'Husbands' Creators Take You Inside Season 2
As has been the case whenever someone with ties to the Whedonverse produces content for the web (Dr. Horrible, Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon's Remains music video), Husbands -- created by former Buffy scribe Jane Espenson and the multi-talented Brad Bell -- is one of the smartest, most unique and powerful pieces of entertainment produced this year.
Season one (which we talked about back in 2011) introduced the world to Cheeks and Brady, a couple who accidentally got married and, like many a sitcom couple before them, decided to make a go of things. Sure, this couple happens to be comprised of two gay men, but one of Husbands' greatest strengths has been the universality of their issues.
That's been kept richly alive in the decadent season two, which takes place over the course of one day as Cheeks and Brady prepare for a national interview that has them questioning their relationship roles and how best to give the other what they need. I caught up with creators Jane and Brad to talk about next week's finale, what the overwhelming fan support has meant to them and give you an exclusive behind the scenes look at Mekhi Phifer's guest spot!
TheInsider.com: Season one was Cheeks and Brady dealing with their decision to get and stay married. How do you describe the theme of season two?
Brad Bell: It's about joint identity – when you go into a relationship there's that awkward phase of figuring out your own separate identity as opposed to your identity as a unit. There's a lot going on this season.
Jane Espenson: I also think there's a fun little wink we did where we equated the marriage with the show. We've got an actor playing an actor and dealing with issue of how the couple will be perceived just as we are dealing with issues of how the show will be perceived. It's got a nifty little nesting quality to it.
Insider.com: There's a noticeable difference on-screen between season one and season two -- did you feel that behind the scenes as well?
Jane: Totally. Absolutely.
Brad: In terms of the scale alone, there was a huge, huge difference. We're shooting in a massive house, the size of our crew doubled, the story was more ambitious ... every angle of the production was bigger. From the guest stars and the publicity to the fan response, it's all been bigger, which is incredible.
Jane: We set our goals a lot higher in season two. We expected more of ourselves because we had this Kickstarter money. It felt like this tremendous obligation to give them their money's worth. It's not an investment, all they're getting back are these episodes so they've got to be worth it.
Insider.com: In addition to the obligation you felt towards the fans who donated money, did you feel much of an obligation given the fact you're discussing this subject matter in an election year where gay rights have become a major talking point?
Jane: We didn't set out to be a political show, but as soon as we seized on this topic, it was very clear it would be – and we were delighted because it's a subject we're passionate about and a subject we have a lot to say about. Having Cheeks and Brady make all the same mistakes any new, young couple makes is a statement in and of itself, so we definitely feel a sense of doing right by something we believe very strongly in.
Brad: I don't consider the politics of it all that much. It hadn't occurred to me when we writing it or shooting it that this was an election year, because I think this is bigger than that. More than the politics, this is about the social acceptance and the emotional experience of human beings. Even though they have the piece of paper, there is still inequality on a basic human level and that's what we're dealing with this season.
Jane: Ultimately we want this to be a show about these two people.
Insider.com: In re-watching season one for this interview, I noticed that Brady and Cheeks became a couple fans 'ship around episode 4. How exciting has it been to see the audience latch on to them?
Brad: That is really one of the most rewarding things. To see an entire audience come alive with electricity and interest and concern for two people we invented? It's incredible. I almost don't know how to describe it. It's kind of like being Dr. Frankenstein [laughs]. It's a very strange creative experience, but it's one of my absolute favorite things about this.
Insider.com: Should the audience worry about them ever splitting up, or did you decide at the outset that this was a show about two people learning to be a couple, not learning they don't belong together?
Brad: There's always going to be a little bit of [fear], but ultimately it's a newlywed show, so they're more Lucy and Ricky than Ross and Rachel, who were part of an ensemble. This is a show about a couple.
Jane: There's a term we use in TV, which is Schmuck-bate – which is when you try to scare the audience with something they knew can’t happen. Is Frasier going to leave Seattle?!?! You try to ramp up conflict and suspense over that, but obviously the audience knows Dharma & Greg aren't going to divorce. Mad About You did a split up storyline because when the audience is sufficiently immersed in the story, they're invested in their futures. If Cheeks and Brady have a big fight, the audience's heart will beat faster. So, yes, this is a story about a couple overcoming those problems, but if the audience is invested the way I think they are, there should be some fear any time Brady and Cheeks have a big fight.
Insider.com: Looking at season three, do you think you might release full half-hour episodes?
Brad: I love the idea of doing half-hours in each release. I think the web is ready for that because I think it's realized itself as the new television medium. That would be great, it's just a matter of budget. If the budget grows, it's something we could do. This season, the best way to savor the funny was to do three installments.
Jane: We keep making the same size banana loaf; we're just cutting it into different serving sizes. If we ever got to release one without it being sliced it, it would be the same size because TV has accustomed us to watching 22 minutes of content.
Brad: Right! Now we've just got to make more banana loaf!
Check out TheInsider.com's exclusive interview with Mekhi Phifer on the set of Husbands!
And if you missed episode 2...
For more on Husbands, click here!