Maggie Jorgenson Talks Inclusivity and Chosen Families in Fantasy Series “The Game”

Fans of lighthearted fantasy and tabletop roleplay games will be excited to learn about the launch of the new TV show The Game. Starring Matt Curtin, Lauren Henning, Réchard François, Maggie Jorgenson, and Amber Li, The Game follows Brandon, a failing writer and newly single man looking for something to fill his time.

He thinks he can control the narrative when he posts an ad online to find a group of gamers to play a Dungeons and Dragon-style game. But things don't turn out the way anyone expects.

The show follows this group of outsiders as they come together in both reality and the fantasy universe. Maggie Jorgenson, one of the show's producers and the actor who plays Darcy/Pugbear, joined us for an interview to discuss her new show. Maggie talks about the importance of inclusivity and diversity in the fantasy genre, how she began her career in entertainment, and more.

The Game‘s Upbeat and Exciting Premise

Fantasy Series The Game Credit Ion Tong 2
Image Credit: Ion Tong

Maya Capasso: Can you explain the premise of The Game?

Maggie Jorgenson: The Game is about a group of adventurers who play a tabletop roleplaying game. It's about Game Master Brandon's fall from Grace. He used to be this prodigy writer, but he doesn't have a book deal anymore, his girlfriend just left him, and all he wants to do is play this game.

So he rounds up this anonymous group of people through a Craigslist-like ad in the hopes that they can play the game and he can get through it and have something work in his life. Unfortunately for him, it doesn't go according to plan. People bring in their own baggage, thoughts, and relationships to the table. The anonymity part falls away.

Romances and friendships start blossoming. It's a story about chosen family. It's a story about how you can fight your inner demons inside this kind of tabletop fantasy world to bring that back into the real world and tackle your own life problems.

Creating The Game

Fantasy Series The Game Credit Ion Tong 3
Image Credit: Ion Tong

MC: How did The Game go from an idea to a TV show?

MJ: I find many great ideas start over a glass of wine and a chat. My co-writers and co-creators, Matt and Lauren, went to UCLA with me. Matt and Lauren wanted to create something about fantasy and something about tabletop roleplaying games. Because often, with those stories, you think of a specific type of person. Usually, that person is heteronormative and white. We wanted to make that world more inclusive.

We started brainstorming how to bring in some other elements and more nuance into this kind of fantasy universe. By doing that, we could put the story on its feet. And then, from there, we reached out to contacts and friends to get them passionate about the story. Thankfully, most people loved the idea and hopped right on board.

And then we had the shoot. We shot our pilot episode this summer, and then that's premiering in the next few months before the end of 2022. Next, we're looking for investments for the rest of the series.

MC: What was it like portraying your character, Darcy, as well as your character's roleplay character, Pugbear?

MJ: It's funny because Darcy/Pugbear is one of the only characters who are very similar to each other at the beginning. Who Darcy is outside of the fantasy universe is the exact same person as her roleplay character, except she's living her truth as a pug. She's ditzy, all over the place, and a little bit of a weirdo.

In terms of her weirdness and her chaoticness, I tried to go to the end and to the brink of my own weirdness and quirks and emphasized them even more. It was a lot of chaos!

Inclusion and Community Building in The Fantasy Genre

Fantasy Series The Game Credit Ion Tong
Image Credit: Ion Tong

MC: The Game focuses on themes of inclusivity and imagination. In what ways does the show divert traditional tropes in the fantasy genre?

MJ: Lauren and I are partners. We're both queer and like to infuse that into much of our work. Fantasy tends to be a very white, heteronormative world. And so we wanted to say, “What would happen if we put a black drag queen in there? What would happen if we put these people you don't normally see in there?”

It's a fantasy world. By definition, you can do anything. That means you can represent so many more people and so many more narratives than traditionally thought of. My co-creators and I asked ourselves, “whose stories are not being told here, and how can we bring them into the world?”

MC: At the beginning of the show, Brandon, the main character, goes on Craigslist to find a group of fellow tabletop game players. What role does finding community and connection play in the show?

MJ: At the end of the day, one of the show's central themes is the importance of chosen family. All of these people came together to play a game for their own reasons, but through it, they can be supported. They work through their issues and can grow as people. They can tackle challenges in their lives that they couldn't face before meeting this group. It's about being able to find those people that you rely on. The Game will help you realize that the world isn't as bad or bleak as we often make it out to be.

