Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Queer lives on TV

Packed with a talented cast and recognised for what could be the perfect mix of comedy and drama, the UK television series Lip Service came onto the scene after The L Word left it and has filled the void in many lesbians’ lives. The co-creator Harriet Braun talks to Rachel Barnes about making the series, the difficulty of living up to fans’ expectations, and the show’s uncertain future.

How did it feel to know that you had a lot of the LGBTQ community eagerly waiting for the show and how does it feel to still have the same energy from the show’s fans today?

I think when we were actually making the show, I had to put those expectations out of my mind or I might never have written anything. But then when we were approaching the first episode airing, it did suddenly hit me, and I got very nervous. So I was delighted when so many of the LGBTQ community embraced the show. It’s a wonderful feeling as a writer, to realise you’ve created characters and stories that so many people engage with, and that they’re enduring in peoples’ imaginations.

Is it true that the BBC came to you and asked you to create a UK-based lesbian drama and if so why did they choose you to take on the task?

My first ever film script had lesbian characters in it, and years ago I co-created a series called Attachments that had a lead lesbian character. I was actually asked to do the show by Derek Wax, an executive producer at Kudos, the company who make Lip Service. He’d seen some of my work and realised it was something that might interest me. He’d been talking to Anne Mensah at BBC Scotland, who was also keen on doing a project along those lines. At that time The L Word was just finishing. I was a bit concerned about following in the footsteps of a show virtually every lesbian had seen. I chewed it over for a while and then I thought - why not? There are countless dramas with groups of straight characters, so why not another lesbian show? I also knew this would be set in the UK and come from my imagination, so it was bound to be different. Ultimately it was too good an opportunity to miss out on.

How did you find the cast? Was it a hard process finding people to fill the roles you had in your head?

It was a fairly lengthy process. We were keen to cast people who weren’t already household names, and we auditioned a lot of people for the first series. So yes, it’s a hard process in that it can take a while, but when the right person turns up they tend to really stand out. It pays not be too invested in exactly what a character should be like, because sometimes you realise what you imagined you wanted doesn’t work as well as a different interpretation.

It is almost inevitable for this to happen but how does it feel to be compared to The L Word? Was it a show you were inspired by, or something you wanted to be distanced from?

The L Word paved the way and I was definitely inspired by how real and felt the lesbian relationships depicted were. That blew me away. I always hoped that the two shows could co-exist. That people could enjoy both shows, and that Lip Service would be judged on its own merits, in the same way loads of straight audience members enjoy different dramas with straight characters.

With season one having a good reception, were you nervous about releasing season two or was it a relief to get it out there?

I’d got most of my nerves out the way the first time round, so I was actually much more relaxed this time. I realised that there’s no point in worrying, you can only do your best and then hope it chimes with the audience.

Looking back on the show and after hearing fans’ reactions to the show, is there anything you would go back and change? Any characters you would have make different choices?

I think to be a good writer/producer, you need to listen to your audience and look at what worked well and what worked less well, both in your eyes and in theirs. That said, I try not to dwell on the notion of changing what’s already happened, I tend to use the criticism positively to move forward and incorporate what I’ve learnt in future work.

Is there going to be a third season? If so, is there any inside information you can give us? And if not, is there any chance of a concluding movie or web series in the future?

Understandably people are really keen to know if there’s going to be a third season, but I’m afraid I just don’t know. We’re waiting for the BBC to tell us. Until we know about that I don’t think we can really think about alternative plans.

Finally, if you could date one of the girls in real life who would it be?

All of the characters have a bit of me in them, so I don’t think I’d date any of them as it would be like going out with myself!


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