Out executive producer Joni Lefkowitz dishes on Season 1B of “Chasing Life”


The other day, we posted an interview with Haley Ramm from Chasing Life about the show, her character, Brenna and Brenna’s unlabeled sexuality. We also spoke with the creator of the show, out writer/executive producer Joni Lefkowitz. She was able to give us a few more clues about what’s in store for Brenna, Greer, and Grenna.

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AfterEllen: I thought we’d start by talking about the Brenna/Greer storyline. Was that something you had planned from the beginning or was it something that developed after Greer was introduced?

Joni Lefkowitz: We definitely planned it. We wanted there to be a modern take on teenage sexuality and we like that Brenna doesn’t need to define herself, and that’s an OK thing for this character. I think my main agenda going in was that her struggle about who she should pick wasn’t about whether she was comfortable being gay or bi or whatever, we just wanted it to be about choosing between two people, and it just happens to be a boy and a girl, and it’s all modern and possible and something we hadn’t seen on TV before.

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AE: I agree that we haven’t seen it, I think it’s been really refreshing to have such a new take on it. Also just Greer and Brenna individual are so unique as far as queer characters go.

JL: Yeah, and you’ll see in season 1B, Greer is going to have a lot more to do. She’ll be around for most of the season, regardless of whether she and Brenna are together. She’ll have more colors and she won’t be quite so…she won’t be quite such a perfect cookie cutter.

AE: That’s good to hear, especially since the last time we saw Brenna and Greer they were sort of banned from seeing one another, so I’m glad it’s not the end of Greer.

JL: It will not be the end of Greer,  I can comment on that.

AE: What is your favorite thing about the two of them?

JL: I like that Brenna’s embarrassment about being attracted to her at first is that she’s popular, not because she’s a girl. I thought that was interesting, and something that I experienced in high school, being more of an outsider or like nerdy debate kid, it was the popular crowd that you were like, “Oh, I can’t be seen with them!” Sort of a reverse situation. But yeah we just thought that was fun, it was really her reluctance to admit to her hater friend Ford that she likes this really mainstream girl. I liked that that was her main conflict.

AE: I also like that Brenna kind of coming out to her family wasn’t really as big of a deal as April “coming out” with her leukemia, I thought that was a nice parallel. Do you do you think Sara would have reacted differently if it had come before April’s news, of it that kind of changed her perspective?

JL: That’s a good question. I think her reaction would be similar. I do think that the cancer puts things in perspective, so you’re like, “OK, this isn’t going to shock me as much as the cancer would,” but we like that Sara is a liberal mom. We like that her reaction when she found out Brenna was dating two people, it was like “OK, don’t hurt anyone,” it wasn’t any moralist “You can’t do this!” or any comment on the sexuality part of it, it was more just like, “Be a nice person.”

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AE: It was the same with April, it was “What about Kieran?” not anything about Greer being a girl. Speaking of that scene, when they were playing Never Have I Ever, when the question was if you’ve ever been attracted to someone of the same sex, Beth also drank. Is that something that we’ll get to see or explore at all?

JL: You know, originally, way before we’d broken past episode one, I think we thought maybe Beth would be the bisexual character, because it seemed kind of like in her free spirit. I don’t know, she just seems like a very unjudgemental, open person who probably has hooked up with a girl before. But once we had a more prominent thought for Brenna we didn’t want it to seem like everyone was bisexual. [laughs] But I do think that Beth has had a crush on a girl before and she doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal.

AE: How far out do you usually plan these characters? Do they develop as they go or do you have an endgame in store for all of the storylines already?

JL: I think it varies. We, definitely for April’s stories, we arc it out pretty far in advance because it’s a lot of medical facts and we have to make sure we’re being responsible with that stuff. As far as everybody else,  we shot the first 13 episodes pretty much in a row and then had a little break before our final seven, so I think we had the benefit of being able to change course a little bit after episode 13, but I think in that first 13 it was pretty planned out because we were shooting it all in a row and we didn’t really have time to adjust things last minute.

AE: Do you have a favorite scene so far?

JL: There’s a bunch. I love the funeral home, the Jackson giving his own funeral scene, that was pretty special. I love scenes with Mary Page [Keller] and Haley [Ramm]—Brenna and Sara. I love their relationship and how it’s changed and by the time it gets to episode 10, I love the “I have two perfect daughters” moment with Sarah when Brenna thinks she’s kind of a fuck-up. Those are up there.

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AE: What can you tell us about Brenna and Greer’s storyline in 1B?

JL: I think we’ve said, they’re going to kind of be the Juliet and Juliet in the beginning. It’s more about when you’re a teenager and how your parents kind of determine who you can spend time with and how they’ll try to get around that. I don’t want to give away what happens romantically, but their relationship will survive through this season in some form whether it’s friendship or romantic.

AE: That’s good to hear, we really like them.

JL: Yeah, they’re pretty cute!

AE: Are you working on anything else right now that we can look forward to checking out?

JL: The most recent thing I have is Life Partners, which I co-wrote with my writing partner Suzanna [Fogel], it’s going to be coming into theaters end of this year or early next year, and then we’re writing new stuff, trying to write other independent movies while we have some time off, and hoping to get a Season 2 of Chasing Life next year!

AE: We hope that, too!

Chasing Life will return in December for a Christmas episode, then will be back with season 1B (and more Grenna!) in 2015.

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