Anyone Can Have Fun Watching The Game

MC: Can people who don't play tabletop games still enjoy the show?

MJ: Absolutely. The creators and I had this in mind when we started the project. There are four producers for The Game, and Matt was the only one out of the four who played Dungeons and Dragons.

We were able to take our knowledge of storytelling and have Matt be the person who infused the Dungeons and Dragons kind of tabletop roleplaying game throughout all of it. We rely more so on the characters to tell this story. The tabletop roleplaying game is the device through which we tell the story.

MC: What do you hope viewers take away from the show?

MJ: I hope people will take away a few things. First is the idea that fantasy can be anything you want it to be. These games are often branded as an activity for this stereotypical nerd character that you've always seen portrayed as the tabletop roleplaying kid archetype. And therefore, in the fantasy world, that's who Brandon sees at first. But then, as the show moves along, the group's perspectives influence him.

The background characters in the fantasy world start changing. So you can see a lot more different body sizes, people of different races, and people of different backgrounds start popping up within the fantasy world as Brandon can expand his thinking.

I want this to be an expansive show regarding people's perspectives on fantasy. But there's also a place for it to be completely entertaining and fun. I want people to be able to laugh. To watch it and not feel ostracized.

We're putting it out around the holidays specifically so that people who aren't necessarily able to go home to their families for whatever reason can tune in and have this experience where they feel like they're a part of a family.

Maggie's Journey in Entertainment

MC: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?

MJ: My parents were both creatives, so I was supported throughout my childhood to pursue things like art, to be as creative as possible, to play piano, and to do theater. My childhood was infused with all of those things.

I went to school for theater at UCLA. From there, I realized acting doesn't feel like it's enough for me. I started falling more in love with producing and writing. It's a space where I can not only tell other people's stories but tell my own stories and put out narratives that I find important.

Queer Representation in The Media

MC: Could you tell me a bit about your production house, Violent Pink Productions?

MJ: Our mission at Violent Pink Productions is to create more queer, gender-inclusive, and female-driven narratives. Since we're just taking off, we're mainly developing our own scripts. We're writing and producing the scripts we want to see and the stories we want to put out there.

We've also just started to option and look at other people's scripts to say, “how can we take the stories you've written and put them out there for the world to see?”

The name got started in a hilariously queer way. Back in college, my best friend and I were putting the Pink Nesquik into our cereal in the dining hall. He put an aggressive amount more than me. He said, “See, this is a metaphor for our lives. Yours is vaguely pink, and you're bisexual. Mine is violently pink, and I'm flamboyantly gay.” [Maggie laughs.]

From that silly moment on, we loved the name, and it stuck with us. A few years later, when we launched the production company, we were like, “This is it. This has to be the name.”

MC: What are your biggest challenges in the entertainment business as a queer woman?

MJ: The first challenge I've faced is that many queer narratives, specifically female queer narratives, are either the side characters or it's a coming out story. We've seen many coming-out stories but haven't seen much of what happens after that. How do queer people live happily ever after?

Through Violent Pink, we're working with another production company to option a script called Bad Lesbian, which is more about queer life after the coming out story. It's about the rules that come with being queer, and what does that mean? Does that mean I must wear Birkenstocks and purchase expensive oat milk lavender lattes? We have these stereotypes about being queer, and I think some of those need to be broken.

My partner Lauren and I are both very feminine presenting. Sometimes Lauren says that I look like someone who lost my virginity to my long-term boyfriend on prom night, and no one would suspect that I'm queer. Many queer characters in the media today are either a stereotypical butch-looking lesbian or a femme played by a straight actor.

I love Shay Mitchell to death and loved Pretty Little Liars, but that girl is definitely not gay. [Maggie laughs.] Currently, it feels like there's not a lot of space in our media for diverse queer physical looks or the “what happens after coming out” narrative. Those are two things I hope to change with Violent Pink.

Queer Artists: Put Your Work Into The World

MC: What advice can you share with fellow queer folks dreaming of pursuing a career in entertainment or media?

MJ: Remember that everyone's story is different. Everyone's opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and upbringings are different. What I believe to be the pinnacle queer story might not be what you think it to be, which is why we need more diverse queer narratives.

So to anyone interested in doing this, sit down and do it. Write that script or work with someone who is a writer and say, “Hey, I have this brilliant idea.” Start with page one. If drawing is your medium, draw that character living in your head. Do whatever you feel brings that creativity to life and make art. Go for it. Because we need more of those stories.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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