AE: I think it’s a combination of things. I think people were ready for it. It seemed nonthreatening. It didn’t seem to get a lot of attention from the mainstream press.
NM: That was early on. My only regret about all of that was that we didn’t even get out of the chute before the network and Tommy got punished, in a way. And that made me sad because the honeymoon was over for us at that moment, in terms of what we were doing.
We had to get busy making a really great show, because … there was going to be controversy around it, so we really had to be truthful about it. I have to tell you, the network got scared at that point in time.
AE: That seemed pretty clear, watching Season 2.
NM: But on Season 1, there was hardly anything. They didn’t kiss until the last episode.
AE: Oh, I know, but that’s why Season 1 was so wonderful, because there was so much unspoken stuff going on, but you could read it. I think the people on the Christian right weren’t savvy enough to notice all of that.
NM: It’s true.
AE: The moment where their hands touch and they’re walking along in the parking lot, that was just an amazing moment.
NM: It’s one of the most bittersweet, hottest moments in teen fantasy right there. But then second season came along, and they had had a GLAAD nomination and the fans had exploded, and Spashley was everywhere and we were telling a lot of stories.
We had a homophobic mother, played by our lovely Maeve Quinlan, and telling her story too, which also kept the balance for us. … For so many years all we ever got was coming-out stories, because that’s the most compelling thing, the most dangerous thing that ever happens to any of us. And to be able to tell that in the context of a family and a teen show and create a villain in Maeve, which I love — she’ll probably never forgive me for that — she’s smiling at me right now across the room … but probably for the Christian right, [for her character] to represent the enemy was really interesting. So, in a cool way we kind of got to appease everyone and tell the truth about the situation.
Myatt and Maeve Quinlan
But then the second year rolls around, they had a GLAAD nomination, the fans went crazy, and now all of a sudden the network is touching the show. They are testing it within an inch of its life, and I’m like: "Why are you testing a show that’s a hit? Why do you want to change what’s a hit?"
But that’s the nature of everyone — not just The N; every network does that. They go, "Oh my God, we’ve got something here." Now we have to —
AE: Ruin it?
NM: How can we ruin it, fix it and change it? How can we make it bigger and put different stars on it? How can we broaden it out and whitewash it to appeal to all these advertisers. …
And then of course, now our dilemma is, [Spencer and Ashley are] a couple and we’re telling a story about a couple. The battles that went on to tell a story about a couple were insane. The fact that we had to fight over hand-holding and kissing and the gay story line in the second year of a show that really truly came back, I think, because of that story line, was stunning. We also had a new executive show up that year who was not there for the first season — I think that had a lot to do with it.
You get executives who shepherd you and feel like they’re responsible and there’s ownership, and it’s really helpful when they care about the show the way you care about the show, and they help you fight your battles with you. But more often than not, it’s a change of regime that hurts a show. I’m not saying they’re particularly evil, I’m just saying that’s just the nature of that job.
Also, new show runners: same thing. Person who creates the show, or voice of the show gets fired or moves on to create another show, and a new show runner comes on, a new writing staff comes on. Let me tell you, whenever a new show runner comes on, everyone gets fired. They clean house. It’s really, really rare if writers survive that. Everyone wants to bring their own team. They want loyalty. You get rid of the boss they love; they’re going to bring in the people that are going to be faithful to them.
But I think networks underestimate audiences. I think audiences can tell when it’s different, and I think audiences can tell when the show is written by somebody else. I’m going to have to not talk anymore about this because I’ll sound completely like sour grapes about the third season, and you know how much I love my cast and I love that show, but … I think there’s a difference.
[Maeve Quinlan in background: "We love you."]
AE: Well to be honest, I haven’t watched it much since you left, because I totally detect a change in tone. None of it really holds together like it did. I think your presence is very much missed.
NM: Here’s the good news. Here’s the awesome blessing that came out of the show that I get to take with me. I get to take my reputation for the first two years of that show. I get to take the two GLAAD nominations and, more importantly, I get to take the relationships that got out of that show. Maeve Quinlan is now one of my dearest and best friends, and … 3Way has come out of that.
AE: I know you are walking the picket lines every morning for the WGA. What can you say about the strike?
NM: The good news for all of us is that the Directors Guild negotiation, while it’s not exactly the contract that speaks to all of our issues, it’s a pretty good boilerplate. And more importantly, the fact that they made a deal has helped us get back in the room for informal talks with the producers and studios.
And informal talks are great, because what happens in an informal situation is it’s not the representatives of the studios and the producers, it’s actually the studios and producers in the room talking … instead of toeing this gigantic, corporate … line. It is the heads of certain networks and heads of certain studios sitting down in a room talking about the impact these individual issues really have on their company, and then in turn we get to say, "Well, here’s the impact on us."
What we are asking for is really pennies on the dollar sort of thing, but it’s our livelihood. I’m optimistic. I think when the formal talks start, it will really be about dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
Watch Nancylee Myatt’s new web series at 3waytv.tv. You can watch the episodes on AfterEllen.com, too, and keep up on the latest episodes, confessionals, and behind-the-scenes videos in AfterEllen.com’s 3Way video section.