As fans of Desperate Housewives well know, the women of Wisteria Lane do indeed keep house, but when push comes to shove, these randy ladies aren’t often desperate for long. Case in point: Dana Delany.
Though her Katherine Mayfair is fresh out of the loony bin (more on that later), this Sunday she takes a new roomie — a stripper with a heart of gold named Robin — and promptly plants one on her ... and likes it.
As fans of the show know, Katherine is recovering from a broken heart: She lost Mike Delfino to his ex-wife, Susan (Teri Hatcher), and, in her attempt to move on, stabbed herself and pinned it on him. As the saying goes, “If I can’t have him ... ”
She got help and by some miracle managed to redeem herself to the other housewives. Now, in an attempt to move on with her life, Katherine’s going through a phase of self-discovery ... and what better way to test the waters of same-sex romance than with Julie Benz, late of Showtime’s Dexter.
Delany talked to The Advocate about what Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry has in store for Katherine, why she’s comparing this to a Meredith Baxter–type story, and what she wishes she could have done with Jennifer Beals on the set of The L Word.
The Advocate: So let's get right down to it… Katherine is doing a bit of a 180 with her love life.
Dana Delany: Yes, she is.
How did you respond when the writers brought this idea to you?
Oh, I loved it — I thought it was a great idea. A lot of the ladies on the set have said, “Why has this not happened before?” I think everybody wanted to be the one who got to do it.
So far, we know you share an intimate moment with Julie Benz, and I’ve read that it develops in to something more. I know story lines there are a closely guarded secret, but is there anything else you can tell us?
Yeah, Julie moves in with me. She is totally an openly, out lesbian, and she’s very up-front about that. She moves in with me because she needs a place to stay. And then I think it makes Katherine question things about herself.
I thought it was interesting how you compared this story line to Meredith Baxter’s recent coming-out — she was very specific that she’d never ruled it out, it just wasn’t something that had ever occurred to her. Is that kind of the way we’re going to see things play out with Katherine?
Yeah, I think it’s going to take her by surprise, the feelings she’s having. I think that she’s still so emotionally vulnerable from getting out of the loony bin [laughs], and I think she and Robin [Benz] connect on a kind of wounded, emotional level. And I think if anything, she’s feeling this kind of emotional solace with her, and that draws her to Robin in a physical way, and that’s confusing to her.
And I just have to put it out there — if you’re going to play gay, Julie Benz is a pretty hot way to kick things off.
Oh, my God. Well, and not only is she gorgeous, she’s a really good actress. I think people get so lost in her looks that they don’t realize how good she is.
Desperate Housewives has been criticized in the past, perhaps a bit unfairly, for introducing gay story lines and then letting them fade into the background. What would you ultimately like to see happen with this story arc for Katherine?
I just want it to be true, you know. I think it would be fun if Katherine did decide that she was gay. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, though, because story lines change a lot on the set. If anything, I think Marc is interested in playing the complexity of that. The moment you cross that line of having sex with someone — and I think there’s a lot of people who’ve been there [laughs], where you wake up and go, “Oh, my God. What did I just do? And what happens after that?” I think that’s familiar to people.
Now, as you said, she’s pretty vulnerable because she just spent some time in the loony bin, and she has caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people. How do you think the other characters are going to react?
Oh, God, I’m sure they’ll each have their individual reactions. It’ll be very interesting. I can’t wait to see what the writers come up with because I’m sure they’ll have some twists ... the one woman you’d think would have a problem with it won’t. That kind of thing.
Who do you think will be the most OK with it?
I think Bree will be.
Yeah, because her son is gay and I think she’s already gone through that. And I think Bree and Katherine really do love each other, and I think that, even through thick and thin, there’s an affection there. In fact, Marcia [Cross] and I always used to joke that we wish we were the couple.
Now, that would be crazy.
You were given a lot of really tricky, heavy stuff this season that could have very easily gone too campy, and I thought you did an excellent job of keeping it on the level.
