Love is in the air, and Charlie David sees it everywhere he looks around. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Charlie wants to ease the inundation of heteronormative imagery with a series dedicated to the LGBTQ2S+ community. Enter: Dating Unlocked, a new dating show geared toward finding love in real life.
Created by Charlie and Patrick Ware, directed by Sam Coyle and hosted by Yaz Harris, Dating Unlocked features fun activities, relationship games and intimate moments while daters select someone they’d like to romance.
Recently, I had the chance to chat with Charlie about his favorite moments from Season 1, what audiences can expect, whether Season 2 is a possibility and what’s on his career horizon.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. What’s Dating Unlocked‘s story?
Charlie David: [It started with] a road trip with my partner, Patrick, from Toronto to Montreal. When we make our road trips, we often listen to podcasts or talk creatively about what kind of shows we like or shows we wish were out there.
That was the impetus for this is. I think we’d been watching something like Love Island and lamenting that so many of them are a “traditional baked recipe” of a bunch of straight people.
We watch and are entertained, but we’ve noticed there are no LGBTQ2S+ people in most dating shows, or if they are, they’re on the famous side, or they’re a token character.
We said, “Let’s make a show that’s just for this community, and that’s as diverse and inclusive as possible.” Because there’s been a few where it’s all gay guys or that kind of thing, but we wanted to show every letter of the queer alphabet is deserving of love and relationships.
MM: Describe this season using three words.
CD: Sexy, surprising and heart-squeezing.
MM: Love it! Who would you choose if you could get a celebrity on Dating Unlocked?
CD: I think I would invite Brooke Lynn Hytes, who’s the Queen of the North on Canada’s Drag Race. She’s doing such a bang-up job of hosting. I think she would bring a lot of fun, sass, energy and passion to the show, which we have quite a bit of already, but why not go over the top?
MM: Right? Go big or go home! Do you have any highlights from shooting the series?
CD: There are so many. I think one of the most moving for me, and it’s evident in the trailer, is that while it’s a sexy show, we wanted to make sure we were practicing excellent communication and consent the whole time.
The daters were in the driver’s seat. When they’re playing the “Up Close and Personal” section and practicing intimacy, it’s what that means to them and what they want to do.
Intimacy, in our minds, can be a deep conversation. It can be holding hands, a striptease, a slow dance or a make-out. It can be all of these things, but it was important there were no drugs and alcohol on set and that intimacy was always motivated by them and what they wanted to do together.
MM: Do you have a favorite relationship game from the show?
CD: One that we play in every episode is basically “who said what,” and they’ve all prerecorded something surprising or a personal fantasy they might have. Then our host, Yaz, reads them aloud, and they need to try and guess who said what.
This moment is when the daters first meet each other. They’re going purely by looks alone and judging books by the cover. But that starts to unlock exciting conversations. They’re often surprised by who was into what or looking for that. I think for us and the audience, it starts to make you wonder about the people you’re passing on the street a little more. We all have deep and rich internal stories.
MM: What can audiences expect for this season?
CD: A lot of love. Lots of happy endings. If you’re into happily ever after, or at least happily for now, we’re serving up a lot of that, which was fun. At the end of every episode, the daters choose if they’d like to continue their romances.
Because love is a two-way street, they also need to be invited back or accepted. Nobody’s a prize; nobody’s objectified. But the amount of opting-in, essentially, and mutual choosing was incredible.
I think the surprise was there are many variables from casting a show like this because we have the LGBTQ2S+ and poly and open relationships and those who want monogamy. Just casting was crazy … [there was the] “calculus” of imagining who might be interested in who and why based on their interests and the information they provided us.
We’re not professional matchmakers, but I think there were a lot of great matches that worked out, so that was exciting.
MM: What do you hope is the takeaway from Dating Unlocked?
CD: We’re releasing in February because we’re surrounded by imagery of romance and traditionally straight romance. I think it’s a fun time to debut a show like this so that anybody who’s watching is reminded, “Hey, there’s a whole buffet of relationship styles and sexuality and interests; all humans are desiring love and relationships and affirmation.”
I hope that’s what we’re able to do, is give everybody heart space, and hopefully invite some conversations, too.
MM: Are there any plans for a second season?
CD: We’re already thinking about it. As soon as we wrapped, we were like, “Let’s do this again.” The fun stuff is on social media because we’re starting to tease photos, videos, trailers and stuff like that. Many people are reaching out and saying, “I want to do Season 2,” so that’s fun. I think we’ll have lots of great casting opportunities.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise?
CD: We just finished the second season of Avocado Toast the series. It’s so fun because those characters are going into a brand new world—surprising new territory.
Avocado Toast will be coming out later this spring, probably June. We have Drag Heals Season 3, and that’s a documentary series following drag artists as they put together personal storytelling that morphs into a live theater show.
There’s a new comedy called Womb Envy about a gay guy and his best girlfriend from high school who have been estranged for ten years. She shows up on his doorstep pregnant and asks him to be the baby daddy.
He starts having an emotional pregnancy, which is Couvade syndrome. It’ll be 12 episodes, and we’ll hopefully go into production on that later this spring.
MM: Have you binge-watched anything interesting lately?
CD: I am not binging, but savoring slowly, deliciously, Yellowjackets. The story is gripping, and the friendship dynamics are fantastic. It’s spooky and terrifying. It’s slow-burn suspense, which I appreciate.
MM: Name your top five favorite films.
For the last one, I would say Heartbeats — it’s a Xavier Dolan film.
MM: Thank you so much for chatting with me, Charlie! I’m excited to watch Dating Unlocked. Bring on all the heart-squeezing!
CD: Thank you, Melody!
Dating Unlocked makes its worldwide premiere on February 11 on OUTtv and Vimeo.