“Backstrom” retools, recasts lesbian cop character

Talk about taking the wind out of our rainbow sails.

Changes are afoot with the upcoming Fox detective drama, Backstrom, and some of those are changes in what we were excited about in the first place.

While it was too early for a Television Critics Association panel on the just-announced 13-episode ordered series which stars Rainn Wilson (The Office) as the title character, series creator Hart Hanson (Bones) was present at last night’s Fox TCA party and talked to AfterEllen about sexuality on the show and why Mamie Gummer, who we reported last year was going to follow in mom Meryl Streep’s footsteps with a gay role, is no longer playing the lesbian character of Nicole Graveley.

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That’s not all: The character also will no longer identify as a lesbian.

First up, it was the change in direction with the character than Gummer and her talents. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about Mamie Gummer,” Hanson told us last night. “The original character, when we saw it on screen and tested it and everything, was, for lack of a better word, too literary. It was a quiet, very melancholy, heartbroken lesbian. Very sad and she took all this abuse from Backstrom and then did the right thing. That was the idea, that she was just carrying the weight of the world on the shoulders.”

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But, thinking of the character in the longevity of the series, Hanson said that was not a good idea for a drama and knew he had to make major changes. “It had to be someone that he could go toe-to-toe with, someone who had an opposite world view to him so it needed to be someone optimistic and thinks that justice can be found in this world, it’s good to be a cop, we’re going to catch bad guys and put them in jail. People are great and people have a good side and all those things so I had to completely change the character.”

Those changes include how the Nicole Graveley character will be labeled, or not labeled, as the case may be. “She is not a lesbian,” Hanson explained, “however I’d say that in the same way as I’d say she is not a heterosexual. She’s an adventurous woman and a lot of things are going to happen with men and women. Backstrom has a dark, inward sexuality…[he’s] tight in his sexuality and she’s opposite of that. She’s very open-minded to the world. It’s better. I should’ve done that in the first place.”

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Hanson added, “I love this idea because, without sounding too horrible about it, I know a few women and they are more slippery in their sexual orientation than men tend to be so I think it’s going to be interesting that way.”

He also said that one of the reasons he won’t label Nicole’s sexuality is because the character he’s created wouldn’t label herself either. “I don’t want to call her bi because she wouldn’t say that. We will find out what she’ll say…she is discreet but she’s not in any way hiding but then it’s had an effect on her career. There are a lot of rumors about her in this male-centric police department.”

In talking about sexuality labels, Hanson cited Olympic swimmer Tom Daley. “Tom Daley said he was in a relationship with [Academy Award-winner screenwriter] Dustin Lance Black and a bunch of things said he came out of the closet, came out as gay, but then I saw a lot of things that said ‘No, he didn’t. He didn’t do that. What he did was say he was in a relationship with this guy.’ And, like a lot of straight guys, I said, ‘What the fuck? What’s the difference?’ but obviously there is a difference so it will be interesting to look at.”

While the Nicole character is not going to identify as gay, there will be a male character featured on the show that does. Valentine, played by Thomas Dekker, will be the roommate of Backstrom and while their relationship, Hanson said, would not be sexual, he did call it an “odd relationship.”

Backstrom is set to air later this year on Fox.

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