When Olivia and Natalia were dancing around their feelings for one another on Guiding Light back in ’09, I never would have guessed that Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia would become the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of fictional lesbians, but one daytime TV drama and two web series later, I’m ready to give them the Dynamic Duo crown. It started with Otalia, of course, then continued with the Emmy Award-winning web series Venice, and just last week, they re-re-united for the hour-long web series/mini-movie, The Grove. It’s my favorite Chappell and Leccia team-up so far.
In typical sudsy/Shakespearean fashion, The Grove tells the story of two warring families, The Moyniahans and the Kincaids, who have been locked in a battle over their county’s almond grove land for generations. Among the Moynihans is Nico, a lesbian mechanic into whom Crystal Chappell infuses more swagger than you’ve ever seen on YouTube in all of your life. Leccia plays grove newbie Ivy, a bakery owner who nearly swoons into paralysis when she takes her car to Nico’s shop for repair and listens to Nico talk about her “magic touch” while rebuilding the engine with her bare hands. The pilot is bookended by their wedding and their love story is told through flashbacks while we meet the other members of the Moyniahan and the Kincaid clans who have gathered for the event.
If you’re a longtime daytime TV fan, there are almost too many delicious connections to wrap your head around. Nico’s ex-husband is played by Peter Reckell. Reckell, of course, plays Bo Brady on Days of Our Lives and was once in love with Chappell’s Carly Manning before his crazy aunt buried her alive. Linsey Godfrey plays Nico’s daughter. And Godfrey, of course, plays Caroline Spencer, Chappell’s character’s daughter on The Bold and the Beautiful. AfterEllen Hot 100 favorite Nadia Bjorlin, another Days vet and also the third side of the lesbian love triangle on Venice, is hysterical as entitled trust fund child Marigold. Truly, it’s like a game of daytime TV Trivial Pursuit.
The best part of the pilot is watching Nico and Ivy meet and fall in love. Chappell and Leccia have always had remarkable chemistry, but they’re absolutely sizzling this time around. Honestly, the “Nico’s Touch” garage scene was filled with so much crackling innuendo that I had to pause it to catch my breath. And unlike the Guiding Light days of yore, their characters are actually allowed to touch now, and boy, do they ever! But it’s not all smokin’ hot make outs and double entendres; there’s a real message of social justice here, as both women explain why wedding ceremonies and words like “wife” matter for LGBT equality.
Oh, and there’s some delightful swearing in this incarnation of Chappell and Leccia’s on-going on-screen romance.
Clocking in at just over an hour, The Grove hit that rare sweet spot that made me feel satisfied while jonesing for so much more. There’s plenty of story left to tell and I hope Open Book Productions is able to collect the funds to make it happen. Honestly, I think Chappell is dialed in to the future of daytime TV.
Unlike Venice, The Grove isn’t subscription content, which means you can watch it right now, for free. In fact, you can watch it right here!
Have you watched The Grove? What do you think so far?