Bryan Fuller's struggles with LGBTQ representation
This isn’t Hannibal related, but I found these quotes extraordinarily sad and thought you might find them interesting.
Now, there was some drama as to if Claire’s friend Zach was going to be gay.
It absolutely was a path that we were going to take. In the first meetings when we were sitting down and talking about the show, one of the things about the show that Tim said that he wanted all these characters to represent different people in the world and we had an Asian guy and an Indian guy and… a whole bunch of white people. He just wanted it to be a united Benetton cast. I said that’s fantastic, but if we have this many people, then we need to have a gay character. If you want to represent the world, that’s certainly a demographic that we need to hit. [Tim completely agreed and] was thinking Claire’s best friend might be a good person – and I couldn’t agree more. So we were definitely going down a route of making [Zach] the gay character and having him have a big role in her life and sort of teaching her to come out about her ability and embrace herself and actually using the coming out metaphor and the gay metaphor in that instance as a fun piece of storytelling.
There was an unfortunate miscommunication and when the script arrived that had the line in it, ‘I would take you to homecoming but you have to know that I don’t like girls that way.’ The actor [Thomas Dekker]‘s, manager threatened to pull him from the show because he was up for the John Carter role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles and she didn’t want him playing a gay character because it might affect FOX’s interest in hiring him. It got really ugly.
Considering Heroes is a show about people embracing what’s special about themselves, it would have been great for gay teens see themselves reflected on TV by Zach.
It’s unfortunate and really – we only took one line out of the script. In really, in all of our minds, the character was still gay but we couldn’t say it explicitly.
I was very upset by it – I was not happy about it at all. There were times I had to avoid talking about it because we didn’t want to have a negative reflection on the show. The show’s been such a positive experience for so many people, we didn’t want to get hung up on the fact that one actor’s management felt that it was a career killer for him to play a homosexual which, as a gay man, I found incredibly insulting.
We had episodes planned for him to be in, and she pulled him from the show altogether. So that’s why he sort of disappeared.
What inspired you to make Sharon a lesbian in the first place?
Todd and I are both openly gay, and I think we feel a responsibility to having gay characters on shows we create. I had a gay character (George’s father) on Dead Like Me, and unfortunately after I left that show they made the character straight, which I did not appreciate and frankly, thought was really shitty. But that was just one of many things about that situation that was uncool.
It’s also a point of view that Todd and I share: we can write about Sharon’s perspective of being gay because I know what that feels like. It’s not a point of view that you see often on TV, so it’s a little more fresh, a little less trodden, and just opens the door on storytelling.
Are you going to show Sharon kissing her girlfriend, or is that something the network doesn’t want you to do?
The network’s standards and practices have told us that we cannot have them kiss on-screen; we get letters from the network’s standards and practices saying “Under no circumstances are their lips ever to touch.” But that’s not unusual: when I was doing Carrie for NBC, one of our character’s was doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on another character who had drowned, and we got a note on how to film the lesbian kiss. I was like “it’s mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, you dumbass!”
But if you look closely, you see Sharon and her girlfriend’s lips actually connect right before they fall out of the shot in one of the Wonderfalls episodes. It’s very quick, but we managed to get that in
There’s always a nervousness at the networks with new shows with hot-button issues and not wanting to give anyone any reasons not to like the show, especially at higher levels in the network.
When you see two women kissing on shows like Fastlane, it’s fun, it’s exploitative, and it’s like “ooh, hot chick-on-chick action” and it’s to get the straight guys to watch. When you’re talking about two adult women in a serious relationship that is genuine and tender, I think it scares them because you’re trying to say that gay people are normal. When it’s played as a joke it’s easier for them to digest than when it’s actually real. We’ve definitely been advised not to say the word “lesbian” quite so much, and to not make that such a focal point with Sharon’s character.
Now let’s talk “Wonderfalls.” Wasn’t it supposed to be this largely-hyped television series that would launch post “American Idol” and be the next big TV series and have all this backing before it just went plop?
Yes, all those things are true. We were the golden boys and everything was fantastic and we were in episode 7 and a rough cut of episode 5, which had a very significant lesbian B-story was sent to a higher-ups office, and he said “no fucking way.” And the next day no one was talking to us and there was a time when we weren’t even going to air. We really knew when we went into the marketing meeting and first they were telling us how they were going to market it, and then they were telling us how they were not.
That’s when we decided that we needed to make it a miniseries because we wouldn’t have more than 13 episodes and we made those 13 episodes sing. We had a beginning, middle and end.
Well, what was the lesbian storyline that got everyone worked up? Was it some risque shower-scene that showed boobies or something?
No, it was just two women relating to one another as a loving couple and we were forbidden to show them kissing in any way, shape or form even though other shows on Fox were having kisses between women that were more exploitative. Ours were more honest and real about two women in adult relationship.
Dead Like Me
In the pilot episode, George’s father hugged a guy, setting up a future storyline in which George realizes her dad was gay and that her life actually wasn’t supposed to be. It was central to the theme that we don’t know the value of a life until its too late. But MGM cut the scene and storyline out.
I had arguments where they would tell me I didn’t know what a pretty woman looks like because I’m a gay man. It was the worst type of gross old boy studio experience you could imagine. They were constantly trying to strong arm me. It was the worst experience of my life.