Lesbian TV writer Noelle Carbone on writing for gay cop Gail Peck on “Rookie Blue”

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As this season of Rookie Blue comes to a close, we had a chance to chat with Noelle Carbone, an out lesbian writer that has been with the show for five seasons. We talked about what it’s like to be a lesbian voice for TV, what she would like to see happen for Gail Peck, and what we can expect from the new lesbian storyline on Noelle’s other show, Saving Hope.

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AfterEllen: As a lesbian, do you advocate for a lesbian character to be part of each show you write for? Or do you not have any say in that?

Noelle Carbone: Oh, yeah. I’m always trying to get a little lady action into every show I work on. Not just because it’s important for me to see my life and my relationships represented; also because TV is a great tool for normalization. Everybody watches TV, even people whose world views are narrower than mine. And if those people see a nice, relatively normal lesbian character or couple on TV and that character or couple are doing nice relatively normal things, they might find their walls coming down ever so slightly.

In terms of advocating for LGBTQ stories, when I was first starting out a producer told me not to pigeonhole myself as a lesbian writer, to stop writing and pitching LGBTQ stories all the time. The advice was coming from a good place but it was kind of a ridiculous at the same time. Do straight writers get asked to stop pushing their “hetero agenda” every time they write straight characters? Anyway, that advice made an impression on me and I started shying away from telling those types of stories. I stopped advocating for LGBTQ representation in the shows I worked on. That’s probably the thing I regret most about those first few years. Of course now I’m not worried about being pigeonholed. I’d be flattered if writing amazing lesbian characters became my “thing.”

 

AE: Well not only are you advocating LGBTQ stories on TV, you are Canadian and, as you know, I hold a special place in my heart for Canadians! Do you find there is a difference between writing a Canadian show vs. an American show?

NC: [laughs] As far as I can tell the only difference is how many times you have to re-record the actors saying words like “about” and “route.” True story: Season 1 of Rookie Blue, a few of our actors spent a lot of time in the post production sound booth re-recording themselves saying those words. The idea was that Americans can sniff out Canadianisms and the moment they get a whiff, they change the channel. I don’t know if that’s actually true. You’d have to ask an American. Other than that, I don’t think there’s a difference. You tell a great story with great characters and people respond to the material. Doesn’t matter what country they’re in.

 

AE: If you collectively decide a regular character on the show will come out, how do you determine which character will be gay? What is the process for having the character come out?

NC: In terms of Gail on Rookie Blue, that was all Charlotte. She’d been pitching that Gail was a lesbian for a few years before we actually wrote it into the series. In fact, I think she gave an interview where she actually said, on camera, that Gail was gay. So Tassie and the rest of us were kind of like “Well, I guess we better start writing that story.” But credit to Charlotte, she felt very strongly that this was her character’s journey–that the reason Gail was always so uncomfortable in her own skin, the reason she never quite fit in with the other rookies, was because she was hiding who she really was. That being said, I think it’s very rare that a character’s sexuality was decided by the actor, not the story room.

I like to imagine that other shows have a giant sparkly wheel with headshots of all their characters on it. And at the beginning of a season they give the wheel a spin and whoever the needle lands on–BOOM, gay.