When you started this story line, how did you prepare? Because it had the potential to take Katherine to an irredeemable place she couldn’t be brought back from.
Yeah. I actually just kind of tapped into my own life [laughs]. After a certain amount of romances in our lives, we’ve all been hurt and we’ve all been dumped. I just looked at those and was thinking, What if I just couldn’t let it go? There was something liberating to me about it because, in my own life, I have to sort of rein it in an be proper. But that’s what’s so much fun about Desperate Housewives ... you can kind of push it a little bit. I found it really fun to do and very cathartic. Because there are so many times in my life I wish I could have done that.
Katherine has been telling people that Mike was the love of her life. She’d never felt anything quite like what she felt for him. In bringing on the Julie Benz character, is there anything about this new relationship that will negate what she said about Mike, or is this just another person?
I think it’s just another person. And, you know, who knows if Mike was the love of her life? We always say that, and then if you really look at it, what was that connection? I think as we get older, our ideas of love change. When we’re younger it’s all about a physical connection, and then when you get older, it’s about a deeper respect and trust. I don’t think she and Mike had that.
Does Katherine know the Julie Benz character is an out lesbian when she invites her to move in?
[Laughs] No, she finds out after that.
Does it throw her?
OK, you’re being vague, so I’ll stop going down that road.
Now, this isn’t your first time playing gay.
Lesbian fans in particular remember you from The L Word. What is your fondest memory from working on that show?
You know, I have to say ... even though it was only one episode, I will never forget, I arrived on a Sunday in Vancouver and they were shooting and Jennifer Beals asked me to come to her trailer and talk to her about the part. So I went there and she was adamant that we not kiss because, she said, “You know, I’ve been cheating on my girlfriend for so long, now we’re finally back together, and I just wouldn’t do that. I really have to protect the integrity of this relationship.” I was so disappointed [laughs]. I said to her, “Why else do you do The L Word ... if you don’t get to kiss a girl?” So I said to her, “Could we almost kiss? Cuz that’s even more sexy in some ways.” And she said, “Yeah, that’s fine.” So that’s what it ended up being, and I think, in some ways, it was sexier.
I know you were involved in raising money to defeat Prop. 8 in California, and of course, we’re continuing to fight for our rights across the country. Are you at all surprised by how long it seems to be taking to make progress?
Um, no, unfortunately, I’m not surprised. In some ways, like the abortion issue, which I’m also very involved with, it’s always going to divisive because it’s such an emotional button for people. It’s going to be a constant fight. I think it will happen, just like Roe v. Wade got passed, people still fight it. I think a law will be passed, and I think people will still be unhappy about it. That’s why we have to be vigilant. The fact that we’re still fighting about abortion 35 years later is ridiculous. Not that I’m equating gay marriage with abortion ... I just mean it’s a political issue.
With a role like this, playing a role like Katherine, this is something you don’t see on TV often. What are you hoping people take away from the story line?
I hope that people understand the fluidity of sexuality. One good thing about today is that people are freer to explore things, and there’s an emotional level to it besides a sexual level. I think that’s what we’re trying to find here ... the complications of that. Because I certainly know people who have experimented because they felt an emotional connection with somebody and then realized, “Oh, wait, I’m not gay.” But I also think you have to take responsibility for that.
So we’re going to see the big kiss this Sunday. How was it to film that?
[Laughs] Well, both Julie and I were sick, so we were spreading germs. I do have to say, though ... there were all of a sudden crew members on the set that were never there before. Typical male interest.
How long are we going to see this play out?
I don’t know. I don’t think the writers have decided yet. We just shot a really lovely episode that I’m happy with. I just like the combination of Julie and me together, Katherine and Robin together, because it’s kind of an odd couple. And I like that aspect of it ... that Katherine is so put together and Julie is walking around in a bra and panties.
Yes, one of the first images we get of Julie’s character is her working in the class room hanging art projects, but she’s walking across the tables like she’s on a catwalk.
[Laughs] Yes, and I just love that Katherine sees beyond that, to this really vulnerable and sweet person. And there’s no judgment.