Jane Espenson has written for a staggering amount of television series over the last few years, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Ellen, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dollhouse, Tru Calling, Gilmore Girls and Battlestar Galactica. Recently, she co-created Warehouse 13 and wrote acclaimed episodes for Game of Thrones and Torchwood: Miracle Day. In addition to all that she is also Co-Executive Producer on the upcoming series Once Upon A Time. And somehow she also recently managed to find time to co-create, co-write and co-executive produce a new web series called Husbands. I recently spoke to the prolific writer via email to talk about this new web series. Check out the interview below and please go watch all of the episodes, so far, of Husbands!
POP CULTURE ZOO: Thank you very much for your time! First, can you tell me a little bit about how this series came about?
JANE ESPENSON: Brad Bell (Cheeks) was working on an idea for a web series and we started talking about it. It was an idea for him and Alessandra Torresani. As we talked, it evolved into the current concept of accidental newlyweds against a background of marriage equality. Alessandra’s best friend character Haley remained and we added the role of Brady that was eventually filled by Sean Hemeon. It seemed like a good fit to produce it as a web series, since we had such a clear idea of how we wanted it to look, and because it felt so timely.
PCZ: This may be one of the funniest shows I have watched in a long time. Are their plans for a season two yet?
JE: Thank you! We worked really hard on the comedy – Cheeks and I both wrote jokes and rewrote each other’s jokes, and both worked to make sure the comedy was as tight and smart as it could be. And then I brought in some comedy veterans for the table read and they contributed even more jokes. The main purpose of a comedy is to make people laugh – we knew if we didn’t do that that nothing else would matter. We don’t know if we’ll be able to make more episodes – we would need some love (I mean money) to be able to do that.
PCZ: What has been the reaction to the series been so far?
JE: The reaction has been almost ludicrously positive. I really haven’t seen a bad review other than people complaining that the individual episodes are too short – which we take as a positive sign that they want more. No one complains about small portions when the food is bad. If you go to the press page of the HusbandsTheSeries web site, you can see quotes from people who are liking the show. Like Russell T. Davies from Torchwood said that the show feels like the future, and Damon Lindelof from Lost said that people are going to want to marry the show. There are quotes there too from Andy Richter and Nell Scovell and links to articles and reviews including a great piece that Alyssa Rosenberg wrote about us for The Atlantic – it’s kind of overwhelming!
PCZ: You previously worked on the webisodes for Battlestar Galactica. Did that prepare you for doing a series for the web?
JE: Sort of. Those were short segments that had to be written in a very contained budget-conscious way. But they were also done as part of a huge pre-existing organism. Filming them meant going to one of our BSG soundstages and working with part of the BSG crew… it didn’t mean finding locations and buying breakfasts for the crew. Very different vibe!
PCZ: What made you decide to do this as a web series as opposed to shopping it to a TV network?
JE: I think it’s an idea that TV networks would welcome right about now, but we wanted to make it our way first. But we wanted it give it the feel of a network show. The name Husbands was actually picked because that felt to me like what a network would call this show and we wanted to signal that we’re mainstream, very accessible, very TV-friendly.
PCZ: Is there a “happily ever after” in store for Brady and Cheeks or are they headed for something more complicated than that?
JE: Oh, we are a pure classic romantic comedy in the tradition of I Love Lucy or Mad About You. There are complications ahead, but this couple loves and supports each other and will always find their strength in being together.
PCZ: It seems that just from her brief appearance so far that Haley considers herself almost the “third half” of this marriage. How much trouble is this going to cause for Brady and Cheeks?
JE: Haley is a huge complication in their relationship. She needs Cheeks so much, and is not very good at sharing. He loves her, of course – she gets him – and so there is no way for Brady to get her out of the picture. She is adorable trouble.
PCZ: You’ve written some terrific scripts for several ambitious series such as Game of Thrones, BSG and Torchwood. What do you look for in the projects you get involved with?
JE: Variety – I’m always looking for something that’s different from whatever I’ve done the most recently. And quality – no, that’s the wrong word. Quality has happened, but it’s been a wonderful side effect of just picking things that I know I would want to watch. I would totally work on something that was not seen by the TV writing community as a quality show, as long as it was something that I love watching. It just happens that recently those two things have lined up really well. I’m working on a new ABC show now called Once Upon a Time that I really love and that I think is great. We haven’t premiered yet, so there’s no way to tell if it’s a hit, but I think it will be.
PCZ: Should Torchwood get another season, would your involvement continue?
JE: Yes. I LOVE Russell and I love the show and everyone there. I would love to do more.
PCZ: Are you still involved in the remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and, if so, how is it coming along?
JE: We are waiting to hear! That’s a project I’m working on with Drew Z. Greenberg of Buffy and Warehouse 13. We’re waiting for the go/no-go from SyFy. It’s a fun project and it would be nice to see it go forward.
Thank you very much to Jane Espenson for her time. Now, go watch Husbands!