As Warner Brothers Studio looms overhead, grandly if not majestically, I feel instantly uglier. After careening through an unlabeled and seemingly infinite parking complex, I nip to the rendez-vous designated by ABC Family. Golf carts pass. Two Broke Girls staff peddle by on personalized bicycles. Another young reporter comes along and lurks next to me, angrily stabbing messages into her iphone. After 10 minutes we give up waiting for an escort and set off in search for The Fosters set. Passing by the Shameless trailers, I notice a brunette with wet hair exchange high-fives with a little boy practicing skateboard tricks. “I bet she could look super hot,” I observe, then recognize the damp girl as Emmy Rossum. Finally we arrive on The Fosters set and barrage Teri Polo, David Lambert, and Cierra Ramirez with all our pressing questions.
Spoiler Alert: Some details and early episode storylines are about to be revealed. Read at your own risk!
Teri Polo bounds into our windowless interrogation room with conspicuous glee. The blonde comedienne grabs a chair and scoots over to sit by the rabble/journalists, taking time to greet each one of us (to be there are only three) with genuine warmth.
L for lesbian
AfterEllen.com: You were shot, but you’re alive and recovering. How is Stef doing? Is she ready to go back to work?
Teri Polo: I think she’s fine with it, it’s more Lena that has an issue. I think she’s more freaked out as a parent, as I think I would be as a parent… You’ve got children that you’re responsible for, and you’re in a line of work thats dangerous. I think my character is more concerned about that than she is about herself. She’s also concerned with how her wife, Lena, is going to react, and that’s why she hides it from Lena that she might be going back. Even though she’s divorced from Mike, she still cares about him very much. She’s crunchy on the outside but mushy on the inside. She’s concerned about Mike’s career; she lies, she puts her own career on the line to save him. So there’s a lot of trepidation and confusion, but I think she’s very secure in her commitment to supporting the family and doing her job.
AE: Was there ever any talk of your character actually dying?
TP: Not that I know of!
AE: How do you think your character and Lena’s character has changed and how do you think it will continue to change?
TP: You know, I don’t think it has changed. In the beginning, there was a lot of talk from people saying, “Oh this is going to be a typical lesbian on TV where the ex-husband comes back and they have chemistry and get back together,” but I was adamantly against it. I even spoke to the producers and the writers and said, “This is a very strong, committed relationship. There are no other mitigating factors, there’s no question.” I love that you got to see how they met and fell in love, it was so lovely for me as an actor to have that history and backstory. As cliche as it might be to say, “Their relationship has gotten stronger,” their relationship is incredibly committed. Like any couple, Stef and Lena have their ups and downs. But there’s never any doubt in their mind, or in the audience’s mind.
AE: How’s it been working with Rosie O’Donnell?
TP: Great. Rosie is utterly down to earth and lovely. Rosie loves her children more than you could possibly imagine. You would see Rosie—well actually you would HEAR Rosie talking on the phone with her children, shouting, “Mama loves you!” All Rosie talks about is her children. Rosie is who she is; what you see is what you get. Working with Rosie was really exciting.
AE: I actually write for a lesbian outlet called AfterEllen.com. What sort of feedback have you gotten from lesbians about how you portray a lesbian character on The Fosters?
TP: Amazing! All of our writers or producers are gay, lesbian, product of the foster system, adopted, The Fosters is really a compilation of their stories.
AE: And you have a lesbian in your writer’s room.
TP: Joanna Johnson! Joanna’s married, and has been out for about 10 years. She once said that Stef’s father was her father. My character’s relationship with her dad is a portrayal of Joanna’s relationship with her father: heartbreak, issues, conversations, and all. Wait… What was the question?
AE: How do you feel the response from lesbians has been?
TP: Remarkable! You know AfterEllen—
AE: That’s me!
TP: That’s you?
AE: That’s me!
Teri reaches over to high five me, then apparently changes her mind and sweeps me into a giddy hug. The PR maven and other reporters titter politely. Frankly, I’m touched; celebrities usually assume an attitude of polite boredom when answering questions at a PR junket. Terri and I jump up and down, holding hands and giggling for approximately 60 seconds.
TP: I read AfterEllen every week!
AE: You do not!
TP: I do! Sherri even just texted me a quote from one of AfterEllen’s pieces!
Teri whips out her cell and shows me the text from Sherri. Sure enough, it’s a quote from one of Lucy Hallowell’s recaps! I even snapped a pic for proof.
Texting an AE quote to Sherri!