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Billy Baldwin Pleads for Return of Dirty Sexy Money

Billy Baldwin Pleads for Return of Dirty Sexy Money


Actor William Baldwin is half of one of TV's most groundbreaking couples -- his Dirty Sexy Money character is in love with a transsexual, played by Candis Cayne -- but it's one plot that may not get to play itself out, as the show is in danger of cancellation. Baldwin sat down with to talk about rumors that ABC is "de-gaying" its lineup, what the future holds for Money, and whether network heads ever interfered with his controversial story line.

Actor William Baldwin is half of one of TV's most groundbreaking couples -- his Dirty Sexy Money character is in love with a transsexual, played by Candis Cayne -- but it's one plot that may not get to play itself out, as the show is in danger of cancellation. ABC recently announced that it would stop production of the series, though the network hasn't confirmed outright that it won't be renewed. We spoke to Baldwin to find out what's going on, whether he thinks there's anything fans can do to save the show, and how he feels ABC treats its gay story lines. have you been?WilliamBaldwin: It'sbeen kind of an odd time for me, Kyle. My town, Montecito, is on fire, my show's been canceled, and my wife has left me.

What? I'm only kidding about my wife. She's been performing again and she's had a couple of concerts this week. It's really a trip to see her back up onstage. She's doing a quick little casino circuit with Wilson Phillips and they played at the Club Nokia on Sunday night and it was just wild to see them playing in front of a thousand people.

Billy, you used the c word -- cancellation -- which ABC still hasn't officially used to describe Dirty Sexy Money. Have you heard something we haven't? No, but I have to say... I don't know the television industry well enough, but people who are on the show who've been around a lot longer than I have were giving speeches on the set to the crew, and they were saying stuff like, "You've got nothing to be ashamed of. We did a great job, and we tried our hardest. It was such an honor to work with you, and hopefully in the future we'll be lucky enough to be able to do it again." When [ABC] made the announcement, they very specifically did not use the c word, and they were holding the actors and holding the sets, I guess in contrast to Eli Stone and Pushing Daisies. I don't know, actually -- were those shows canceled, or are they doing the same thing to them?

ABC announced all three shows were shutting down production, but [Pushing Daisies creator] Bryan Fuller said he's actually heard the term "canceled."Our executive producer Matt Gross said they very specifically did not use that word, but they had a tone and they were using words that led me to believe that even though they didn't use the c word, this usually means the show is over. I think what could be happening is they want to see what happens over the next couple of months, how people respond to them floating this trial balloon that the show is in trouble, and they also want to see how the programming they have left performs. If they have another juggernaut like Dancing With the Stars, then I guess we're dead, but if some of this stuff goes in the crapper then I guess they could do an order of nine [more episodes].

Do you think ABC made a mistake when they chose to hold the series until the fall instead of resuming the first season immediately after the strike? I don't know. Look, these shows are very expensive. They put a ton of money into launching it in season one and relaunching it in season two. We had some bumps in the road and [ABC head] Steve McPherson really stuck by the show and poured tons of money into getting it right. Looking back in retrospect, I don't know if that was a problem. This is weird, and I don't know if we'll ever be able to figure this out, but viewing habits shifted this year in a way that people can't quite explain to me. I don't know if it was because of the economy or because everyone was caught up and gripped by the presidential election, but every new show that came back from last year had a significant dip in their viewing in their second season. Dirty Sexy Money was one of the only shows that, on episode one of season two, was on the same level as episode 10 of season one. That was encouraging news, but the rest of it I can't quite figure out. Do you have enough expertise in television to explain why these shows fell off the cliff ratings-wise?

I think that the biggest serial drama this season was the election, which sucked all the air out of the room. In fact, there were some shows this past week, like CBS's comedies, that suddenly hit series highs with no attributable extra promotion, so there's this idea that maybe people are settling back into their old viewing patterns again. You mentioned, though, that the network might be floating this as a trial balloon -- I know that over at NBC, Lipstick Jungle's gone through the same thing, and there's been a fan outcry with people mailing tubes of lipstick to the network. Do you know of anything like that with Dirty Sexy Money?I don't, but I'd like to strategize and coordinate with people. People have told me that there's some Internet and blogging activity and that people have been posting on ABC's website and there's some petitions online. I can't imagine that the outcry over the cancellation of Lipstick Jungle is any more significant than it will be for Dirty Sexy Money, for two reasons. Our audience was bigger than theirs, number one, and our audience was very, very devoted and very loyal to the show. I can't imagine that Lipstick Jungle on the street and at the watercooler had the buzz that our show had. Now, I've never seen that show and I do love Brooke Shields, but I've never had people come up to me, in my career, like they do with this show all the time.

Your relationship with Candis Cayne on the show has been a groundbreaking story line, but at the same time, ABC has come under fire for firing Brooke Smith at Grey's Anatomy. She was playing a lesbian character, and there are accusations that ABC has "de-gayed" that show. Do you know anything about that? No, but I know Brooke pretty well and love her, and her mother, Lois, used to be my publicist. I did see something pop up on the Internet about it and I wasn't sure what it was about. I mean, ABC has been better than all the other networks to the LGBT audience, by a considerable margin. If there's pressure behind the scenes, I haven't heard if that's true and where it might be coming from. I can't imagine that the network's going in and cleaning stuff up -- I think pushing the envelope and being racy in that way has worked to their advantage and I don't know why they wouldn't continue to do that. With Grey's Anatomy, had you heard about any religious groups that were protesting the network or something?

I haven't, but I know people were confused by how abrupt Brooke's firing was. What words did they put out on the street about it?

They said the character had run its course, but then Brooke gave an interview saying it came out of nowhere and they only told her she'd be let go just before she was about to shoot what became her final episode. Wow. My friendship with her is such that we bump into each other at restaurants, but I'm curious to know what happened, what her take on it is.

So you never felt any network interference with your story line? No. I've read production drafts that weren't released to the actors yet that were sent to the network for notes, and I've seen the differences between drafts after their notes, and I didn't notice any significant difference in my story line. Sometimes when I saw a production draft, I wouldn't even read the whole script, I'd just read the scene I was in, so I don't know if there were changes with other story lines, but if they were going to change any of them it would probably be mine. And I didn't notice any significant changes at all.

How many episodes of the second season have you filmed so far? We're in the middle of the 13th... I think you're in a tough position as a showrunner when you're writing a show that feels on some level like an audition for the "back nine" [episodes of the season]. If you don't have to be burdened by that or restricted like that... I don't think it affected the overall quality of the show, though. I dug the show, people dug the show, and I hope we get a shot to continue. I really do. I would do anything, I really would. I wouldn't even do nine [episodes] if they wanted, I'd do six! Just let them run in succession.

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Kyle Buchanan