Bryan Fuller is the co-creator of the new series Wonderfalls, premiering tonight at 9pm on Fox.
A dramedy which has been hailed by critics as one of the best new TV shows this year, Wonderfalls tells the story of a recent college graduate named Jaye working in a souvenir stand in Niagra Falls who is struggling with the fact that inanimate objects have suddenly started talking to her, while also dealing with her dysfunctional family, including lesbian older sister Sharon.
Fuller, formerly a writer for Dead Like Me and Star Trek: Voyager, talks candidly here about Wonderfalls and its lesbian character, as well as the networks’ discomfort with lesbian content on TV.
How would you describe Wonderfalls?
It’s a really quirky, smart, feel-good show about a pathological narcissist who wakes up one day to discover the universe has sort-of forced her to become fate’s bitch.
Sounds a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer without the vampires…
Buffy really opened up the door for new types of female characters on TV, and for melding genres; it gave you a little more freedom in the types of stories you can tell.
What was your inspiration for Wonderfalls?
Todd (Holland) had read Dead Like Me and was very interested in working with me. I of course was a fan of his from Twin Peaks, Larry Sanders, and Malcolm in the Middle; the guy’s done a slew of great television. He called me when I was working on the remake of Carrie for NBC and said “We’re in the thick of development season, I want to commit to you to develop a project, do you want to commit to me?” I was like “Hell yeah!”
He had a thing for the Joan of Arc legend, and we started talking about what it would mean to have someone called who really didn’t want to be called, and who might be the last person you would want to be called, and who was calling them, and all of the elements of that legend and how they might be reinvented today. We were in his kitchen talking about this, and he had a couple of salt and pepper shakers with a cow head and a bull head, and we thought “wouldn’t it be interesting if the higher power was speaking through these?”
How do you respond to the inevitable comparisons to Joan of Arcadia, besides the fact that in Wonderfalls Jaye it isn’t explicitly talking to God?
I think we have a considerably different tone to our show—we skew much more comedic. The three of us are very well versed in genre storytelling, and there’s a different quality to the way we tell stories on Wonderfalls than the way they tell stories on Joan of Arcadia. One’s not better or worse, they’re just really different in spirit.
How would you describe Jaye’s lesbian sister Sharon?
She’s a very conflicted character, one of those Log Cabin Republicans. We have a line in one of the episodes where she’s a part of the Conservative Ladies of America and her sister accuses her of using the Republican Party as a lesbian dating service. It’s a different angle that will give us a richer context and help you understand why someone who is so politically conservative might still be in the closet.