Count on the lesbian characters to bring the healthiest relationship to the Betrayal table. If you haven’t caught up with the first three episodes of ABC’s new series yet, I suggest you tune in to Sunday night’s next episode—in which characters Jules and Valerie, played by Sofia Black D’Elia and Elizabeth McLaughlin, go out on a date—further solidifying a blossoming relationship the two say is sweet, subtle and relatable to anyone, gay or straight.
I had the chance to chat up the Betrayal stars about their roles as Jules and Valerie, the double standard of lesbian characters on network TV who receive a pedestal of attention when other characters don’t—and Betrayal’s efforts to normalize these onscreen romance dynamics. What’s certain is Sofia and Elizabeth are their characters’ biggest fans, and they promise there’s a lot more Julerie (yes, I just gave them a shipper) to come in the first season.
AfterEllen: So maybe for our readers who haven’t tuned in to Betrayal yet, you both can tell us a little bit about your characters on the show.
Elizabeth McLaughlin: Valerie is the granddaughter of Thatcher Karsten, who is kind of the real estate mogul of Chicago and definitely has that undercurrent of crime. He’s definitely perceived to be a bad guy. A lot of stuff gets covered up by my dad [Jack McAllister played by Stuart Townsend]—his in-house attorney. And my character, she’s really grounded in this family and is incredibly loving and caring for her family. She has a deep sense of loyalty, all while trying to hold onto her conscious, which, as the show will go on, she gets tested in that. And then she sees a wonderful young teenager who’s discovering herself—she meets Jules, who I think is probably the first serious relationship that she’s ever had in her life.
Sofia Black D’Elia: I play Jules and she is an IT super nerd at Val’s dad’s firm and she is wise beyond her years, very smart, very sassy, quick-witted, a bit sarcastic! And I think that Val is also her first serious relationship because I think Jules kind of has a bit of fun and maybe doesn’t take a lot of girls very seriously and plays around. And then I think when she meets Val there’s something in her that makes her want to take it a bit more seriously, and it kind of becomes a legitimate relationship for her.
AE: So Elizabeth, I have a confession to make. I’ve probably watched your film The Clique 10 times or more. It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure and I didn’t care if it was for younger girls.
EM: [Laughs] That is great!
AE: With that said, I was excited to see you taking on this role of Valerie in Betrayal because it’s a much more mature role. What drew you to this character?
EM: Well, it was a bit of a transition for me because The Clique definitely did get me some recognition as this character—Massie is a very specific character. I have little girls who are still scared to talk to me who think I’m actually her. So, the last few years of my career have really been focusing on transition roles—roles that are more grounded in human relationships and mean more to me as a person. The thing that initially drew me to Betrayal was the fact that these are incredibly, realistically painted human beings and its their relationships—the show is centered around how these people are interacting with each other and how the force of nature makes these two people collide and the consequences after that. And for me and Valerie, originally, they didn’t have the information about where the character of Valerie was going to go at the audition stage.
When we were shooting the pilot our creator, David Zabel, was kind enough to sit down with me for about an hour and tell me where the skeleton of my storyline was going, should the show get picked up for its first season. Then in May when we got the order for our first season, I was brought in the writers’ room and I was told that there was going to be a character change, and Valerie was going to be a lesbian. I was just so excited by that because it just added that extra layer of her and what attracted me so much about how David and Lisa [Zwerling] were handling it was that its not a big deal, it’s not Valerie discovering her sexuality, it’s not her parents making a big deal out of it, its not, you know—there’s no external force making a big deal out of it. Which I thought has never really been done before…It wasn’t a big deal that this 16-year-old girl is dating another girl. The problems that arise from Jules and Valerie’s relationship are the kinds of problems that every young relationship encounters. So, I thought it was a really fresh and modern view on that character development.