From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Gilmore Girls to Ronald D. Moore’s remake of Battlestar Galactica, writer Jane Espenson has a knack for ending up on some of television’s most buzzed about shows. Hopefully, her luck of working on successful shows will hold with the launch this Friday of SyFy’s BSG prequel Caprica.
Set fifty eight years before the events of BSG, the plot of Caprica is to tell the story of how humanity inadvertently created the intelligent machines known as Cylons which eventually despised their creators enough to try and annihilate them. The futuristic world created by Moore in BSG was a complicated one fraught with danger, both physical and moral. Caprica promises to be no less complex.
AfterElton.com recently caught up with Espenson, who is an executive producer and writer for the show, to discuss how the writers are approaching the show’s gay material, what’s in store for the show’s gay character and how much.
Spoiler Alert: Please note, this interview does discuss some plot points of Caprica including the identity of the show’s gay character.
AfterElton.com: We’ve talked before about the lack of gay inclusion both on Battlestar Galactica and science fiction in general, so I’m curious as to how the character of Sam Adama came to be gay.
Jane Espenson: Ron [Ronald D. Moore] took the writers on a writers retreat at the beginning of the season, and laid out his vision for the show. He wasn’t going to be guiding us on a day to day basis, but he really wanted to be involved in laying out the arc for the first half of the season, establishing some important things about the characters. He’s the one who said, "Let’s put Clarice in this group marriage," and he also just said, "Oh, and by the way, Sam’s gay."
It was just this thing he’d known from the beginning, from the pilot, long before I was involved. He just laid it out as a fact. I was thrilled, because it had always seemed an omission to me from our world. I think it was something that Ron had tried to put in Battlestar, but it just hadn’t worked out. This was sort of the chance to do it.
At that point, we used the word gay. I actually tried to avoid using it after that, because I think that’s a word from our world, and I feel like in this world [of Caprica], it wouldn’t be a word. People fall in love with who they fall in love with. Why do you have to have a different word for who they fall in love with? Having a different word for a same-sex relationship struck me as something this culture wouldn’t have thought of since those relationships were just considered on a par and unremarkable.
AE: Given that the show deals with religious conflict and racial tensions and technological strife, why in this particular world do we have all those other contentious issues but the issue of same-sex relationships isn’t there?
JE: I think that one of the things I’m interested in is how cultures evolve, what they value, what they devalue, and what’s locked in. What do we assume naturally follows and what doesn’t? You could imagine a culture, as in the Caprican culture, where race is a matter where people have prejudices against, but gender and orientation issues just never occur to them. It’s not part of that culture.
You can wonder what their Stone Age development was such that that never developed, you know. Why did that get tied to religion in our culture? Was it absolutely necessary? I don’t think it was. Look at the Romans and the Greeks. Perfectly thriving, perfectly mature cultures with religion in it, and it didn’t have a stigma against gay relationships. In fact, those were considered the true love relationships that were exalted. The relationship between a man and woman was more procreatory, but the true love that inspires you to write poetry was not that.
AE: As someone touched on during the Television Critics Association panel, your world isn’t about Christianity which is where a lot of our biases against gay people come from. Is that fair to say?
JE: Absolutely. This monotheistic religion that they’re talking about [in Caprica] is not Christianity. There’s no Christ figure in it at all. There is a sense of redemption and forgiveness of your sins, but of course, what you consider a sin in totally culturally dependent.
Suppose the monotheists win in this world. Would they suddenly start saying homosexuality is a sin? No. That’s why Clarice can be a very enthusiastic monotheist and still be in a group marriage. There’s no conflict between those.