AE: Let’s talk about The L Word because obviously there is going to be a comparison made between the two shows?
HB: I really enjoyed The L Word. I thought it was great to see an authentic exploration of my life on the screen for pretty much the first time. When I set out to write Lip Service, I really had to put The L Word out of my mind because I didn’t want to have to deal with a comparison as such, I didn’t want it to be seen as ‘in competition’ with The L Word. I didn’t want to be thinking oh it must be better, or different, or the same, I just wanted to do my own thing, my own definition and the very fact that it’s set somewhere different and it comes from my own imagination of course means that it is very different.
When Friends came out after Seinfeld, no one asked the creators how they would make Friends different, even though they were both comedies based in New York and about a group of friends because people knew there was enough room for both comedies. So I suppose I feel the same about this, that there is room for more than one lesbian drama and they can both be enjoyed together and not compete in the same way that I enjoy both Friends and Seinfeld.
AE: I don’t think all the comparison is a negative thing, I think it’s just that Lip Service is only the second ever lesbian drama so we feel spoiled that we can actually make a comparison with The L Word!
HB: (Laughs) I hope that is it. That people feel spoiled and will just enjoy it in its own right because I really don’t want to encourage comparisons. I really was a fan of The L Word and don’t want to imply that we are doing this because I felt I could do something better.
AE: I agree and I was a fan of The L Word too but Sarah was not and one of the things she disliked about it was that there were no straight people at all in The L Word which is just not representative of gay life and how we interact in the larger world. In Lip Service, the girls do have straight friends?
HB: I was interested particularly in exploring the relationship between straight men and gay women simply because I have straight male friends and I don’t think straight men are really seen anymore by gay women as the enemy. I think in the past there was obviously a lot of homophobia but I do think things have moved on and I certainly have a lot of friends across the board, straight women and straight men.
AE: Yes, we definitely have a lot of straight male friends who will call us for advice before going on dates on what to wear and what to say to women because they know they will get all encompassing advice …
HB: It’s a Cyrano De Bergerac situation. They can call on someone who fancies women and who is a woman. I have been in that position numerous times when I have been asked for dating advice from straight men and it’s quite funny. Even simple tips like, although you think its cliché, flowers actually are a good idea — and not ones from the garage on the way home. The fact that they don’t know that is amazing, they look kind of flummoxed, so things like that are amusing to me.
Some of the Lip Service cast
AE: Lesbians can be incredibly critical of their own. Obviously the fact that there isn’t much visibility means that when we do get something of our own people start thinking "this should show MY experience as a lesbian." Are you nervous about the reaction?
HB: When people rarely see their own lives represented on screen, then I understand that they’re going to want to want to see things that they personally identify with. Someone did say to me just the other day, "This will be the first thing my granny sees on TV that shows my life, so I want it to represent me." But I had to put that out of my mind and just do my best. I just had to write the best drama I could write and create the best characters that I could with the full knowledge that I simply can’t represent every single type of lesbian that I have ever met. I hope that lesbians will understand and be supportive of the fact that this is not a documentary, it’s just a story.
AE: How were the cast chosen, did you have people in mind for the roles?
HB: I had no preconceptions about any actresses or actors for any of the roles. We weren’t looking to cast any big names; really we thought this would be an opportunity for emerging actors who hadn’t yet played really big roles. I did have an idea of the type of people we were looking for but beyond that it was open and I am really pleased with the final cast.
AE Why did you choose Glasgow as the setting for Lip Service?
HB: It’s great that it is set in Glasgow because we focus on a small group of characters and what I like about Glasgow is that you will literally just bump into people. The thing that’s irritating about London is that you might be traveling for an hour to get somewhere whereas in Glasgow people are literally in each other’s vicinity the whole time.
Also I love the architecture here and the huge flats that you can realistically get when you are still young, whereas if we had set it in London we would be filming people living in shoeboxes. It’s something that I found quite funny about Friends, it was set in New York with people who worked as waitresses living in huge apartments and you just think — no way! I didn’t like that about it and with Lip Service we were able to give the cast a really nice environment to film in.
AE: We wrote a piece a while back about lesbian moments on British television that helped us out of the closet and obviously in the future Lip Service might be an important identification point for younger lesbians. When you were growing up, what shows or films were guiding lights for you?
HB: Funnily enough, I don’t think I really stumbled across any lesbian TV shows or films when I was really young but I do remember seeing some gay male dramas and just accessing that same sex experience was interesting for me.
AE: What other dramas have you admired?
HB: I am kind of obsessed with HBO, so I loved Six Feet Under and The Wire. I also absolutely love Mad Men. In terms of British stuff, the things I have recently loved are comedies, I absolutely adore Peep Show and I really enjoy Pulling.
"Great LezBritain" authors Sarah, a Londoner, and Lee, a Glaswegian, met in a gay discotheque one bleak mid winter, eight years ago and have been shacked up together ever since. When not watching Tipping The Velvet, they find time to write, run a PR company, DJ at their own club nights and love a bit of jam on toast. Follow them on Twitter at greatlezbritain.