Just like any love story worth telling, the web series Husbands kicks off with accidental nuptials in Vegas. Brad “Cheeks” Bell and Sean Hemeon play a new couple who wake up suddenly wed after an ill-advised night of drinking following the passage of a marriage equality law. Though the Hollywood actor and professional athlete have only been dating for six weeks, they must now choose marital bliss over the prospect of an embarrassing public divorce. These guys would rather stick it out than make a mockery of the hard-won rights they’ve just exercised on a drunken whim; luckily, all signs point to true love on the road ahead.
Executive Producer Jane Espenson spoke with Poptimal about the show, giving insights into the development process and the media climate in which it takes place.
With her considerable background in television writing and producing, Espenson envisioned a sitcom, formatting it as an online project at the prodding of Co-Writer and Lead Actor Cheeks. “Cheeks had the notion that he wanted to do a web series,” she said. “We wanted something fresh and current and in the moment…We decided this shouldn’t be about a guy and his best friend who is a girl. This should be about a married couple.”
Now a few episodes in, the stage has been set for an authentically funny, original tale for modern audiences who thirst for something different and familiar at the same time. “We really weren’t thinking, ‘Let’s do a marriage equality project,’” Espenson explained, noting later, “It genuinely is a romantic comedy, and it’s not something that web series have done before. We don’t have particularly snarky dialogue. It’s more sweet…with a little more of the healthy politics. This is the exact right time for something like this. It’s genuine. The guys support each other, and it’s about real grounded material. It’s balancing the funny and the heart.”
Considering her reputation for whip-smart creativity in the writers’ room and her experience in a variety of genres (from Buffy and Battlestar Galactica to Gilmore Girls and Ellen), I wondered how much Espenson is swayed by fan feedback while developing her projects. “I hope it hasn’t influenced my writing. I’m sure it has, but I wish it hadn’t. I’m a big believer in not being a short-order cook. The greatest creativity comes in saying, ‘What do I want to watch?’ That way, I end up with a product that comes out of the pure joy of my heart.”
With that being said, Espenson appreciates fan interaction and keeps a finger on the pulse of her viewership, especially through platforms like Twitter. With Husbands, she’s pleased to report positive reactions on the whole, even from the “straight male” demographic she was most concerned about. “We have yet to see a negative review,” said Espenson with a twinge of incredulity.
Having admitted her own initial feelings of intimidation in working with Joss Whedon at the start of her career, Espenson can now boast a more confident stride after decades of experience in professional storytelling. “There’s something to be said for walking into a situation with the blind trust of youth,” she told me, adding, “Cheeks was not at all intimidated to write with me, but maybe that’s because I’m not an intimidating person, anyway.”
The democratization of media space in recent years has opened the doors for many young writers and performers who lack the industry experience needed for many writing fellowships these days. Espenson sees this change in the tide and believes new approaches may hold the key for those in need of an outlet for their talent. “There probably won’t be as much of a distinction between web and television anymore,” she observed. “But the distinctions will remain between studio-based projects and independent ones. I love to see production be opened up and for people to be able to film something and put it up on the web and just see if it works. To have this venue to test a project like Husbands is invaluable.”
Espenson is encouraged by the support of her audience thus far, but what will carry this edgy-but-earnest, fresh and timely series is the unmistakable brand of precision and quality that characterizes everything from the tight dialogue to the rich, authentic characters. Oh, and money. “We hope that someone will let us keep it. We need some love from people with deeper pockets to continue financing this show,” she revealed. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the story goes, and I hope it will be allowed to continue for as long as those involved would have us as an audience.
Husbands also stars Alessandra Torresani and is directed by Jeff Greenstein. Be sure to check it out on Husbandstheseries.com (with new episodes posted every Tuesday and Thursday), follow @TeamHusbands on Twitter, and ‘like’ its page on Facebook.