[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]From Dec. 16 to Jan. 6, OhioFusion.com will be posting stories featured in it’s upcoming winter 2011 issue.[/box]
That’s the premise of the web series “Husbands.” Veteran TV writer Jane Espenson — you’ve seen her work in shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Gilmore Girls” — teamed up with Brad Bell — or “Cheeks” as he’s known in the series and the acting world — to produce a show that’s gained quite a following.
The show revolves around a famous “out” baseball player, Brady Kelly (Sean Hemeon), and a famous actor, Cheeks, who become the first gay couple to marry under the new Nevada law.
Deciding they couldn’t possibly be the first divorced gay couple, they decide to go along with the marriage and try to make their six-week-old relationship work. Helping them every step of the way is Cheeks’ trainwreck of a best friend, Haley (Alessandra Torresani).
The first season manages to fit personality, humor and tenderness into each of its short 3- to 4-minute webisodes. It’s also worth mentioning the series is directed by Jeff Greenstein, executive producer of “Will and Grace.”
I got on the line with Jane and Cheeks to talk about the series and to find out what’s ahead for Brady and Cheeks.
The first thing I need to ask is what’s in store for season two?
Cheeks: We’ve got some ideas. If we end up doing season two online like the first season, it opens some interesting avenues for us. Like, do we want to lengthen the episodes? Do we want to tell one story broken up into 11 parts like we did with season one? Do we want to have each episode be its own thing? I think it will all depend once we know what we’re doing and who we’re going with.
Jane: We definitely want to do Cheeks goes to meet the wives of the other players and how he fits into baseball culture. And there are other things, other stories that are demanding to be told.
Cheeks: I want to meet the parents too. I think that Brady’s parents should meet Cheeks’ mom. I think he probably just has a mom and she’s really eccentric. I have this fantasy that it will be Jennifer Tilly.
Have you gotten word from any networks interested in producing the series on television?
Jane: We haven’t taken it out yet. We’re still in the process of sending copies of the pilot, and we’ll see who’s interested.
What do you think “Husbands” does well as a show to make it already so popular?
Cheeks: I think that we are really focused on the funny. We wanted it to be as comedically tight as possible. I think that our subject matter is something that’s important to people, and so there’s the emotional aspect that’s resonating. Our characters like each other, and even though they’re dealing with a lot of different, less-than-ideal circumstances, they still care about each other. I think that people enjoy that. I also think the fact that we’re keeping the episodes short is keeping people wanting more.
Jane: It seems like such an obvious concept to have never been done. I love it. I think we got lightning in a bottle with this cast. It’s just one of those casts with instant chemistry and I think Cheeks and I did some strong joke writing. It’s also well-directed—it’s part of what gives us the feel of a real network show.
What kind of gay stereotypes do you think the show perpetuates and how do you incorporate those without making them offensive?
Cheeks: I guess in a lot of ways I am a stereotype because I do love Madonna and dancing and wearing ridiculous things. But I think it’s important to start with expectations and stereotypes in order to be able to subvert that and surprise your audience. I think that we set it up so that you expect Cheeks to be “the girl” and Brady to be “the guy” and then we come to see that Brady is much more the sensitive, commitment-oriented one and Cheeks is the one who’s a little bit more like a guy in that he doesn’t really want to talk about feelings, and he hasn’t really thought about commitment and everything is “do we have to have a conversation about this?” So I think that by starting with stereotypes you’re able to produce the unexpected.
Jane: I heard from a friend of mine who also had a web series with a gay character in it, and he talked about when they developed their show they made sure to expunge any hint of outrageousness from the gay character—anything that could be labeled as a stereotype—because they wanted him to be a completely real-life human being. And then he watched “Husbands” and looked at the Cheeks character and realized “there’s a character with everything we tried to avoid who is totally a real-life human being from the first word he speaks.”
Cheeks: I didn’t want to be so sensitive to portraying stereotypes that we created a character built on anti-stereotypes. I don’t think it’s authentic to create a character that is in no way a stereotype because everyone is unique and different. Cheeks is a heightened version of me, but in a lot of ways he’s who I am. So if I’m a stereotype, then so be it. It doesn’t mean that I’m not three-dimensional.
I love the tagline of the show. Tell me how you came up with it and how it contributes to the show’s overall message.
Jane: We went through a bunch of different taglines and we even used some of them on a couple of our documents. But the one that really stuck was “They’re doing it wrong. That’s their right.” And it really just came to me because I was playing with the word “right.” Only after did we realize how powerful it was. The journalist Alyssa Rosenberg was the first one to really point out how deep it was and that the core of the series is about this couple that is absolutely fallible.
They are making every mistake along the way starting with getting drunkenly married after only knowing each other six weeks. Part of the right to get married comes with the right to do things wrong, to not have to be perfect, to be able to make mistakes like anybody else. Put them on equal footing with every other newlywed couple out there. They’re not better. They’re not different. They’re just another newlywed couple.
Jane and Cheeks stressed that if Husbands is to move forward into a second season, they need to continue to gain interest. Visithttp://husbandstheseries.com to watch webisodes, learn about the cast and see what others are saying.