Being Gay is the Least Interesting Thing About Bryan Fuller


Photo credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Television producer and writer Bryan Fuller has quite the
knack for quirky yet critically acclaimed television series. They have ranged
from the less well-known such as Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls to shows at the
forefront of the cultural zeitgeist including NBC’s Heroes and ABC’s Pushing
Daisies
. 

While both Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, shows Fuller either
created or co-created, received numerous critical accolades, neither were
exactly positive creative experiences for Fuller.  Dead Like Me lasted for two seasons on
Showtime, however Fuller departed after the fifth episode of the first season due
to creative differences.

Wonderfalls didn’t even last that long with Fox
canceling the program after airing only four episodes and after giving Fuller
grief over a lesbian kiss. Despite that early cancellation, the show developed a
strong enough fan base that Fox released a DVD set of the thirteen episodes
filmed before cancellation. Such is the power of Bryan Fuller’s vision.

With any luck, those days of critical acclaim but
not-so-stellar commercial success are behind Fuller for good. Pushing Daisies, the
ABC dramedy about a pie-maker who can bring dead things back to life, is up for
twelve Emmy nominations this Sunday night. And Fuller himself is up for
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

AfterElton.com recently caught up with busy, busy Fuller who
was hard at work despite nursing a very bad head cold.

AfterElton: Twelve Emmy nominations. How dizzying is that?
Bryan Fuller:
It feels pretty great to get 12 nominations for nine
episodes and you know always with these with these sort of things you’re like,
what a fantastic hug from the industry. And then you’re sort of like, well, I
wish … everybody [on the show got] nominated because I think everybody across
the board is doing such fantastic work. But I would say 12 nominations for nine
episodes is a pretty good ratio.

AE: That’s more than one Emmy per episode!
BF:
I think it’s a pretty fantastic ratio.

Fuller with Pushing Daisies stars Lee Pace (left) & Anna Friel

AE: You’re up against Tina Fey for the writing Emmy. Let’s
talk some smack about her. She’s really just a hack, right?
BF:
[Laughing] You know, I am such a big Tina Fey fan. I
totally want her to lose, but it’s very cool to be in that category with her
because I do think that she has got such a great voice for our generation and
she is very much the new Mary Tyler Moore in so many respects. I know what
she’s going to say, “It’s an honor.”

AE: How nervous do you think you’ll be at the Emmys?
BF:
I’m sure I will be in a flop sweat.

AE: How significant to you is this level of recognition from
your peers?
BF:
It’s pretty significant. When we won the Saturn award,
being a sci-fi geek and really being embraced by that community for the first
season of Heroes was such a big deal and it was such a cool statue. It’s a
pretty significant thing, but it’s also one of those things where the moment
that night is over, you just keep moving on. And like with the nominations,
that day there was so much going on at work and things were flying fast and
furious that it was literally hard to focus on it because there was so much
else – there were production meetings and I was working on a script and so it’s
like, “Oh my god, that is so nice! Now I have to get back to work.”

AE: Are you bringing a date to the show?
BF:
Yes, I will be bringing my boyfriend. I will be bringing
my boyfriend Tater.

MJ: Tater?
BF:
Well his name is Scott, but I call him Tater.

AE: Details?
BF:
He’s such a sweet guy and I’ve known him for a few years and he’s
wonderful. He’s a wonderful man.

AE: Is he in the business?
BF:
He’s an interior designer.

AE: Forget about Tater for a moment:  You
and one other guy are going to be the last men left on earth – would it be NPH,
TR Knight, or Lance Bass?
BF:
Oh, Neil Patrick Harris all the way. I think he’s funny and charming and
from what I can tell, he has a hairy chest.

 

AE: Wikipedia says you’ve had a “meteoric career” in television.
So I’m wondering if you should also be nominated for best Wikipedia writing?
BF:
[Laughing] I don’t know who writes that stuff! But I saw
that and I was like oh, my God! They have my birthday on there, and do they
have my social security and my mother’s maiden name? And it was all so surreal.
But I don’t know who writes that, but I love under career it was like, Fuller
is openly gay, and that’s like the most interesting thing about my personal
life.

AE: For the record, my research for this interview consisted
of more than just Wikipedia. I read an interview you did four years ago with
our sister site AfterEllen.com and another you did with ComicBookResource.com
and I wasn’t surprised to see that you’d had your fair share of run ins with
studio executives and that the issue frequently involved gay characters. The
dad de-gayed on Dead Like Me. The lesbian kiss issue on Wonderfalls.
Then there was the de-gayed character on Heroes. From where you sit, are things
getting any better when it comes to gay visibility on television?
BF:
Yeah, I think they are getting better. ABC is really,
really supportive and embracing of gay characters on television, which is kind
of funny. They’re fearless, which is great. And I think that’s one end of the
spectrum, and then on the other end of the spectrum I would say is Fox, which
is so conservative. Hopefully they have changed in the past three or four
years, but on Wonderfalls I found it shocking and depressing and really so
strange.

Fuller at this year’s Comic Con

Photo credit: mjade

AE: You probably didn’t have time to watch much Olympics,
but there was this Australian diver who is gay…
BF:
Oh, yeah, I saw that and I thought that was so sh*tty.
I’m glad they apologized, but it’s a little too little and a little too late.
They should have acknowledged this man and his boyfriend and it was really
unfortunate. I’m glad they got called out in the media because they deserved to
be called out. But that was unfortunate.

