“Prespav” breaks the stereotypes: A gay kiss represents love and it is a positive emotion

After such a long time, a TV series of a Macedonian production appeared on the Macedonian television programme, and it managed to conquer the hearts of many Macedonians. The series “Prespav”, through the family story of the brothers Buzalevski and other characters, portrays the conflict between the Balkan mentality and the desire for respecting and establishing the European values, in a humoristic way. For this purpose, we have contacted Eleonora Veninova, who is one of the directors and scenarists of the series that has become a real success and hit for such a short period of time.

  • There have also been similar series before, but it appears that none of them managed to become such a hit like “Prespav” for such a short period of time. What are the reasons behind its success?

Since the first meeting with the production house OHO, we agreed that we are going to make something new and different from the one that has already been displayed on Macedonian television. The process behind all this was painstaking because we had to “pierce the road” that none of us has walked before. Starting from the process of developing the characters and writing the scenario, until the actual filming, we had set up certain standards for our work. That kind of teamwork, enthusiasm and dedication is reflected in the series itself and is also one of the reasons for “Prespav”’s success. There are still some disadvantages and aspects that can be improved, however, we strive to put the series to a higher level in the second season. And for us, the creative minds in the team, but also for the production OHO, this has been a learning process.

  • One says that the success of a humoristic series lies in the good knowledge and play with the stereotypical characters and situations in the society. How much has Prespav used this well-known recipe?

Generally, comedy as a genre is based exactly on this writing approach. This is most common for the sitcom as a format and we created “Prespav” according to this “recipe”. Of course, this is not the one and only way to create a humoristic situation. It happens often in the series to hyperbolize particular characteristics of the characters to the level that these characteristics define their attitude towards the reality. Our characters are very stereotypical since through these stereotypes we would like to criticize our society and mock ourselves. In the same time, every character has one dominant trait, for instance, Mario’s Buddhism, Ula’s obsession with graves, Toni’s preoccupation with following procedures, etc., which are a sound base for creating mutual conflicts.

  • How much do you and the actors/actresses use personal experiences and moments from the private lives while you are building the characters?

My opinion is that we all take advantage of our personal experiences. A number of episodes are based on situations and experiences that every team member has passed through. For some characters, together with my colleague Saso Kokalanov we added more aspects that are interesting to us and are somehow, an internal joke (as the obsession with death and graves, as one example). I believe that the actors are adding components of their personal experiences while shaping their characters since that is how the most convincing characters are built.

  • The thing that most probably makes “Prespav” unique is the fact that it is the first series to “break the ice” in portraying a gay couple, which is the first time something like this happens in Macedonian TV production. How did you come up with this idea and why did you decide to choose a gay couple instead of, let’s say a lesbian couple?

Since we were building the main characters, we decided that we are going to treat a family that is traditional according to many things, but in the same time, its members are absolutely different. Each brother in the family represents one segment of our society, patriarchy – the head of the family (Mile), the liberal and progressive Toni and undefined/neutral Kosta. Ula, as a “foreign element” should present one objective observer and the voice of rationality, even though, she is slightly losing her mind in that dysfunctional environment. Since our purpose was to capture the diversity in our society, it seemed to be logical for us one of the brothers to be gay. Later on, Mario came up in the story and we connected them as a couple. The gay couple was somehow naturally created after we have set up the basic relations among the characters.

  • In the last episode, Toni and Mario have barely kissed each other, and that disclosed their secret relationship. However, part of the audience argued on the social media that this was unsuitable having in consideration that children also watch the series. What is the opinion of the production house on these comments?

I think that the content of all the episodes is adequate for children since there is no violence, sex or elements that can be attributed as harmful for the psychological development of the children. Kissing of a gay couple, even though is considered to be non-conventional for one Macedonian TV serial, has an objective to present love, and love is a positive emotion. Actually, if we are striving to build a society full of tolerance and respect for the rights of all groups of people and minorities, we should start accepting the diversity and openly talk about them.

  • The first season has ended, and the audience is looking forward to the second season. Are Toni and Mario finally going to kiss each other, or the story is going to turn in a different direction?

Every relationship, so as theirs, must pass through obstacles and oscillations, but we will find out the ending at the end of the season.

  • How many episodes will the second season be consisted of?

Since we are in the early stages of the preparations of the second season, I have no final answer to this question.

  • Is the cast going to remain the same, or maybe we can expect some changes, saying goodbye to the old cast, and appearance of new characters?

I think that none of the characters would leave “Prespav”, еven though Jelena tried a couple of times in the first season. However, we still haven’t seen that Monday when she is going to resign.

  • Is “Prespav” going to try to conquer the hearts of other Balkan countries? 

I think we can do it, but we will see if we can succeed.