It’s been ten years since the principle Bears from the hit Bear-centric LGBTQ web series Where the Bears Are graced the very first cover of Bear World Magazine. Since we are celebrating ten years as the number one online Bear lifestyle magazine, we decided to catch up with some of the guys to see what they’ve been up to.
The first cast member we chatted to is the hilarious actor/comedian Ben Zook. Ben Zook has been up to some great things, including writing, producing and starring in his One-Man Show The Dirty Show with Skyler Gentry, which is currently touring around the globe!
We had a chat with him to get more of the scoop.
Richard Jones: BEN! It’s been ten years since you and the WTBA principle cast appeared on our very 1st cover. WTBA is about a month older than Bear World, can you remember what led up to the creation of season one?
Ben Zook: I remember it well. Joe, Rick and myself had been openly gay creators in Hollywood for decades with various success in TV and features. But we kept pitching explicit gay comedy projects that studios wouldn’t pick up.
Finally, in a hot tub in Palm Springs, we decided to do a web series ourselves. Rick wrote for The Golden Girls when he was 24 years old and we all loved that show. Rick also was a successful writer of mystery novels and a fan of TV mysteries. So we decided to combine the two. The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote with big, hairy, gay bears!
At first we were only going to write and produce. But, I’m a hammy actor and insisted that the three of us play the lead roles. We did and it unexpectedly became a worldwide hit.
RJ: How did your character Nelson come into being?
BZ: We wanted to have a character that was sort of like Dorothy from The Golden Girls. Someone who the others could poke fun at. Sort of the sarcastic “voice of reason” who is often the butt of the joke. But Nelson ended up becoming more of a neurotic, insecure, yet overly confident actor type.
Playing up the pompous actor cliches gave us a lot to do with him. He also ended up being a body-positive character who showed that it didn’t matter how heavy or hairy you are, you can still be sexy and funny and find love. I’m glad Nelson got to be a sexual character in a relationship and not the guy who could never get a date.
RJ: What have been some of the best moments in playing nelson across 7 seasons of the show?
Because Rick and I wrote the series together, I had the amazing opportunity to create things for myself as an actor that I had always wanted to play but never had the chance. Often big action scenes and situations that I would never get to play in a mainstream Hollywood project.
Some of my favorite moments include: The big confrontation between Nelson and Todd in the kitchen in season one, where I hit him over the head with a computer; Doing the “Soak ‘Ems” adult diaper commercial in season two; The whole disaster movie sequence on a jumbo jet in season three; Getting to be the groom in a big gay wedding in season four; Getting to brandish a machine gun in an old western town in season five; Getting to play courtroom drama in season six; And finally, hosting a male bear beauty pageant in season seven.
RJ: What’s next for Ben and/or Nelson?
I am currently performing a new hit One-Man Show in Palm Springs and all over the world! It’s called The Dirty Show with Skyler Gentry, where I play America’s favorite actor-singer-dancer-psychic!
I sing eight original raunchy songs and do comedy monologues and “psychic readings” with the audience. I’m having a blast and bears LOVE the show! I toured all over this past summer, including PTown, London, Lisbon, Chicago…lots of cities. I’m really proud of it and hope to go everywhere with it in the coming years!
Tickets for The Dirty Show are available at: skylergentry.com.
About Ben Zook
Ben Zook is a successful actor, writer, producer and director who has worked in Hollywood for 30 years. He has developed TV and film projects with Adam Sandler, Molly Shannon, Bob Odenkirk, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Joey Soloway, among others. He has acted in numerous feature films and pilots for television, and is a graduate of Chicago’s Second City and Annoyance Theatre.