I had the good luck to score an interview with Jane Espenson while at WonderCon 2012. She has written for excellent shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warehouse 13, Dollhouse, Once Upon a Time, and the list goes on! However, when we met up for the interview, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in the presence of the new webseries’, Husbands, cast as well, including Cheeks (Brad Bell), Sean Hemeon, and director Jeff Greenstein.
Jane Espenson is the producer of this webseries about a couple who wakes up one morning after visiting Las Vegas and finds themselves to be married. Usually, this can be fixed with a quick annulment or divorce, but since this couple is two men, and the gay community fought so hard to be allowed to get married, they decide to stick it out, rather than undermine all the hard work that went into allowing gay marriage by getting a divorce.
We cover the gamut by talking about Husbands, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once Upon a Time, and other general topics.
AFC: Nice to meet you guys. So, I wasn’t expecting to have all of you guys, so I mostly have questions for you [Jane Espenson]. But I did have one Husbands question. So you just finished your first season, I guess, last year. What can we expect in the future?
Cheeks: Ah, yeah, we just announced actually that we’re doing season 2. So yeah, we’re going to have a Kickstarter going, and we will be shooting in May, and we are working on the scripts for season 2 right now. Bigger, better…
Jane: Bigger, better stories. Bigger guest stars…and a bus chase.
Jeff: There’s explosions, and carnage.
AFC: Really? Okay.
AFC: Interesting to see how that’ll fit in!
Cheeks: Yeah, we’re really opening up the world, meeting some other characters, and going a little bit deeper into their lives and who they are.
Jane: But still focusing around that core of like, “This is a young couple that’s making mistakes the way every young couple does. So it’ll be leaning in the mistakes…
AFC: Have you thought of a release date yet?
Jane: We’re thinking July.
AFC: So, you [Jane Espenson] came up with the idea of Husbands? Is that right?
Jane: Cheeks did actually.
AFC: Anything that spurred that on? Inspiration?
Cheeks: Uh, no it wasn’t pulled from headlines intentionally, or you know, a reaction to what’s happening. It was a story about, a guy and his gal pal, and then it turned into a newlywed comedy because it seemed like a fresher take. And I just wanted to make a funny show that was a romantic comedy like any other sitcom you’ve seen, like Dharma and Greg, I Love Lucy or anything like that, so…We thought it was pretty cutting edge because it hadn’t been done.
Jane: Once it had that though – once it had a reason to exist – that did start driving it. We’re now, when we start thinking of stories, we sort of think from the point of view of what needs to be said so it didn’t start from a political place but it grew more political as it lives and breathes.
AFC: Yeah, and it needs to be out there.
Jane: We think so.
Cheeks: Well, thanks for helping to put it out there.
Jane: That’s right. You have the power to make it out there.
Cheeks: Direct them to husbandstheseries.com.
AFC: Has that started yet?
Jane: No, it’s about to. In a day or two it’ll be up and running and we’re going to have all the different levels so they can come just give a dollar and let us know they support us. Or they can come and give $250 and get an exclusive signed script from me.
*Since this took place, the Kickstarter campaign has started and only has a few days left. So go to husbandstheseries.com to find the campaign and donate before it closes!
AFC: Okay, awesome. So now, shifting to a Buffy question. So there were rumors that a Buffy reboot was going to be happening soon.
Jane: Oh the movie? Right.
AFC: Any feelings on that?
Jane: I will follow Joss anywhere. If Joss made a reboot, I would be there. If someone can figure out how to do it without Joss, and it’s fantastic, more power to them, good entertainment. But personally I feel like Joss is the heart of that show.
AFC: I agree with that. It’s like, without Joss…
Jane: Exactly, exactly. We wouldn’t make Husbands without Cheeks.
AFC: And with so many talented writers out there, what are your thoughts on reboots in general? Reboots, remakes? This could be everybody a question. Because there’s so many fresh, new ideas out there.
Jane: Oh, yeah like the new Spider-Man. It seems like we just had a Spider-Man.
AFC: We did. We just had a Spider-Man.
Jane: I think sometimes you end up with something like Battlestar Galactica, where with what you get surpasses the original. And sometimes you get watered-down, Second Generation. And it just all depends on the quality of the product.
*Cheeks had to leave us at this point.
AFC: Now, what is your [Jeff and Sean] involvement with Husbands?
Jeff: My day job is I’m a writer/producer. I did Dream On, Friends, Will & Grace, and Desperate Housewives as a, just as a grand prelude to my work on Husbands.
Jane: So he’s our director.
Jeff: On this show, I’m a director.
AFC: So, is that new for you?
Jeff: Relatively. I started directing. I did my first Desperate Housewives episode last fall. And I did two more this year, including last Sunday’s episode where we killed off one of our characters, which was, you know, spoiled in a court room testimony, I think for the first time in American television history. But that’s actually just something I’ve started to move into in the last couple years, and I had in fact done, just a couple episodes at the time Jane offered me the chance to do Husbands. And of course, I jumped at it because, I mean, it was her.
Jane: Yeah, and Sean is one of our actors. Sean plays Cheek’s husband, Brady.
AFC: Okay, nice. And what else have you done…I’m sorry I’m not familiar on your background.
Sean: That’s fine, uh True Blood, Criminal Minds, As the World Turns.
AFC: Oh I love True Blood. I’ve probably seen you on there.
Sean: I’m a big vampire.
Jeff: Sean is new. Sean is a discovery.
Sean: Yeah. I’m an up-and-comer. They discovered me.
