This week we found out Joanna Beauchamp might not be so straight when her ex-girlfriend, Alex, made an appearance on Witches of East End. We chatted with Executive Producer Maggie Friedman about her deliciously dark and dramatic show and she graciously shed some light on the recent revelation regarding Joanna’s sexuality. We were eager to learn more about Joanna’s past relationship with Alex and what we might expect from the twosome in future episodes.
But first, we talked about the allure of witches, women’s empowerment, and how she saved Aunt Wendy’s life.
AfterEllen.com: First of all, I wanted to ask you about your penchant for working on projects where the women, in general, have supernatural powers or, specifically, are witches. You’ve worked projects such as Spellbound and Witches of Eastwick in the past. What is it about this subject that captures your attention?
Maggie Friedman: Well, I think that supernatural abilities are a great metaphor for real life themes. Female empowerment is a really important idea for me in my life, and it’s always something that I am interested in exploring in my writing. I think that witches are traditionally a way for female characters to be superheroes. It’s very much rooted in the feminine and it’s also very strong and tough and they get to be the heroes. And I love that.
AE: Another big theme in this show, in particular, is family- the mother/daughter relationship, the sister relationship. I know that in the books on which the television is based, Aunt Wendy doesn’t exist. Aunt Wendy is one of our favorite characters, so we’re very happy that you created her for the television show. Can you talk a little about why you chose to expand the family in that way?
MF: Well, you know, originally I wanted to create the character of Aunt Wendy partly because I wanted to add some higher stakes to the pilot. I wanted to introduce a character that hopefully people would fall in love with and then I was going to kill her—to show that this is a world where people could die and there were real high stakes. But we immediately all—everyone involved in the show—fell in love with the character, and Mädchen in the role, that we realized that we could not get rid of her.
I think that what she adds to the family dynamic is so important and I can’t imagine the show without her. She is free-spirited, no-nonsense, and brave. She says what she thinks. And yet, she is very nurturing to the people in her life. Even though she doesn’t have children, she’s a very motherly figure to her nieces. She’s a great sister. She’s loyal and strong and funny. I really enjoy writing her and I really enjoy watching Mädchen play her. I think she brings a lot to the role.
AE: We love her, too! Please don’t kill Wendy!
MF: Well, I can’t guarantee anything. She is on her last life. But yes, we all love Wendy.
AE: In last week’s episode, “Boogie Knights,” Joanna is reunited with a past love, Alex, when she enlists her help in defeating the Mandragora. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Joanna had had a relationship with a woman in a past life. Knowing that Joanna has an ex-husband and has had sex with Harrison, her lawyer and friend, in a previous episode, we were interested in what you think her relationship with Alex says about her sexuality identity.
MF: Joanna is a woman who’s been alive for a very long time. She’s over 400 years old and she’s experienced love in many different forms and facets. Alex was one of her true loves. I think that’s a very interesting part of her character in that she does have a kind of fluid sexuality. I would say that she’s the kind of person who falls in love with the person and not necessarily putting any restrictions on herself that way. It felt really interesting and organic and right for her character. We do explore her relationship with Alex further in next week’s episode. We get to know a little bit more about their history.
AE: One of the reasons I called Joanna’s past relationship a pleasant surprise is because often, people who fall in love with or sleep with people of more than one gender are stereotyped as wild, adventurous, or experimental. So, it would seem like more of an obvious choice to have Wendy have a former relationship with a woman. So, in addition to the excitement of having a queer woman of color on the show and gaining more insight into Joanna’s character, we are happy that is wasn’t done in the easier more obvious way.
MF: Yes, that was important to us. And that is what is interesting to me about the relationship. It was about love. She was in love with her. That’s who Joanna’s character is. She is someone who loves people very deeply but also has a lot of pain and loss in her life. She’s very guarded and yet she has had these great loves—Alex being one of them. That’s what it was about for her at the core. She fell in love with this woman. It wasn’t a wild experimentation.
AE: How do you think Joanna would identify—fluid, bisexual, pansexual? Or do you think that she would avoid labeling herself in any way.
MF: That’s a good question. I don’t think she would put a label on it. I would say that bisexual seems descriptive and right. But, I don’t know. When thinking about her character, I feel it’s really is about falling in love with the individual and the person than putting a box around a gender.
AE: I know that we’ll see Alex this Sunday because they have yet to vanquish the mandragora, so she’ll still be helping Joanna with that. So, without giving away too much, can you give us a hint as to what we can expect from Joanna and Alex in the future? Is there any hope that they might, even if only briefly, rekindle their romance?
MF: Well, you never know. I will say that this next episode gives us a fascinating glimpse into their history and also their present, finding a way to gain closure about what happened between them and leaving the door open for more. I think they definitely have unfinished business. I will say that.
Witches of East End airs Sundays on Lifetime at 9pm/8c