continue living, and that’s what really makes them superheroes. Cowl Girl is wonderful, because even if she is agoraphobic and her world is limited physically, she expands her world on her own terms. She’s a strong woman and she is very knowledgeable, she teaches everybody. She is the leader of what she does, and that’s what makes it funny and ironic, because then she faces the outside world and she crumbles. It’s like her kryptonite. It’s a limitation that makes her very creative.”
Cowl Girl evolved from a stage play by Anna Capunay into a television show. Yunuen and Carlo were both involved in a stage reading of Cowl Girl for a 30/30 reading, which is a nationwide festival celebrating US Latino theater. Yunuen said many of the plays they looked at when they were deciding what to read were too “in your face,” but Cowl Girl appealed to her as a Batman fan.
“I really wanted to do the Cowl Girl one, because the idea of having the cowl on and the whole concept were really appealing to me,” she said. “We were doing the reading, not even the play, and I told Carlo, ‘Can you imagine this in an episodic format? It would be amazing.’ And we started analyzing it and we were like, ‘there’s so much in here, it’s like another world.’”
After that, Carlo and Yunuen approached the writer, Anna, about the television show, and she was excited about the project as well. Yunuen and Carlo admitted that the reading wasn’t all that successful and only about 15 people came, but the handful of people who did come really enjoyed the reading. They said their friends enjoyed it because of how nerdy it was, and that they were cracking up through the entire reading. Since then, Carlo has been working with the story to turn it into a TV script.
“I’ve been plotting it out over, potentially, three seasons,” he said, “but initially, our first goal is to get the pilot done, find additional investors, and then film the first season.”
Cowl Girl is an important project to Carlo and Yunuen because it tackles those big ideas of representation and bullying. Cowl Girl isn’t the only one who struggles with being a part in the real world. Her friend Tabby, a 16 year old aspiring comic book artist, receives a lot of flack for being a girl in a male dominated “geek-osphere.” They are interested in being a part of the conversation on girls’ place in the nerd world, and how to resolve a lot of the issues that females face, including the over-sexualization of comic book characters and cosplayers at conventions.
Aside from being important for women, Cowl Girl looks at issues of Latino representation in the media as well. They want to make sure that the Latino characters in their show are represented as normal people who are fans and geeks, rather than the stereotypical roles we often see Latinos cast as: maids, gangbangers, and immigrant workers.
“It’s important to me because, as a Latina actress, and not only a Latina actress, but one with an accent, it is so difficult,” Yunuen said. “I have been lucky in Chicago, but not many actors like me get the same opportunities. [It’s very rare] to have a show with a lead character who is a female, and is part of the Latino group, and it’s important for me to portray just a person. I don’t want to like, have the cowl on and then be eating a taco to show I am Latino. You are just looking into her world, and it doesn’t matter where she is from or why she has an accent, or why she doesn’t, or the color of her skin.”
She explained that the cowl, for her, represents the neutrality of the character and emphasizes that her skin, the fact that she is a woman, or her accent, are not important, because anybody, anywhere, could be wearing that cowl and it doesn’t matter, it is a social cover that we use. While there are many Latino characters and actors, Carlo makes it clear that the show is open to anyone.
“I think there are geeks of every race and nationality, and that’s how they connect. They connect based on the things they like,” he says. “You put the cowl on, or you put whatever costume that you like on, and then you’re that fan. You’re not separated by the color of your skin, you are connected with one another based on the things that you enjoy.”
Carlo and Yunuen want to make sure everyone knows this is a show by nerds, for nerds, rather than a show where nerds are the butt of the joke (even when they are the stars of the show).
“We’re writing it from our voice, a geek voice,” Carlo said. “We want to tell the story from inside the world, but also from a female perspective. We’re trying to assemble a cast of people who are passionate about different things. I’ve requested all the actors send me the things they are passionate about, so one is really in to Harry Potter, another actress is really into Disney stuff, and another actor is really into Batman.”
“There are so many kinds of geeks, like the cosgirls,” Yunuen says. “[Cowl Girl] has a certain admiration for the cosgirls, but it’s not her. We acknowledge all these levels or nerdiness, or nerdiness, and these kinds of geeks. It’s good that we can explore them from the inside out. We want to acknowledge the community as a whole, and not as the most generic, stereotypical character.”
Carlo chose the Indiegogo route not just because they needed the donations to get the project going, but also to expand the community around Cowl Girl. Crowd-funding is just a small piece of the puzzle. They are actively searching for larger investors, producers, and distributors. They have been invited to submit the show to a few festivals, but even the applications cost a lot of money. If you choose donate, Carlo promises you are going to receive your perks.
If you would like to back the Indiegogo campaign, here is the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/cowl-girl-a-tv-show-for-fangirls-pop-culture-junkies#home.