In 2008, the UK series Mistresses introduced Anna Torv as a love interest for Shelley Conn and suddenly there was a lesbian relationship on five episodes of the popular show about women’s sex and relationships. Six years later, ABC is bringing the series stateside with a lot of changes, and some for the better. This May, Mistresses will debut with Alyssa Milano, Rochelle Aytes, Yunjin Kim and newcomer Jes Macallan as the central characters, the latter of which who will be discovering her feelings for another woman over the course of all 13 episodes.
As Josslyn, Jes Macallan plays a fashionable realtor who is single and into having a lot of sex. Her sister (played by Alyssa Milano) is married to a chef and balancing her job at a law firm with trying to get pregnant. In the pilot episode, Josslyn meets a lesbian couple looking for a new home. She quickly forges a friendship with Alex (Shannyn Sossamon) that develops into a romance by episode five.
“I love this storyline because it really did sort of evolve,” said Executive Producer Rina Mimoun. “The first thing that came out was this was a girl who — these are her sister’s friends. She sort of got lucky and was born into this group of great girl friends. But truth be told, she herself has not really made a girl friend. So when she first meets Alex, it starts as just that. Alex happens to be a lesbian but they fall in love sort of because it’s a friendship that blossoms into that and for Josslyn’s character it’s unintentional, she just happens to be a lesbian.”
In the pilot, Josslyn comes off as a Samantha Jones-esque character. She has sexual relationships with men, but begs one not to leave his wife. She also refuses a free home from one of her male suitors. But Rina promised that her promiscuity isn’t related to her bisexuality.
“We never treat the subject matter lightly at all,” Rina said. “And the first time they do get together we don’t just act like ‘Whoa, no big deal, two girls in a shower.’ It’s a big deal for Joss and it does sort of affect her, and it does throw her off balance a little bit.”
Originally Shannyn was brought on for a short arc, but the storyline worked so well that she was kept on for the entire season.
“We really got the opportunity to tell that storyline over the course of the whole 13, which is so rare,” Rina said. “You usually have to speed things up. That storyline got to play out exactly as we wanted it, as a nice slow burn with so much heart.”
Creator K.J. Steinberg said that the other Mistresses will be supportive of Josslyn’s relationship because it’s a total change of pace for her.
“They’re supportive because it’s the first real intimate relationship she’s had,” K.J. said. “They’re a little taken aback by the nature of it at the beginning because they don’t want her to force herself to be someone she’s not just to be close to someone. But I think that they are very impressed with the development of Joss’s character through the relationship with Shannon’s character. She becomes a person of much more substance through the relationship.”
Jes is thrilled to be playing out this storyline, and said it wasn’t initially going to be such a huge part of her character.
“I’m so excited. That was new that my character would take a turn that way from when I took the gig,” Jos said at a TCA party for ABC. “But being that kind of a character — the free spirit and the way that she is — she has zero judgement and she really wants to do what she wants to do, and feel how she wants to feel.”
Jos said she didn’t watch the BBC original (the producers encouraged the cast to steer clear as to have their own interpretations of the characters), but she was aware that the role hers is based on had a lesbian relationship. So when they cast Shannyn as her counterpart, she was ready for the challenge of playing gay.
“Shannyn Sosamyn is a magical being,” Jes said. “Just as an actress, she is beyond unfiltered and she’s very present and very organic and honest so it’s hard to hide anywhere with her. We always laugh because we’re both really very straight in the sense of our day-to-day lives, but we both found each other falling in love with each other.”
Jes said she found herself most in her character’s relationship with Alex; that even though it’s nothing like her real life persona, she could identify with the feelings Jos had for another person that developed out of an important friendship.
“A lot of it, you’re just saying the lines and hope you’re making a good choice — a funny choice, an honest choice,” Jes said. “The way we really become close — that relationship developed on screen. In the dailies, people couldn’t look away. There’s so much chemistry there — in real life, on screen, in the writing. It’s so honest, which is what I love.”
But even lesbian relationships aren’t without their problems. Just being in a relationship is foreign to Jes, and her feelings for Alex will catch her off guard.
“Josslyn is never ashamed of it; she’s just a little confused,” Jes said. “Like ‘How do I handle myself? Now that I’m a lesbian, how do I walk?’ She doesn’t want to change and that’s the question: ‘Am I supposed to change?’ The great thing is, [the message is] ‘No, you’re not supposed to change. You’re supposed to be just who you are.” And that’s what you see in the two of them.”
Outside of her relationship with Alex, Josslyn is a very hardworking and blunt person who is not afraid to ask for what she wants.
“Not that she’s conscious-less,” Joss said. “She just doesn’t understand why people can’t say and do what they feel. She’s the kind of person that’s like ‘Why did you just say that to me? That’s not how you feel. Say how you feel!’ Or when all the girls are going through their drama she’s the person that’s like ‘Oh what do you mean? Leave your husband; he’s a jerk.’ And everyone’s like ‘Joss!’ And she says ‘What? Everyone’s thinking it.’”
Mistresses will premiere on ABC in May.