Exclusive: Jane Espenson And Brad Bell Talk CW Seed’s ‘Husbands’

CW Seed, the digital-only studio of The CW Network, launched earlier this month with all-new episodes of four web series, including the third season of the critically-acclaimed hit comedy Husbands!

For those of you not familiar with the series, it centers on tabloid darling Cheeks (Creator and Executive Producer Brad Bell) and star athlete Brady (Sean Hemeon) (Who just recently came out of the closet). After only six weeks of courtship, they make their way to Las Vegas in celebration of a federal amendment for marriage equality… then get drunk and accidentally married to each other. Knowing that a public divorce would be hurtful to cause, they decide to stay married.

FanBolt had the pleasure of sitting down with creator and executive producer Brad Bell and executive producer Jane Espenson to talk about the series and the challenges they’ve faced.

This is the first appearance of an online series at Paley Center. What kind of challenges did you face in order to make that happen?

Brad Bell: We didn’t really face a challenge to make that happen.

Jane Espenson: Well, I mean, we had to make a show that was worthy of going there, and so all the challenges we faced in making the show were the challenges that made that happen.

Brad Bell: But we’ve been very lucky because Paley and CW, they were fans. You know, they were fans of what we were doing, which is rare, I think. And that’s really, I think, how we won them over.

Jane Espenson: Yeah, people have really responded to this material. People talk about making a hit tv show, about all the elements that have to come together. It’s that lighting in a bottle of you need the story, and you need the cast and you need the writing, and you need it to fit the era. You need it to–there’s a reason that the story needs to be told, and it needs to be told right now. And we just hit that moment exactly right with Husbands. And that, is that luck or is that ’cause we’re smart?

Brad Bell: Eh, we’re lucky we’re living in this time, but we’re smart enough to know what the story is to be told.

Jane Espenson: We’re lucky we’re this smart!

Brad Bell: We’re lucky we’re this smart! ::both laugh:: We’re smart to realize how lucky we are. ::everyone laughs::

Jane Espenson: That’s probably truer, actually.

At what point did you guys decide that this is the path for you?

Jane Espenson: I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I always knew that was all I wanted to do, so I knew my path right away. But you [to Brad] you’ve been trying all sorts of things.

Brad Bell: The principle has always been the same, in fact, I think on some level or another it was always showrunning because I definitely need creative control, and it’s always been bigger picture. You know, what kind of film grain we’ll be using in the camera, how do you express this with the shadows and the light? That line is not working – I need the authority to change it, I need to be able to talk to the actors directly and not go through the director, I want final say on the cut, and you know I feel like I can see the moving parts of things very quickly and sort of tweak them. So that’s always been where my eye is and where my desire is in anything that I’ve been creating, no matter what facet I’m working in. So I think that, yeah, I’ve found what I’ve always been trying to name.

Could you guys give a little bit of a tease for the online series for people who aren’t hear to see the panel?

Jane Espenson: Yeah. Husbands is a newlywed comedy about two guys who haven’t been dating very long and end up drunk married, and they’re high enough profile that a divorce would be bad for the cause, so they’ve gotta stick it out. They’re going to make every mistake in the book just like every other married couple.

Where’d you guys come up with the idea for this?

Jane Espenson: It was Brad’s idea! We actually started with a slightly different idea that was about Brad and a girl figuring out, like, how to grow up in LA…

Brad Bell: It was basically a West coast version of Girls before Girls had happened. And we were having dinner at… someplace in Burbank…

Jane Espenson: Buffalo? Buffalo Exchange. It was not in Burbank…

Brad Bell: Buffalo Exchange? That’s a clothing store.

Jane Espenson: Oh, you’re right… Buffalo Club in Santa Monica.

Brad Bell: And we switched tables, didn’t we? Or did you switch tables?

Jane Espenson: I couldn’t get us a table inside, so i was shivering outside. And you were late. And then you came, and I was like, “This whole dinner’s a disaster! I’m cold, and you’re late, and blagh!” ::she laughs::

Brad Bell: And that reminded me of an I Love Lucy episode, which happens quite frequently. Every day, I’m like, “This is like that Lucy episode…” Like, I snuck my dog here on the Amtrak train, and I thought, “You know, this is like that I Love Lucy episode where she smuggles the cheese and pretends it’s a baby.” ::Jane laughs:: Yeah! And so it occurred to me, like, “Wait. That’s – that’s the hook. That’s this show is a marriage equality show.”

Jane Espenson: But with the feel of I Love Lucy.

Brad Bell: Exactly! Like this classic story of these relationships and the archetypes of the ideal marriage. And so I went home, and I re-tooled the draft that I had written for this other show that I kind of had in my mind, and I sent it to Jane that night.

Jane Espenson: Yeah, he wrote like a whole script at, like, five in the morning. Ding! In my inbox.

Brad Bell: It was great. That was the first incarnation of Husbands.

Jane Espenson: And that became season one. It went… probably went from episode three to episode eight of what became season one. That grew up to become season one, and the rest we’ve all written together, with Brad doing more and more of the producing every time. Since I’m full-time on Once Upon A Time, it’s actually turned out to be perfect that he’s the one who has to spend all this time on Husbands, and I get to come in and work on the scripts with him. It’s a really good balance.

You’ve written so much genre stuff, which do you prefer? Do you prefer genre writing?

Jane Espenson: I prefer it? I mean that’s like asking someone who’s a fan of both comedy and genre, which do you prefer? Well, I’m a fan of both. And I’m a fan of writing both. And I think there’s more overlap than people realize. There’s a lot of comedy in the dramas that I write, and I think there’s a lot of what’s in Husbands in sci-fi because it’s all sort of about, like, diversity in different combinations. It’s about accepting and seeing as normal all different kinds of things, all different kinds of people, all the different ways to live.

Want more from Brad Bell and Jane Espenson? Be sure to check them out this coming weekend (August 30 – September 1) in Atlanta at Dragon Con!


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