AE: You wrote for Star Trek and are well-known as a sci fi
geek. As a sci fan, have you noticed the lack of gay characters on science fiction
programs and if so, do you find it frustrating?
BF:
You know, it is frustrating. When I first started Star
Trek,
there was a script that was going around that had gay characters in it
and I read it and it was sort of very cliché and I’m sure I’ll get rapped in
the mouth for this from some folks, but I was relieved that they didn’t do it
because I just thought it wasn’t done in a clever way. It was kind of a mincing
stereotype – not mincing, but you know – there was no dimension to the
character, just sort of "oh, that character is gay."

And … with Pushing Daisies and having made a couple
of attempts at doing a gay character and then thinking okay, it would be great
to have this gay character in the coroner because it would be a unique gay
perspective. Fleshing that out in an episode kind of got put on the back burner
because of other concerns and then we had an episode where we introduce Ned’s
brothers and one of them is gay and we had a scene where they are talking to
Olive and one of them is really obsessed with Olive and she is like, “How do
you know that you’re not going to leave the room and then the other one is
going to come back in and play some kind of trick on me?” And the other one
says, “Well, because I’m gay.”

That was a scene that we had to cut because it didn’t have
anything to do with the plot of the storyline and so I share the frustrations.
But I also understand when you’re telling a story and you only have 48 pages to
tell a story that … some of that stuff goes by the wayside. And I’m always
like, “God damn it!” I want to make room for this, but I know that if you just
put it in there to put it in there, then it’s going to be . . . like if you
can’t service it, then do it when you can service it so it doesn’t feel
like it is an empty gesture.

AE: Like with the coroner?
BF:
I feel really bad
because I want to tell that story and I feel like it is my duty and obligation
as a gay man working in television to represent that voice and I feel like I
was successful at doing that and it was wonderful to a certain extent with Todd
Holland [on Wonderfalls], who is also gay and co-created the show with me. So
it’s one of those things where I feel like I can’t sling stones as much as I
would want to because I’ve been on the other side and feel the frustration. I’m
frustrated with myself and I’m frustrated with other people who don’t do it,
but I’m certainly living in a glass house in that regard, if that makes any
sense.

AE: I’m sorry, but with what you’ve done you are not living
in any glass house. The granddaddy of
the “no gays in sci-fi” is, of course, Star Trek. I recently asked Star Trek
writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci if the new Trek movie would finally go
where the franchise hasn’t gone in over forty years. I was told they had discussed
it and “hopefully” it’ll make it into the next movie. You wrote for Star Trek.
What do you think accounts for such a progressive show’s total lack of failure
in this regard?
BF:
Well, my goal when Pushing Daisies is done is to
do a Star Trek series. I would love to go back and I’ve talked to my friends
and co-workers at Heroes, some of the writers on that show and I was
like, “Okay when Heroes is done and Daisies is done, we’re all
going to get back together and we’re going to do a Star Trek series.”

I ran into Brain Burk who is one of the producers on the new
Star Trek movie and Lost and he’s in that J.J. Abrams camp, and I was
just like, “If you guys are ever venturing into television, please come
see me because I have an idea for a Star Trek series.” And I really want to go
back to that world. I really want to go back to the spirit of the original
series, which was much more fun. I think Next Generation and Deep Space Nine
and Voyager I’ll stop there were
all really good series and, but they didn’t have that sense of fun that the
original series had.

AE: You are serious? This isn’t just a pie in the sky thing?
BF:
I would love to do it. Star Trek was so important to me
growing up and also so pivotal and why I became a writer. When I was working at
this health care trade association and writings spec scripts for Star Trek, my
desk was littered with Star Trek figures. Every time I saw a Jem’Hadar, I would
buy it so I could collect a Jem’Hadar army. And it’s a great universe with a
lot of hope. It’s a great metaphor to explore the human condition and it’s just
fun. And I think it can be fun again in the way the original series was
and I was so encouraged that they were going back to the style of the original
series.

I told my agent if anybody starts talking about a Star Trek
series, throw my name into the hat. It’s something that I would love to do.

AE: Changing topics, did you see Kristin
Chenoweth’s Public Service “Ad” about meth use?
BF:
Kristin Chenoweth is fearless. She
is somebody who I hope that I am working with for many years to come, beyond Daisies
and into our twilight years. She is one of the brightest, cheeriest, most
pleasant people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She has such a great sense of humor and is a
wonderful Christian woman that believes in her Lord and doesn’t use that as a
weapon in any way. She just uses it as two open arms to hug whoever comes
across her path. And the fact that here is this woman who is a Christian and such
a good soul, and she is singing this song about crack and sucking d*ck. It just
shows you, it’s very telling about her as a human being.

Fuller (left) & Kristin Chenoweth
Photo credits: Getty Images

AE: Are you still hooked on Project Runway?
BF:
I am. I think this season isn’t as strong as previous
seasons, but I love – is it Tracy?

MJ: No, it’s Terri.
BF:
We just call her Donna Summer. I think she’s fantastic
and you know who I love on this season, I love love love? – is Jerell. He won me over. He broke the sort of like bitchy gay stereotype when the
leather lady was the last one picked and he made her feel so welcome and so
appreciated and the smile that he put on her face, I will root for him until
the end because talk about being just a good person and avoiding – think funny
and flamboyant and fantastic, but never mean.

AE: I thought that was so classy.
BF:
It made me want to cry. It was just one of those human
moments where you’re like – wow, that’s a human kindness moment where everybody
was making remarks about her and how they didn’t want to be stuck with her and
he was so classy and sweet and I just, I adore him. He’s my favorite.

AE: That was everything I’ve got for you, Bryan. We are so
pulling for you to win that Emmy. When you win, I want you to take that Emmy and whack Tina Fey
with it!
BF:
[Laughing] I’ll beat that bitch down!

AE: Now go take care of yourself.
BF:
Thanks Michael. It was great talking to you.