In Season 2, the lesbian triangle was between Britt, Michelle and Nadine Heimann's character, Van. Van does not appear in Season 3, which is explained early on in the season, but one of her last acts in Season 2 was to bring Michelle, who had drowned herself, back to life.
Erin Cummings' decision not to resume her role as Michelle resulted in a last-minute casting change. Here! had worked with Jill Bennett on previous projects such as their original film In Her Line of Fire, in which Bennett starred opposite Mariel Hemingway, and they were pleased to have an opportunity to work with her again.
"I was cast [for Dante's] on a Sunday afternoon, I had to be there Sunday night, and I started filming on Monday morning," Bennett recalled, laughing.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Bennett, who played Grace in the original "lost pilot" of Dante's Cove. (The "lost pilot" will be part of a Dante's Cove: Guilty Pleasure Collection DVD, which will be available Dec. 4.)
After the producers' decision to reshoot most of the pilot, as well as the passage of nearly a year, Bennett opted out of continuing with the role. She expressed no regrets about that decision and said she feels that it resulted in a better show.
"They recast [Grace] with Tracy Scoggins, which thank God they did, because she was perfect," Bennett said. "I wasn't supposed to play that role. I played it totally straight; she played it with a great amount of tongue in cheek. That's what the show needs. â€¦ At the very last minute [before filming Season 3], they needed someone to come in to play Michelle. It all worked out the way it was supposed to."
In addition to wanting to increase queer women's viewership on here!, the decision to up the female presence on Dante's Cove makes sense for two additional reasons: the magical plotline and the reality of gay men and lesbians being involved in each other's lives.
Tresum, the ancient, supernatural religion with a long, rogue history on Dante's Cove, is matriarchal, as Executive Story Editor Mary Feuer told us. Grace and Diana's mother, for instance, killed their father in order to increase her daughters' powers.
Radical faeries notwithstanding, lesbians have generally been more interested in alternative spirituality, witches and covens than gay men. With this series' reliance on Tresum as a continuing major plot point, it only makes sense that the producers increase the on-screen presence of women. Though not all of the characters practice Tresum, Michelle Wolff told us, "In Season 3, the supernatural is all around."
Friendships between characters of all genders are also front-and-center in Season 3. In the first two seasons, Van's best friend was Toby, played by Charlie David, and Britt worked as a bartender at a predominantly boy bar. And of course both men and women live at the Hotel Dante. This intermingling of queer and straight folk of various genders more accurately depicts the reality that exists for many queer viewers, more so than shows that are all lesbian, all gay male or completely straight.
"I think it's important to have projects out there that incorporate both gay men and gay women," Wolff said. "A lot of time we get polarized a little bit in our community where it's all about the boys or all about the girls, and I love the fact that we're mixing and mingling on [Dante's Cove]."
Meredith Kadlec added: "A lot of lesbians I know, myself included, don't need to watch a show that has necessarily only lesbian characters. I know a lot of lesbians who love gay male sexuality and shows and story lines."
The lesbians who followed Queer as Folk are proof of that, and they will enjoy seeing Thea Gill reprise her role as lesbian character Diana on the third season of Dante's Cove.
Speaking of sexuality, Dante's is known for depicting it generously, and the new season is no exception. "The sexy scenes are going to be insanely hot," said Wolff, and with her character Britt's involvement with both Elena and Michelle, she'll figure prominently in them.
Filming a lesbian love scene with another out actor, according to Jenny Shimizu, differed from filming one with a straight actress playing gay. "It was great working with the whole crew, and the straight actresses, too, but working with three gay actresses on set, doing lesbian love scenes, was so nice because there was no stress involved," she explained.
"We all know what it's like to be with another woman, we all know the drama, and we all know how wonderful lesbian relationships can be. We were already on the same foot, so it was smooth sailing."
Since here! TV is a premium cable channel requiring a subscription, it's not subject to the same censorship concerns as other networks. In Season 2 there was quite a bit of full-frontal nudity, and apparently there will be a lot of skin in Season 3 as well. Bennett recalled, "To be honest, most of us were working out at the gym nonstop â€¦ everyone was body-aware, to say the least."