Liz Feldman talks making “One Big Happy” with Ellen DeGeneres

Good news, everyone: 2 Broke Girls writer-producer and blazer-loving gay lady, Liz Feldman is bringing a lesbian lead character to network television. The AfterEllen.com alum who gave us “This Just Out with Liz Feldman,” recently got the green light from NBC for her very own series pilot, One Big Happy. The multi-cam sitcom focuses on a lesbian and her best lesbro who decide to have a baby together, just as he meets the love of his life.

We talked to Liz about her never-ending mission to bring lesbian characters to network television, why hosting “This Just Out” was one of the happiest times in her life, and how her recurring dreams about Ellen DeGeneres literally came true.

AfterEllen: Hi Liz!
Liz Feldman: Hi Dara!

AE: Congratulations, NBC ordered your pilot!
LF: It’s quite a process because they buy many, many scripts and they don’t shoot close to half of them. This year, I got really lucky and they want to make it.

AE: You’ve been living with the idea for One Big Happy for years, and now the pilot is finally being made.
LF: I’ve been in this business for a long time and I’ve been developing pilots for years. Every time I write a pilot, there is a lesbian lead character. I wrote a version of this pilot about seven years ago. This time it happened to work out.

AE: And just in time. Several shows with gay characters were canceled last season, and p.s., there are never any with a lesbian main character. I mean, Ellen wasn’t a show with a lesbian lead until Ellen DeGeneres came out in real life. And then, it was canceled.
LF: I think it’s so important to try to get a positive, lesbian, funny person on TV, and to help pick up where Ellen left off, long ago. So, I have a determination about it.

AE: One Big Happy is about a lesbian and her best friend, who is a straight guy. Why a straight guy, and not, say, her girlfriend, or her cat, or a medical examiner? Hold on. Is the main character named Jane?
LF: Her name is Lizzie, and she’s the heart and the soul of the show. The anchor, if you will. Her best friend is a guy named Luke. They’re inspired by the fact that for most of my life, my best friend has always been a guy. In my 20s, I had a guy best friend and we basically lived our lives together. We were two peas in a pod. He never really dated [then] and he was always available to me. And one day, he fell in love with a girl. It was a wake-up call. It took me a while to get used to the idea of sharing him.

AE: I’m just glad it’s something new for network sitcoms. I’m kind of over the gay guy and his straight girl bestie combo. Enough already.
LF: Exactly. It’s not a relationship we’ve seen on TV. Which surprises me because I think it’s a fairly common relationship. I think we all have our lesbros. I have more than one. The lesbro, Luke, in One Big Happy is almost like a conglomeration of a lot of my guy friends.

It’s a really unique relationship with straight men because there’s no tension there. There’s no question mark of, “Where this is going?” We’re sister and brother but you don’t have the drama of actually being related.

AE: Are you concerned about pleasing the lesbian audience? We love subtext, but if a character is actually gay, the bar becomes very high. If you squint, maybe you can see it.
LF: You can’t please everybody. My litmus test is always can I please myself? I’m also an audience member, I watch TV, and I love media. I take it all in. And I’m also a businessperson. So I tried to think of the most palatable stories to tell that also felt like something I’d want to write for the next seven to 10 years, you know?
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AE: It’s interesting that you included “businessperson” in that sentence. Fans don’t want to think about the business of television and what it takes to sell a show, which includes needing to have a broad appeal.
LF: And I think there’s something for everyone on the show. It can’t just be a show about lesbians, God love them but there aren’t enough lesbians in America to make a hit show.

AE: If only, Liz!
LF: Until then, I have to try to entertain as many people as possible. I want my parents to be able to watch the show and said, “Oh, I love these people! I get it.”

AE: I think your parents will watch anything you wrote.
LF: You’re right. But you want to attract the largest demographic possible. The heart of my mission to get a lesbian lead character on TV is actually education and outreach. You don’t need to educate and outreach to people who are already on board. You know what I’m saying?

AE: I do. You’re currently on 2 Broke Girls. Will you stay on while you make the pilot for One Big Happy? How will that work?
LF: I have a three-year contract on 2 Broke Girls. It depends on what happens. If I’m lucky enough to have my pilot picked up to series, I would obviously leave 2 Broke Girls.

AE: And leave seeing Kat Dennings (Max Black) and Beth Behrs (Caroline Channing) everyday. If it comes to that, it’s going to be tough!
LF: They’re awesome and so talented. I love them like they’re my little sisters. First of all, that they’re that pretty and that funny, is incredible. Not that you can’t be pretty and funny because—

AE: Look at us.
LF: [laughs] Those two gems are just wonderful young women. I love writing for them.

AE: They have crazy chemistry.
LF: You know, Beth was the first person to audition [for the role of Caroline.] They had already cast Kat, and were looking for girls to play opposite her. Beth was the first one to walk in and they just knew: That’s the girl!

AE: Will we ever see an episode where Max and Caroline hook up?
LF: [laughs] I can’t say for sure because you never know what can happen. But I would just say they’re really good friends. What’s really fun is that we can make jokes about it as much as we want. But they are best friends, at the end of the day.

AE: Speaking of casting, has One Big Happy been cast?
LF: It has not been cast yet. We are in that process.

AE: Who’s your dream actor to play Lizzie?
LF: I don’t really know. I hope to get the dream actress I might not know yet. I’m completely open to being blown away by someone I’ve never seen before.

AE: How is Lizzie described in the script?
LF: She’s described as tomboy chic.

AE: She sounds like you.
LF: [laughs] I mean, look. I’m generally an autobiographical writer. I do my best writing that way. So generally, my lead character is a version of me. I hope whomever we get is a more attractive version of me. But she will be at least inspired by me.

AE: Is she blond like you?
LF: Not necessarily. I think we’re talking about creating a package. Lizzie should be someone you can laugh at, but also, kind of want to make out with. She’s the lesbian next-door that even her straight friends are like, “Yeah, I would make out with her.” If people want to give me suggestions for who should play the part of Lizzie, I’d love to hear it.

AE: I know our readers, and I don’t think Jennifer Lawrence is available.
LF: Listen, I love Jennifer Lawrence but she’s a little young for the part.

AE: How old is Lizzie?
LF: She’s at the age where she wants to have a baby so I would say mid 30s.

AE: Oh, I know! Leisha Hailey.
LF: I would love to cast an actual gay lady. But there aren’t many who are out of the closet. I’d love to hear the readers’ suggestions.

AE: OK. So, we are looking for a tomboy chic, out lesbian in her mid-30s who may or may not be blonde, and is make-outable.
LF: The number one important thing to me is that the [whole cast] is funny and entertaining. They should be the people you want to hang out with.

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