MikeInWeHo is an old friend of BCC.
Last Sunday at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles a panel convened to discuss the HBO series Big Love. Sponsored by Outfest, the event promised an inside look at how a drama about polygamy made its way to television.
The series was created and written by long-time couple Mark Olsen and Will Scheffer, who answered the friendly audience’s questions with candor. Three cast members were also present, including Matt Ross (‘Alby Grant’) and Mary Kay Place (‘Adaleen Grant’). Clips were shown giving a synopsis of last season.
While the highly controversial temple scene was not shown again, the audience asked Olsen and Scheffer several questions about that episode:
Why did HBO permit something so offensive to Mormons? Scheffer answered with a laugh that the executives at HBO knew nothing about Mormonism and had no idea the temple scene would set off a “firestorm.” He stated “HBO didn’t know that, and we didn’t tell them.” He went on to report that the controversy eventually died down and in fact HBO’s ratings “go through the roof in Utah” when Big Love is on the air. They have experience no negative repercussions from HBO and report that many felt the scene was beautiful and respectful.
Was the endowment scene their response to the Church’s involvement in Prop 8? They insisted there was no connection, and that in fact the scene was “shot and in the can months before Prop 8.” They went further and said “This was not payback,” but continued: “Next season will be payback.”
The audience asked for more detail, but the couple demurred. They did reveal that new characters would be introduced, including a gay Mormon who is attempting to live according to the teachings of the Church. They implied that this new character would embark on a clandestine sexual relationship with Alby Grant, and that the experiences of gay Mormons in Utah would become part of the storyline.
Other questions were asked about their overall motivation for creating Big Love. Is it really about something besides polygamy? How can this family be portrayed so sympathetically, when contemporary polygamy is so oppressive to women? What’s really going on here?
Olsen and Scheffer acknowledged that they do have a political agenda, to promote acceptance of diverse forms of family. In the context of Outfest, it was clear that by this they meant gay marriage. They discussed how “the last thing we need is a polemic” and that the best way to win over public opinion is by “portraying humanity.” They concluded the discussion by pointing out that “At the end of the day, this is a family that works.”
It will be interesting to see what’s in store for the Henrickson family next season.