In case you aren’t familiar with Cameron or Rhea, here’s a little bit of background: Cameron has appeared on several TV shows, including Maron and Adventure Time, and recently played Sarah Chalke‘s partner in Garry Marshall‘s Mother’s Day. She’s also part of the Sundance indie First Girl I Loved and in the last few years released the comedy album Same Sex Symbol as well as the stand-up special Marriage Material, available on Seeso. Rhea is currently a series regular on TruTV’s Adam Ruins Everything and has her debut comedy album, Butcher, releasing on Kill Rock Stars later this month.
Take My Wife, out today on NBC’s streaming service Seeso, follows Cameron and Rhea as they play slightly fictionalized versions of themselves, following their personal and professional lives from the bedroom to the greenroom. With six half-hour episodes, the couple rewind to a year before their wedding, detailing what it’s like to be two out lesbians working in comedy, and how they navigate the dick jokes, dumb questions and misogyny that sadly still comes with the territory.
But Take My Wife is a refreshing honest depiction of these oft-discussed scenarios, injecting the topic of rape jokes with thoughtful commentary while refusing to take it into Very Special Episode territory. And then there’s the basic but loaded fact that not only are they both women in comedy, but they are dating each other. This is mindblowing to many people in the show (including guest stars like Maria Bamford), and never shied away from as a topic of discussion. What is it like to be in the same business as your partner, one that already maintains a sexist view of just how many women are invited to the party. And gay women on top of that? The only way to succeed is to have an educated sense of humor about it all, which both Cam and Rhea are blessed with.
We talked with the show’s creators, writers and stars ahead of the premiere and they told us how real the show is and why they ultimately decided not to have real lesbian sex on camera. (Sorry!)
AfterEllen.com: How close is the show to your real lives?
Cameron Esposito: I think thematically nothing is made up. In terms of actual facts, almost all of it’s made up. So we went into the writers room, and we had some great help—our head writer’s name is Shauna McGarry, and she was amazing. So we basically, like, told a bunch of stories and then we were like, “But we don’t want to throw anybody under the bus and we don’t want to make any of this seem too real,” but really reveal personal—how can we just take all these themes and make them true and 100 percent. But then you know what? Some of it ended up coming true.
Rhea Butcher: Like legit, some stuff came true.
CE: The day we were shooting—in the first episode, I’m on a podcast, and a bunch of people are tweeting at me that I’m very gay, and I should stop talking about being gay on podcasts. And the day we shot that, I was on an episode of Comedy Bang Bang, which is a very popular comedy podcast I’ve been on a bunch of times. For some reason, this particular episode, a bunch of people tweeting at the guy who runs the podcast that I’m too gay and should stop talking about being gay. So the day we were filming this scene, I was actually opening my phone—and they would tag me as well—and seeing a bunch of people having the same conversation I was about to shoot. Very weird.
And then also—now this is the good one. In the second episode, you meet this actor who then eventually ends up shadowing me. This actor is going to play a stand-up comic, and she wants to know how to do that and she’s played by Janet Varney. The day that we shot that scene, I got a call from my agent…that Laura Prepon was going to be in a movie playing a stand-up comic and would like to come to our show and also talk to me about stand-up comedy. And that actually happened. We shot that movie. It happened. She came to the show, we had drinks afterward, she shot the movie. She did stand-up in the movie. I can’t wait for everyone to see that. She was great. I got to see it in the flesh. She did a great job. It’s really hard to do stand-up when you’re not a stand-up.
RB: She was super cool.
Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage
AE: A huge part of the show plays off the fact that you are in the same field.
CE: Yeah, I mean I think it’s so specific when you’re women, especially, because men in our field—there’s usually like five guys and one woman. That’s what we’re used to seeing in terms of numbers. It’s true all over the entertainment industry. We are kind of raised in this system where more than one woman is too many.
RB: I call it the bass player effect.
CE: It is the bass player effect! And it isn’t to say that male comics don’t work hard—everyone in this field works their ass off, or they wouldn’t be successful. There is this feeling that there’s only room for one woman.
RB: Or that’s all you need—hit your quota kind of a thing.
CE: Yeah, exactly. “We’ve got one woman, so we understand what women are like.” The idea that you would date another comic—that’d you’d be a female comic and date another female comic is like, “How would there even be room for the two of you in your house?” You know, Rhea’s opened for me on the road for years and it’s terrible because she’s a really good comic. It’s really hard to follow her jokes. But I think it’s also amazing because we’re two lesbians and the show—the reason that Rhea would be a terrible opener for me is there’s this long-held belief of “Is there enough for the two of us to talk about? Two white lesbians on the same bill? Aren’t they going to have all the same jokes?” The reality is we live in the boom time for television—there’s really enough room for all of us, but the feeling is that it’s hyper-competitive.