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October 6, 2015

'Buffy' and 'Caprica' Veterans Team Up for 'Husbands,' a Cheeky Web Series (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 13th 2011 2:30PM
Couples going to Las Vegas and impulsively tying the knot while drunk is a longstanding ritual for both celebrities and civilians.

Now that gay couples can get married, why shouldn't they be part of that tradition? That's the question that writer/performer Brad Bell and television writer/producer Jane Espenson ('Battlestar Galactica,' 'Game of Thrones,' 'Buffy') asked themselves when they were creating 'Husbands,' a web series that premieres Tuesday.

In the 11-episode comedy, Bell and Sean Hemeon play a performer and a newly out major-league baseball player who get married in Vegas, only to wake up with hangovers and the realization that they don't know each other well. Alessandra Torresani, who's best known for playing Zoe Graystone on 'Caprica,' plays their frequently inebriated friend, Haley.

While Espenson and Bell (who met after Espenson became a fan of the videos Bell posts under his stage name, Cheeks) were writing the series earlier this year, New York passed its gay marriage law. They'd wanted to do a timely project together, so the story they were envisioning about a gay man and his best female friend evolved into a romantic comedy about two guys whose relationship is tested after their Vegas wedding.

Espenson is best known for writing dramas such as 'Battlestar Galactica,' 'Buffy' and 'Torchwood' (she's currently a consulting producer on the new ABC show 'Once Upon a Time'), but she said she was itching to return to her comedy roots and was intrigued by the idea of her and Bell doing a project on their own terms.

"Doing 'Husbands' now makes sense for me personally, because I think after a string of dramas, people can forget that I started as a comedy writer -- joke writing is my favorite thing," said Espenson. "Doing ['Husbands'] quickly, efficiently, just the way that Cheeks and I visualized it -- that's what made sense about doing it as a web series."

Espenson financed the project out of her own pocket -- "This is 'Battlestar' money!" she joked -- and though she worked on the 'Battlestar' web series 'Face of the Enemy' and got advice from internet and TV titan Joss Whedon, she said 'Husbands' was still a learning experience.

"Usually a job is an adventure for some of the people involved," she said. "This is an adventure for everyone."

One adventure shared by Bell, Hemeon and Espenson: Doing guerilla marketing at San Diego Comic-Con in July.

"Walking down the middle aisle [of the convention center] with a man in a baseball jersey and a man in a veil -- you're surrounded by Sailor Moon and aliens, but a man in a wedding veil? Jaws drop," Espenson said.

Before and after the crew went to Comic-Con, they worked their social-media followings to get the word out about the show, and they even crowd-sourced the project, in a manner of speaking. Espenson called on many of her comedy-writer contacts to help tweak the script at a table-read before production began, and Jeff Greenstein, a friend whose credits include 'Desperate Housewives' and 'Will & Grace,' directed 'Husbands' and is one of its executive producers.

One of the bigger challenges of creating 'Husbands' -- aside from fitting its cast and full crew into a couple of hotels rooms during two weekends of principal production -- was casting the Brady character. Espenson and Bell wanted an out gay actor in a certain age range who looked like he could be a professional athlete. "And he had to be able to do comedy," Espenson added. After two casting directors recommended Hemeon, he landed the role.

Though most actors in Hollywood are counseled to keep their sexual orientation private, Hemeon decided not to go that route. "I defintely thought about it," he said. "I thought about changing my last name. My peers and I, that's definitely a conversation that we have," but eventually the actor decided that being out was "a lot less stressful." Still, Brady's concerns about how the quickie wedding would affect both his public image and the cause of gay marriage were topics the actor could readily relate to.

"I identify with Brady," he added. "He just came out and he really wants to be a good role model. I identify with that entirely."

But the point of 'Husbands' is not to raise consciousness, Bell and Espenson said when I visited its Los Angeles set last month.

"It's not an overt agenda, it's more like, 'Hey, these newlyweds are dealing with really familiar problems that all newlyweds deal with,'" Espenson said. "The fact that they're two guys adds an extra wrinkle and lets you tell a few stories you couldn't otherwise tell, but it's much more subversive in that it's totally identifiable."

"I think the context and the environment of the story will lend itself to that consciousness-raising, so there's no effort to put that in there," Bell added.

One definite outcome of the 'Husbands' project, however, is a comedy pilot that Bell and Espenson will be able to shop around Hollywood. All of the episodes of the web series will be edited into a pilot that could theoretically be turned into a television series down the road.

But creating a comedy calling card for the industry "is really, really secondary," Espenson said. "I wanted to do the show because I wanted this show to exist."

'Husbands' debuts Tuesday evening here. New episodes will be posted every Tuesday and Thursday.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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