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Showrunner Greg Berlanti recently sat down for an interview with the Paley Center's series Paley Front Row to discuss his long and celebrated career, which includes several monumental moments in queer television.
The out producer, creator, director, and writer -- who is also married to soccer player Robbie Rogers -- spoke about bringing what has been referred to as the first "passionate" gay kiss on a network show in Dawson's Creek.
Memorable moments before Dawson's Creek include episodes of L.A. Law between characters Amanda Donohoe (a bisexual) and Abby Perkins (a straight woman) as well as a 1994 episode of Roseanne, where Roseanne Barr goes to a gay bar and is kissed by the character Nancy (played by Mariel Hemingway).
"There was a whole generation where that was a pivotal storyline for them and it was subsequent to them having their own coming out experience," he said. "It was nice to think that in some way we had sent a safety line to young people in a way that maybe hadn't been there for us. It's easy to forget about how valuable that is."
Berlanto also spoke about seeing one of first romantic kisses with two men on television on an episode of Melrose's Place, whereby the camera panned away before viewers saw their lips touch.
"I was old enough to be so upset about that, knowing [Dawson's Creek] was going to be our shot to undo that," he said of the queer storyline between Jack (Kerr Smith) and Ethan (Andy Kaufman). "I was just taking over running the show and I said to the executives that this was a very important thing to me... and said, 'If I run this show, you have to let me do this.'"
"I remember being pretty amped up at the time about thinking we have to get this right," he added.
Berlanti also touches on the necessity for more "coming out" stories, why he has never helmed a "gay-centric" series, the character he wrote that most closely mirrors him, and incorporating LGBTQ+ characters on The CW's DC Comics shows (often in collaboration with gay casting director David Rappaport).
Watch the full interview below: