Yesterday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles, producers of NBC’s remake of the 1980s series Knight Rider were nonplussed when reporters asked them whether Sydney Tamiia Poitier’s character, FBI Agent Carrie Rivai, would still be lesbian, as was strongly implied in the two-hour television movie that aired in February. "We haven’t explored her sexuality at this point," executive producer Gary Scott Thompson said at first.
Given the fact that Poitier’s character was introduced with a scene in which she says goodbye to an unnamed blond woman sleeping in her bed — which clearly suggests that Rivai had a sexual relationship with the woman — Thompson’s response indicated that Rivai’s sexual orientation may be revised in the prime-time series, which debuts Sept. 24 on NBC.
If she remains bisexual, Carrie Rivai will be one of only three lesbian/bisexual women of color on all of prime-time scripted television this fall. The others are Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, and Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) on Bones.
Gary Scott Thompson, who wrote the screenplays for The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious, and has been an executive producer on Las Vegas, was brought on board after the two-hour movie version of Knight Rider was made in order to turn it into a television series. "I had nothing to do with the two-hour" movie, he explained, including the establishment of Agent Rivai’s apparent attraction to women.
"Gary really was given sort of carte blanche when we brought him on board, to not be limited by what had been done in the two-hour movie," said executive producer Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith). "And having sat in the writers’ room with them, the stuff that he’s managed to come up with for … the first eight episodes are so imaginative. A question like that almost feels small," he said, referring to the question about whether or not Rivai is still queer.
On the other hand, Poitier, who played Rivai in the two-hour TV movie and reprises the role in the prime-time series, did not seem confused about Rivai’s sexual orientation. "I like the fact that she had that in the movie," she told reporters. "I thought it was interesting. That’s something that we don’t see that often on television."
When asked how she felt about Rivai’s sexual orientation in the movie, Poitier said: "For somebody that grew up in my generation, it’s sort of like a non-issue. I kind of read it and went, ‘Oh, cool,’ whatever, and done, onto the next scene and how to prepare for that."
Sydney Tamiia Poitier at the TCA press conference
Currently they are shooting the third episode of the series, and Rivai’s personal life has not yet been addressed. "It isn’t an issue because it hasn’t been related to any of the story lines that we’re doing," said executive producer Dave Bartis, who spoke to AfterEllen.com after the press conference. Bartis also worked on the TV movie.
"I think eventually as the show unfolds you’ll start to see some of her personal life," Poitier said to AfterEllen.com in an interview. In the early episodes of the series, which have not yet been made available for screening, producers say the emphasis has been on creating a team of characters that go on missions using KITT, the artificially intelligent car, and not on any of the characters’ personal lives.
"Hopefully it’s something that they will keep," Poitier said of Rivai’s sexual orientation, but "I don’t know what their plans or their intentions are."