While some gay men struggle to come out to friends and family, Greg Cason had to consider coming out to an entire TV viewing audience when he signed on for Bravo's new reality show LA Shrinks, which premieres on the increasingly popular, gay-ish network tonight. The delicious series follows the lives of three different therapists and psychologists as they treat their patients in drama-filled Los Angeles.
The Advocate: Welcome, Dr. Greg Cason! Are you excited about the show?
Greg Cason: Thank you. You know what — I am! It's been a long, long process for all of us, and there was a time that I was absolutely terrified and wanted to hide under a rock, but now that it's here, I'm completely, balls-out excited about it!
You are one of the three doctors or therapists that the show will be focusing on. How much thought went into Should I do this or not?
For me, it was crazy. I can't even tell you in a nutshell how much thought went into it. It was such a process. A lot of it was hiding my sexuality, being gay, putting that out there. Part of it was, as a psychologist, we're taught not to divulge our personal lives, and so I get this call to be on a TV show, and my first instinct was, I don't want to do this. I don't want everyone knowing my personal business. But then I thought, That's a shame, because that's the same thing that's kept me in the closet all these years. I believe in a process I call "shame attack," so I decided I would face my fears and at least go talk to the producers, and one thing led to another, everything was explained to me, and I decided to do it. But … the fun didn't stop there. [Laughs] Then I went into a five-month spiral, coming completely unravelled about my decision — and I'm embarrassed to say — I held up production, rethinking everything. I was like, Is this something I can do? Is this even ethical? Will I lose my license? And I was consulting everyone I knew, talking to everyone under the sun, so I can tell you, this was a very methodical process. But once I made the decision, it was as if a huge weight was lifted off me.
So has the first season been filmed? How do you feel now?
Yes, we're all finished filming, and my hair is a lot grayer! Funny, the producers tell me that's normal.
How do you get ready for the kind of exposure that comes along with a Bravo reality TV show?
Well, as part of the anxiety process that I went through, I decided to watch some Bravo shows, and I sat down on a Sunday — as luck would have it, there was a Real Housewives of New Jersey marathon on, and I watched the entire thing. It was like going into the fiery pits of hell! I was horrified and scared, but now I've watched them all, and I've realized that these shows are really about strong, empowered women — not to mention the soap opera aspect of the drama. And so I think in some ways, the shows were inspirational. I mean, look, I can only hope that we get the ratings the Housewives get. I hope I'm not avoiding the question. I guess I just don't know. I don't know how my life will change. It may sound silly, but part of me thinks my life will stay exactly the same after the show airs. I lived my whole life without being on TV, so I have no idea how being on TV will change that, so I don't know if there is a way to actually prepare for it.
The show focuses on you treating clients, but also it focuses on your own personal life. How much did you have to consider your family and partner's concerns when making such a major decision?
You would think they would be the ones with the most concern, but oddly, they were first in line to say I should do it. Kevin [my partner of 23 years] and I talked quite a bit about it, and we wanted to be completely honest about everything. One thing I knew for sure is that I don't want to play a character on TV, I want to be my authentic self. As a psychologist, I cannot be inauthentic in any way. How can I portray something that's different from the truth I live? So, I thought, to be responsible to myself, my client, my own beliefs, I had to be authentic. Never say never, I guess, because I remember saying I would never talk about my relationship or such personal things, and there I was doing exactly that.
Did it take a while to adjust to having cameras around you all the time?
It's weird at first, because you want to be able to talk to the crew like they're people in front of you, as if they're part of the conversation, and they don't respond back. [Laughs] They just stand there. It's their job to be unobtrusive. But yes, eventually you let go and as a result, there's a less guarded approach. I mean, after a while, you really do just forget about the cameras. Like, I would lean awkwardly, or scratch some place inappropriate, or have something hanging out of my pocket. I wouldn't even know because I'm just being myself — until they stopped filming for some reason and one of them would come over and say something like, "You may want to tuck that Kleenex the rest of the way in your pocket because it's just … hanging there."
Were you concerned at all about Bravo's editing, like how they may edit things to present them?
I guess, for me, I'm protected by the fact that people know Bravo TV is known for its entertainment. And to be entertaining, they sometimes have to edit things in a way to get that "entertainment" element. I mean, if you didn't, you'd have tons of footage of me doing laundry or sitting on the toilet, and you wouldn't be that amused.
So true! Was it difficult to get clients to consent to being treated on TV, with therapy usually being such an anonymous process?
We didn't use our own client-base or pick our clients. Bravo actually matched us with people that consented, as clients, and understood the premise. This is what's so good about the show. If Bravo would have asked any of us to use our own clients, that would be flatly and terribly unethical. We cannot use our influence as doctors and therapists to ask a client to do something. So this was all done very ethically and legally. I like the fact that you get to see us build our professional relationship with these new clients from the very beginning of the treatment process. Viewers aren't jumping in at the middle and trying to understand what's going on.
Bravo is known for its campy energy. Is there any concern with it taking away from the seriousness of what you do?
Yes. It was a primary concern. It was something I stayed very vigilant about through the entire process. I mean, I have no control over the outcome, but at the same time, I feel good about my own integrity, how I approached my clients and treating my clients no differently with a camera present. I feel good, and I feel like my clients got good treatment. Because it's not scripted, anything can happen. It's refreshing. You never know — there were things that happened — like maybe one half of a couple doesn't show up for couples' therapy, or a client isn't trying and that hinders the progress you're trying to get. So I was happy that those kinds of normal things happened, so people could see how a therapist deals with those things. I'm proud of it. I'm really hoping viewers like it too.
LA Shrinks debuts at 10 p.m. Eastern Monday on Bravo. Find more information here.