Interview with Crystal Chappell


AE: Having seen so many depictions of lesbian characters or relationships on American television follow a similar path on this particular issue, I feel like as a viewer the web is going to be where it’s at for lesbians who want to see things that are more realistic.
And when certain corporate entities see that it works, maybe we’ll get it on television in some capacity. Not that I think that’s necessary. It’s just that I think that they want to see that it’s all going to work first. That might be one way to approach it, is to just show ’em. I think things can change, I think things have changed.

It won’t start on television, let me put it you that way. It’ll have to be on something like the Internet.

AE: I’m a huge fan of the character Olivia. I think she’s fantastic. Whenever I see the word “villain” put in front of her name I do not understand.
Well, you know, that’s an old label, hero, villain, we kind of have to update those too, I think. But the point is that there were so many people — I’m sure there are people who still feel this way — initially there were so many people who said, “That’s just unrealistic.

There’s no way, given the fact that I’ve watched her for 10 years going after men, that she would all of a sudden fall for a woman.” And I said, “Well, yeah, she would! This is what happened to her.” And here she fell in love with this person.

AE: There are many lesbian viewers who didn’t find it mysterious at all, and thought that Olivia’s tendency to move from man to man to man and never truly be able to commit or make it work, was actually the sign that maybe all along she had been a lesbian and just had not been aware of it.
That could very well be true too.

AE: For those of us who have seen people go through it, or have gone through it ourselves, it actually felt very realistic for a character like that. But I think maybe for straight audiences it’s not as apparent.
Well, you know what’s been nice is having feedback from the straight audience. There are many, many women, mothers saying I never thought I would approve of a storyline like this, but I can now see how two people, whatever sex, can fall in love with each other. They invested, they allowed themselves to be invested in a love story. It just happened to be with two women. And those moments — and I got a lot of those letters — felt really good to me at the end of it.

AE: Watching Guiding Light it was clear that there was a — to use a semi-loaded word — a political agenda in persuading people who maybe weren’t comfortable with gay people to become more comfortable through these characters and this relationship. Did you ever feel like that agenda was put forward at the expense of maybe what would be natural for the characters?
I felt like everything that the characters went through was natural. There was never really an agenda other than to tell a love story. From the first meeting I had with Ellen Wheeler, it was, “This is a love story. Period.” It wasn’t about trying to convince anybody to believe something differently. It was just to simply entertain people by telling a love story. It just happened to be with these two women.

And never once did I feel like the character was compromised. I felt like she grew into who she was really meant to be. After all of what she’s been through in 10 years, she’s found a real and enduring love with Natalia.

AE: Are the characters truly uncomfortable having a physical relationship, or is that the way the story played out because the powers that be want to make viewers who perhaps never met a gay person comfortable at the expense of what would be natural for Olivia and Natalia?
It could be both. Certainly believe the conversation between Olivia and Natalia when they were talking about being nervous about having sex with each other, and it was unknown territory for both. Those are conversations you have in relationships anyway, whatever the relationship.

In terms of what would make people feel comfortable, I imagine maybe there was something. I can only guess, because I’m not in the room when these decisions are made. I would imagine that there’s truth to that. I go back to you have to know your audiences and you have to respect the decisions that people make for their audience. I would have loved to have seen a lot more intimacy with Olivia and Natalia.

I think it would have been more realistic in the end just to have a simple, romantic kiss, or even to suggest that there’s more going on. But it’s not my decision.

AE: Back to Venice, where things are your decision. When can viewers look forward to seeing Gina and her efforts at finding love come to the Internet?
Well, we’re planning on launching in November. When exactly, I don’t know. If we end up shooting in the end of October or early November, it’ll take a couple weeks to turn things around so probably after Thanksgiving I think. And the first episode is really about Ani and Gina, who are Jessie and me, and yeah, they’re exes, and they’ve reconnected after a long absence, so you’ll see right away what the problems are. [laughs]

Jessica Leccia as Ani in Venice

But also the fact that these two women care very deeply for each other. It was a nice beginning. I like the way it starts. And the way it ends. [laughs]

AE: Except you’ve already told me there’s a huge cliffhanger which is going to drive us all crazy! Is that actually true? Or did I just assume that?
No, there is. It’s really about relationships from romance, but it’s also, there are a lot of people who fall down in the series, you know, the metaphorical fall, and the end is — yeah, you wonder what’s going to happen next. I don’t want to say anything, because I can’t!

Guiding Light ends Sep. 18. Read our weekly recaps of the lesbian relationship here, and keep up with the web series at

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