Several years ago, Ian Daniel met actress Ellen Page at an eco-village in Oregon. The two took classes and road trips around the state. In 2015, the duo joined forces to co-host Viceland's "Gaycation" series.
The series, which follows Daniel and Page around the world as they explore LGBTQ culture, was a natural offshoot to their past travels, according to Daniel.
In the first season of “Gaycation,” Daniel and Page went to Jamaica, a notoriously homophobic country, and Brazil, which has a high LGBTQ murder rate. During the episode shot in Jamaica, viewers got to see the very first LGBTQ Pride celebration.
“I am grateful and proud of the people who risk their safety and lives to share their stories, but they knew the importance of being open and getting the word out,” Daniel said.
The first season also saw Daniel and Page explore relatively LGBTQ-friendly Japan and take a trip across the United States.
Choosing the countries to visit is a process involving several factors. The chosen locations must be visually appealing, have a distinct culture to explore and fit together as a whole in order for the season to include stories about countries at different points in their fight for LGBTQ rights.
“We’re making sure that each season has complexity to it,” Daniel told NBC OUT.
Through filming the first season of "Gaycation," Daniel said he and Page gained a better understanding not just of LGBTQ life and politics, but also of how to interact with people on a human level. He said they learned to "become a space that remains as open and strong as possible, so people can really trust you with their story."
Being that space for the LGBTQ community became paramount during the “Gaycation” special Viceland produced after the Pulse nightclub attack in June. Daniel and Page went to Orlando to discuss the mass shooting with survivors and other members of the LGBTQ community in the city.
“We wanted to focus on what happened, the aftermath and hear from the people that wanted to talk,” Daniel said. With 90 percent of the people killed being Latinx, Daniel and Page wanted to speak directly to that intersectionality -- a conversation Daniel felt “was not the conversation in the media.”
Daniel said he has been “overwhelmed" by the positive responses from both within and outside the LGBTQ community. He said people have been "moved" by the series and viewers want to "understand emotionally and factually what people are going through in these countries."
Naturally, not all the responses have been positive.
“Of course anytime you are making a statement or telling stories about a marginalized community there are people who have something awful to say," Daniel added. "I don’t discredit them, but I don’t invest any energy on them."
Daniel said an additional bonus for him has been developing a stronger bond with co-host Ellen Page.
“It has definitely made our friendship stronger,” he said. “The show’s about other people’s experience, but clearly we are personally affected by it, so it is good to have someone you care about to experience it with. I feel like we are really good travel partners."
The series even had a deeper personal impact on Daniel. “I went into this show as an open gay man, but I definitely wasn’t publicly out of the closet. Now I am just more confident in my sexuality and personality.”
Going into its second season, “Gaycation” will continue to explore and share the stories of LGBTQ people and communities across the globe. The upcoming season, which will premiere September 7, includes trips to the Ukraine, India, France and the U.S. South.
“There are a lot of stories that are hard to hear, and you really do see how people are struggling in deep ways. I think also you see how they endure, triumph and are really fighting,” Daniel said of season two.
"Gaycation” may be a more well-oiled machine, but the goal is still the same, according to Daniel.
“Let’s just try to learn about people. A, next to us. B, in the state next to us. C, in the country next to us. I hope people feel more open minded and curious. At the end of the day you want people to enjoy your show, but you also want them to learn from it,” he concluded.