The Brains Behind Husbands

Creators Jane Espenson and Brad Bell talk archetypes, identity, and honorary lesbians.

BY Jacob Anderson-Minshall

May 24 2013 6:03 AM ET

Brad Bell and Jane Espenson

The Web series Husbands follows gay newlyweds and celebrity couple Brady (a professional baseball player) and Cheeks (a famous actor) who woke up following a drunken weekend in Vegas to find themselves married. Their wedding becomes public and the couple — fearing a quickie divorce would only provide fodder for the anti-marriage equality contingent — decide to stick it out, to humorous effect.

It is the only show in which two openly gay actors are featured in a relationship and is also the most critically acclaimed program to emerge from new media. We talked with Husbands creators Jane Espenson (the TV writer behind hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Brad Bell (who plays Cheeks on the show, opposite Sean Hemeon as Brady) about having the only sitcom built around marriage equality, transforming Husbands into the new graphic novel of the same name, and bringing the series to CW.com.

The Advocate: So obviously, Husbands is hilarious, but the first question I’m sure everybody asks you is why did you guys decide to start with a Web series rather than trying to go the traditional sitcom route?
Bell: I think that we felt like America was ready for it. But we weren’t sure if the gatekeepers on the other end of traditional television would feel that way, so we wanted to make it sooner rather than later.
Espenson: Yeah, even if we had been able to take it out and pitch it and sell it, it would have been six months to a year before we got it out there. This way we were able to assemble a team and start shooting.
Bell: And we got to make the show we wanted to make. We didn’t want someone to say, "That’s a great idea, except it should be about a bunch of girls at a sorority."

Espenson: "And we want Ben Affleck to star."  We wanted to do it the way we wanted to do it.
Bell: Well, I would have loved to have Ben Affleck in it [laughs], but you know the point is that they turn around the vision oftentimes and we wanted to make the show we saw to better express, "Here’s the kind of show we would produce on a higher cost scale."
Espenson: And I think in the time that’s gone by since, I think traditional television has moved a little bit so that CW Digital, who we’re signing with now, is very respectful of continuing to make the products exactly how we’ve been doing it.
 
Wow, working with CW Digital. When will that happen?
Bell: We’re writing the script right now. I actually have index cards taped to the wall of my hotel room for an outline. And we hope to be shooting in May. That’s the tentative slate for production right now.

 

So you’re obviously the show writer but you’re also the star, so is Cheeks a lot of you, or are you very different from Cheeks in real life?
Bell: I think if I’m having a good time and I don’t have anything to worry about — if I’m out having fun and having a drink — then I’m definitely very Cheeks. I used to be a lot more Cheeks. But with responsibility comes Brad Bell. Brad Bell is actually my persona that I invented, in able to function in the real adult world where you have to actually [pay bills].  
 
So since Cheeks is a little bit of you, I have to ask, have you ever been told to tone it down and not be so gay?
Bell: Oh, yeah, sure. [Laughs]
Espenson: That line in season 2, where they say, "If only Cheeks were more appropriate" — somebody actually said that.
Bell: After watching Husbands, an industry person said that I needed to be a little more … "appropriate" is not the word, but that’s definitely what they meant. That was based on real life.
 
So that’s real to you. But Brady — the other main character on Husbands — is what we used to call "straight-acting." It’s a common archetype. I just want to know, what creatively led you guys to do that?
Bell: It’s interesting because I hear that it’s a common archetype a lot, but I mean other than The Birdcage and maybe The New Normal, which came after our show, really where can you point to that example?
Espenson: Which archetype are you talking about? Cheeks or Brady?

Tags: television

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