“Times are changing everyday and we can’t get by with those same old ways!” 227’s Mary knew that and it still rings true today. Inclusion and representation are more important than ever before; and though Hollywood and television have made great strides racially, the gay spectrum could definitely use more diversity. Especially, if we talk about Black gay male characters. Traditionally they are over the top caricatures, not indicative of most of the community. Where are the everyday Black men who just so happen to love the same sex? Enter Signal 23 TV, a network dedicated to bringing some of the best web series the internet has ever seen.
However, it is the man behind the vision, “Mr. 23” himself, Henderson Maddox, we have to thank for all of this!
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, Henderson Maddox has become a rising star in the world of entertainment thanks to his hard work, dedication, and unyielding desire to be the best. He is often described as “the new Tyler Perry.” The formation of Signal 23 TV came about as he tired of his teaching career and sought to do what he was really passionate about. “I did it to build a fan base, to put myself out there as a director…I had done events and projects and wanted expand my brand outside of Atlanta and become bigger. So I came up with the idea to make a website–little stuff, little shows–and it all went from there…”
Our first introduction to Signal 23 TV came with the network’s flagship series, Steel River, but before its inception were a number of other shows there including cooking shows, talk shows, comedies, and other dramas. “Steel River was the first show that really took off. It was my first LGBT series and it kind of just blew out of the stratosphere and resulted in me having this huge LGBT following…I think a lot of what it is, is there are a lot of untold stories; and there are other content creators out there, but there are very few of them create quality content…” This definitely rings true, as another series written and directed by Henderson, About Him, proved to be a runaway hit this past summer largely due to its quality and superior storytelling.
As aforementioned we love the diversity of characters on Signal 23 TV. The gay spectrum is largely ignored when it comes to the portray of Black gay male characters as most of them are stereotyped as effeminate or accessories to straight women. Just think of the gay Black men you see on your average reality show or mainstream television series. Via Signal 23 TV, Mr. 23 is consciously and actively working to break the mold of these traditional characters. “When i look that I frown upon it because although it represents someone in the community, it does not represent most of the community at all… and I feel like its unfortunate how the media stereotypes a gay man, let alone alone a gay black man, as this flamboyant purse [and] heel wearing individual when that’s less than twenty percent of the community, if that much…So my goal and my focus has always been that if I’m going to do this LGBT thing and create this content I want to show a different side of it, and something to me that is more realistic. More realistic is not super masculine, but it is a man being a man, and that’s the image I want to put out there…”
Many, people, however have argued that the sex scenes in his series borderline soft porn. Still other see it as “over sexualiz-ing” what it means to be gay. “This is what gets me. People see heterosexual sex on mainstream television all the time and there’s never a complaint of it being too much or doing too much, but when its gay, especially two guys, they flip out. It’s complete hypocrisy. Gay people have sex too and for people who love the same gender that’s a part of the experience…I definitely try to make sure there’s a message in the show, but sex is a part of life…”
Signal 23 TV continues to grow by the day with more and more content. Steel River has been rebooted and garnered a prequel series, Steel River: When We Were Young, while About Him has spurred a spin off with About Justin, and lastly, Climax, starring Niko Love and Arquez, has been met with rave reviews and become the highest debut in the network’s history. It is mind boggling to think that all of this can come from the vision of one man–and it doesn’t! “I have an amazing team of people working with me to deliver amazing content…everyone from my producers to my writers, down to the actors are an integral part of Signal 23 [TV]…” Despite having his team on hand, he does admit running a network, creating contact, and directing consume most of his time. Interestingly he describes it as a “lifestyle.” “It really is a lifestyle change for me. Even when I have downtime I am thinking about how I can do this better, or this might be better for that series, it goes on an on…”
We are definitely thankful to be witnessing Henderson’s vision come to fruition via Signal 23 TV. He prides himself on being more than a director, show runner, or CEO; he is still a teacher of sorts. The lessons and foundation he has laid for himself has jump-started the careers and dreams of others. You all just be sure to catch all of Signal 23 TV’s series by visiting the site, www.Signal23TV.com, and catching the debut of their Roku channel coming February 23rd! Happy viewing!
Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning