by Tami Katzoff
Quiz question: Who’s the most geek-friendly writer/producer working in television today? The answer is pretty obvious – it’s Jane Espenson. She’s at least partially responsible for “Torchwood,” “Caprica,” “Battlestar Galactica” and one episode of “Game Of Thrones.” Oh yeah – she’s also contributed to every Joss Whedon TV project since “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.”
For one of her current projects, Espenson called in the Whedonverse troops. Felicia Day, Amber Benson, Emma Caulfield and Dichen Lachman will all guest-star in the second season of the web series “Husbands.”
Getting the actors to participate was remarkably easy, Espenson says. “People were so eager to be involved that I definitely could have had twice the number of people that we got. We just simply stopped calling when we had the roles filled,” she tells MTV news.
Espenson credits Whedon, and the loyalty he inspires, for the unexpected turnout. “The wonderful thing about Whedonverse people – writers, actors, everybody – is that you call them and they’re there,” she says. “Every one of them was like, tell me where and when and I will be there.”
“Husbands” is a joint creation of Espenson and Brad “Cheeks” Bell, whom Espenson met after seeing his very popular (and very funny) video clips on YouTube. Inspiration for the series came out of a discussion about the classic sitcom “I Love Lucy,” which was quite groundbreaking in its day for portraying an interracial marriage and a pregnancy (TV characters couldn’t even utter the word “pregnant” back then).
“We were having a conversation about what is that today – can you even recreate that? What is the story that has yet to be told,” Bell recalls. “We sort of looked at each other at the same time and we were like, oh my God – a gay married couple!”
Espenson thought that it was “a show that deserved to exist” – a very modern take on the newlywed comedy genre. “So we decided to just go ahead and make it, so we could make it the way we wanted to do it.”
“Husbands” stars Bell and Sean Hemeon as Cheeks and Brady, a celebrity couple who wake up married after a wild night in Vegas, and Alessandra Torresani as Cheeks’ BFF, Haley. The first season, which featured a cameo by Nathan Fillion, consisted of eleven two- or three-minute episodes; season two, premiering in August, will be broken up into three eight-minute acts, similar to a traditional sitcom format.
Watching Bell on set and in post-production, Espenson was reminded of Whedon. “Brad really has the showrunner gene,” she says. She also sees Whedon’s influence on Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, executive producers of Espenson’s other current project, “Once Upon A Time,” which is also headed into its second season. “I think they brought me in because they were ‘Buffy’ fans.”
Though she’s worked on dozens of TV shows, Espenson notes that “Once Upon A Time” is the first one where her bosses are substantially younger than herself. And in Horowitz and Kitsis, as well as Bell, Espenson is happy to see the impact of Joss Whedon on a new generation of showrunners. “At the same time as I, as a grown-up, was in the writers’ room with Joss, getting that lesson,” she says, “they were at home on their living room carpet, watching the TV and learning that same lesson.”
MTV News producer Tami Katzoff presents The Weekly Whedon, a column exploring all corners of the Whedonverse from “Marvel’s The Avengers” to “Buffy” and beyond. Assemble your reactions in the comments section!