Jeff: Sean is a discovery. When we were casting the show, and we were looking, we knew of course, we knew Cheeks was going to be Cheeks, and the role of Haley was written for Alessandra Torresani, and so Brady was the role we had to cast.
Jeff: And so among other things, as we were casting the net wide, trying to find our guy, I asked Scott Genkinger, the casting director on Desperate Housewives, about it, gave him the description of the character. He said, “You have to see Sean Hemeon.” So that was one of the ways we found out about Sean. And he came in and nailed it. He was amazing.
Jane: Yeah he was amazing. He’s our Dick Van Dyke.
Jeff: A total discovery which is what I think the best of television is…
AFC: Isn’t that great to hear?
Sean: Yeah it is. I never get tired of it. Nope.
AFC: So do you [Sean] have, other than the season 2 of Husbands, anything else coming up?
Sean: Ah, right now the focus is on season 2 of Husbands because it’s coming right up. I mean, we’re about to do it and just get into it.
AFC: Yeah, a couple months?
Sean: No, well, that’s when we’re airing. But we still have to film it. We haven’t filmed it yet.
Jane: Yeah, yeah. So that’s imminent.
AFC: Now has it been written yet?
[laughs from all three]
AFC: Okay. You’ve got to get to that first!
Jane: We’ve got detailed outlines, parts of a draft, and so it is at that stage where the writing can happen very quickly. Yeah, so we know where we’re going but we still got some work to get words down on paper.
AFC: And what else, other than Husbands? Do you guys [Jeff and Jane] have anything else coming up?
Jane: Once Upon A Time is where I live and work, and we’re gonna be getting into our season 2, I’m confident, very soon.
Jeff: Did they pick you guys up yet?
Jeff: Oh my god. Get on with it. That’s crazy.
Jane: But um, I’m fairly confident they’ll pick up the number one new drama on TV. [Laughs]
Jeff: Yes, yes.
AFC: They’d be crazy not to right?
Jeff: What’s it like working on a hit? How bout that?
Jane: I’ve never worked on a network hit. I’ve worked on hits, and I’ve worked on network shows, but never a network hit. It’s wonderful. We work at Disney, where Disney’s letting us do these Disney characters. And, like, we get to play with the best toys ever. It’s really fun.
AFC: Yeah, it’s like the sky’s the limit.
Jane: Yeah, exactly. We did. You know, I wrote for Jiminy Cricket. I wrote for – didn’t write lines for – but Chip? The little chipped teacup from Beauty and the Beast. Like that’s such an iconic thing now, and it’s part of what I get to write about.
AFC: Yeah, is there anything you’re looking forward to writing about? Anything you hope you get to write about?
Jane: There’ve been hints that we may see Ariel next year, The Little Mermaid. That, I would love to do that.
Jeff: I saw her walking around the convention center.
Jane: Probably more than one! I mean I think that that will be really good. And I hope we get to do it. And I want to write it. I want to learn more about Rumple, um, Rumpelstiltskin, who I’ve gotten to write three episodes about him so far. I hope we continue to go back to Robert Carlyle and use him to get more of that character out on screen. He’s so amazing.
Sean: He just steals the show every time he comes on. When, in the panel, the big ballroom thing today? When they showed it [the episode], everybody applauded when he came on screen.
Jane: Yes, every time he was on screen you could feel the energy go up. He’s amazing.
AFC: He is. Alright, so I asked my twitter audience what they would want to ask you. And these are just a few of the questions they asked. What’s the best part of working on Once Upon A Time?
Jane: Robert Carlyle, maybe? You know what? I’ll say the whole cast. Because Jennifer Morrison and Ginny Goodwin and Lana Parrilla, who plays the Evil Queen, are immaculately cast.
AFC: Yeah, they were. And so what was your favorite Buffy episode to write?
Jane: I think I had more fun writing “Superstar” than pretty much any episode. That’s an interesting question: Not which one turned out best, but which one I had the most fun writing. Yeah, Superstar.
AFC: Was there any particular character that you really liked?
Jane: I loved Jonathan. But I think the character I loved writing most was Anya. Anya talked like me so it was very easy.
KH: Yeah, Anya was one of my favorites. We’ll just make this the last question: What’s the best writing tip that you ever received?
Jane: Yeah, the one that I always pass on is: write what you would want to see. I don’t know if I remember ever receiving that. You know what the best note that I’ve ever gotten is? When somebody just shoves the script back at you and says, “Great. Go deeper.” I think I do my best writing with a really general note like that than with a really specific one because the “go deeper” note just forces you to. It just, it has to get better. Because that’s what you were told to do. Yeah, I love that note. So I think everyone should do that with their own scripts. You don’t even have to wait for someone to read it. Write a draft. Then go deeper.
Sean: It’s a good actor note too actually. “Go deeper. That’s great. Do that but more. Okay.”
Jane: Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen Edward James Olmos in a casting session just giving that note. “Okay, do it again. This time, you’re going to cry, because you’re going to go deeper.” And they do.
AFC: And then it’s kind of open to interpretation. You’ve got to dig within yourself to go deeper.
Jane: Right, exactly, yeah. It allows for more of a sense of discovery than if you’re told, “Make this character more likable.” That’s not as helpful in a way.
Big thanks to Jane Espenson for talking with me. And extra big thanks to Cheeks, Sean Hemeon, and Jeff Greenstein for being patient and understanding since I wasn’t prepared to interview them!
This is the Action Flick Chick, and you’ve just been kicked in the ass!