Interview with Crystal Chappell

As the fall television season gets underway with few lesbian characters or storylines in sight, lesbian viewers are eagerly anticipating the launch of the new web series Venice, the brainchild of soap star Crystal Chappell (best known to lesbian viewers as one half of Guiding Light’s lesbian super-couple, Olivia and Natalia, or “Otalia”).

The web series reunites Chappell with Jessica Leccia, her Guiding Light love interest, in a medium where their remarkable chemistry can be more fully expressed. The web series also stars Elizabeth Keener (The L Word), Daniel Cosgrove (Guiding Light), and Michelle Carter.

When CBS canceled Guiding Light, ending its unparalleled 72-year run on radio and television (the final episode airs September 18), the entrepreneurial, tech-savvy Chappell saw an opportunity to continue telling stories featuring lesbian characters and relationships, but without networks or corporate producers making the rules.

Chappell spoke with AfterEllen.com about Venice and her character, Gina, as well as her thoughts on the Otalia storyline as it draws to a close this week.

AfterEllen.com: What is Venice going to be about?
Crystal Chappell:
Venice is about a community of people in Venice Beach, California. The lead character, her name is Gina, she’s an out lesbian; she’s a businesswoman, a very successful interior designer of hotels. Her mother died when she was 16. Her father’s a retired Colonel, very disapproving of everything and everyone in general, and she’s sort of had to raise her little brother. And had her heart broken very early on, and has had lousy relationships ever since.

So she’s just trying to find love in Venice Beach.

AE: How many episodes are you planning?
CC:
At this point approximately 12 [episodes], approximately seven to 10 minutes maybe on the high end. At this point we’ll try to do five seasons a year.

AE: Five seasons a year! Wow!
CC:
I mean, it depends. We’re going to try to get as many seasons in as we can. We’ve already finished writing the first season. And it ends with a bang.

AE: So we’ll all be desperately waiting to find out what happens in season two.
CC:
Yes. I’m really happy with the end of it. I think Kim [Turrisi, Venice’s head writer] did a great job.

AE: What are your short-term and long-term ambitions for the show?
CC:
Well, the short term is to actually get it — we’ve got a couple of scenes shot — but I want to get it finished, I want to get it on the web. I’d love to be able to keep the show going on the web for as long as possible.

Long term, I don’t know. Ultimately I’d love to see — it would be great to have a show on an FX or some kind of cable network that features a lead lesbian character. That would be a really wonderful thing to have in the end of all this.

AE: Do you think that it’s possible for a show to sustain itself long term just on the web, without hopes of going to cable?
CC:
Absolutely. Yes, I do think there’s hope for that. And in fact I have no problem staying on the web. It’s new, it’s interesting, there’s a lot to be learned from it. And I think we’re starting to make that transition. Even just a few months ago I had more than a number of people say there’s no way to make money. I think we’ll figure it out.

That’s how they figured out how to transition shows from radio to television. It’s less expensive and you can do a lot more in a shorter period of time. And I think if you can find an audience there’s the hope for longevity.

AE: Do you have a clear sense of what you think the business model is going to be? Are you looking at sponsorship, syndication?
CC:
We’re looking at all of that. Sponsorship, syndication, subscriptions. Right now we’re in talks with a few people. So we’re just waiting to see how that all pans out. But it’s all very, very positive, people are very interested, which is lovely for us. And, yeah, we haven’t made a decision on that yet.

We’re opening up a Venice store on our website in another week, and the winner of the logo contest will have his or her logo on the products. Which is kind of exciting. And we have a lot of great artists submitting their music, and it’s fantastic stuff. So it’s been a wonderfully interactive experience. We want to help launch other artists as well. It’s sort of this intermingling that drives inspiration.

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