Behind the Lesbian Story Line on “Grey’s Anatomy”


This spring, ABC’s Grey’s

introduced a lesbian story line with a romance between the

confident and sexually voracious Dr. Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) and the

professionally ambitious yet personally restrained Dr. Erica Hahn (Brooke


The story line offered

both the drama Grey’s is known

for and — despite some marginally exploitative threesome talk — a

truthfulness network television has rarely achieved when it comes to lesbian

relationships. For Callie and Erica, the season ended with a kiss, and what

could be the beginning of a passionate romance.

Photo credit: Randy Holmes/ABC

With that kiss, Callie

and Erica became the only regular lesbian/bisexual female characters currently on

network television.

This is also the first time that two regular characters on a network show have begun a lesbian romance, as opposed to one becoming involved with a new lesbian character introduced expressly for that relationship.

To prepare for the story line,

which will continue next season, Grey’s consulted with GLAAD, which

worked with the series’ writers on a previous story line about a transgender

character with breast cancer. GLAAD invited Nikki Weiss, an out producer and

manager also known for her appearance on Oprah,

and Trish Doolan, an out

writer, director and actor best known for her film April’s Shower,

to participate in workshop sessions with the writers and actors. Weiss and

Doolan spoke to about what it was like to work on Grey’s

and what they thought of the story line on-screen.

Nikki Weiss (left) and Trish Doolan When did the people from Grey’s approach you about doing this story line?

Nikki Weiss: GLAAD actually

contacted me in March and said, “The Grey’s

writers really want to write this story line and ensure that they

understand the emotional journey of discovering that you’re a lesbian — or at

least in love with another woman — when you’re an adult.” So I said, “Fantastic!

I’d be happy to help.”

AE: Is this something that either of you have done before, consulting

on another writer’s stories and characters?

Trish Doolan:
Well, I’m a writer; I actually write. So a lot of times

people will just call me to read their scripts. But not to the extent that this

was — coming in for a formal meeting and sitting around with all of the

writers. It was really very well-done … I just thought their need to know and

want to be truthful, and everything like that — it was just really


NW: We actually sat first with the actresses in a room with GLAAD

as well — they were present at all of the meetings … to make sure it was

accurate and fair and inclusive. And first we met with the actresses and

executive producer … and that was like an hour and a half meeting. And then we

were into the writers’ room with the entire writing staff and a stenographer

[laughs], just to make sure they got everything. And they were really intense

on understanding and telling the story line from a source of truth.

AE: What was it like to work with the writers and the actresses?

I was just really impressed that they wanted to tell this story so

honestly. And they really wanted to understand the relationship and the dynamic

— falling in love with somebody of the same gender. And their questions were

really thought out. And the writers were just really invested in that, and so

were the actresses, actually. They had a lot of great questions.

Brooke Smith (left) and Sara Ramirez

Photo credit: Randy Holmes/ABC

AE: What kinds of questions were they asking you?

They asked us how do we identify ourselves: Are we lesbians or did we

just fall in love with another woman? They specifically asked things like, “When

was the first time you were conscious of an attraction to another woman?” “Did

you ever sleep with a man to prove to yourself that you weren’t gay?”

So they really just

wanted to understand the spectrum. “When was the first moment you knew you

were a lesbian, or identified with that? Does it matter?” Specific fears

about coming out. How your friends reacted to it.

TD: And how everyone is now. Did you lose any people in your life,

like friends, family, things like that. And then about our relationship now,

and relationships that we’ve been in, and whether they ended because of someone

couldn’t handle being gay, or was it a normal breakup as other relationships

break up. …

They were really wanting

to be truthful to the two characters they’re focusing on in the woman-woman

relationship … because I think what they were going for is one of the

characters on their show, maybe it’s not that she’s necessarily gay, but she

falls in love with this person. … And that’s actually what was one of my

stories in the past. A woman I was with never was with another woman again. She

just said she fell in love with me. And for her it wasn’t a gender thing; it

was just about a person. And that’s something that they were really interested

in for their story line.

NW: And I think that they didn’t want to stereotype anything,

either, and write from a place where they didn’t understand it. I think that

sexuality is so fluid that they wanted to understand that point of view as

well, of being attracted to a person and telling that honestly, because there

would be a fear in that too, if you own up to, wow, I’m attracted to that

person, regardless of their gender.