Drop Dead Diva’s Brooke Elliott and Derek Smith
Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva has regularly featured LGBT stories over its past five seasons including transgender issues, gay sperm donations and same sex couples attending prom (for which they won a GLAAD award). Next up on this Sunday’s new episode? Gays in sports.
In the episode, a Major League baseball player (played by Derek Smith) is accused of murdering his girlfriend. But what little secret do you think could help clear his name? Take a guess.
Also worth noting is comedienne Sandra Bernhard , who appears as a judge in a storyline featuring co-star Kate Levering.
“I think gays in sports is certainly a hot topic right now,” said out Executive Producer/series creator Josh Berman on a press call earlier this week. However, as he explained, “We started working on this episode before it became such a prominent issue and getting such coverage in the news. So I’m thrilled that we are hitting this zeitgeist shed again with gay and lesbian issues.”
Margaret Cho, who co-stars on the show as Teri, sassy assistant to Brooke Elliott’s Jane, was also on the call and added that the topic has been around longer than we often remember. “There is a lot of sexism when it comes to this kind of stuff because Martina Navratilova came out as a lesbian over 25 years ago. Martina Navratilova came out when Reagan was in office…I really want to make sure that her contribution to the LGBT presence in sports is really noted.”
Cho also spoke of her pride with this week’s episode and explained, “It goes into the story about how we look at men in sports and we have to sort of have an idea of who they are and what they’re supposed to be.”
Smith on his character: “He’s not all that different from me.”
For Smith, who is straight, the actor appreciated that his character’s story is not a full coming out episode since his character is only in the closet with his athletic career. “It’s a newer story, which is being comfortable with your sexuality, understanding that perhaps the people surrounding you are not and having to live that double life,” he said. “I really liked that he was comfortable with his sexuality and comfortable with the situation really, it was only the incredible terrible situation that forced him into considering coming out.”
Despite not being gay, Smith could still identify with what his character goes through. “He’s not all that different from me. He loves sports, my first passion was football…I’ve been in plenty of locker rooms, I understand that. He’s a man in love. He happens to love someone the same gender he is and we have that as a difference but certainly I’ve been in love and I know what that’s like.”
Berman also gave props to Smith with what he brought to the role as an actor. “There are parts that come along every so often on Drop Dead Diva where I become obsessed with making sure I find the right actor. And I feel awful because we put the actors through the wringer and we brought (Derek) back for his audition three times because we wanted to make sure he was the right actor and he absolutely is…he looks like a baseball player and we spent a lot of time talking about the role because we wanted to make sure that he understood the importance of who he was representing.”
Could Drop Dead Diva win another GLAAD award as it did with the gay prom episode?
Did playing this role make Smith look at the issue differently? “We’re waiting for that gay Jackie Robinson, that person who is really going to break down barriers. Since the episode we’ve had Jason Collins and Robbie Rogers come out while still active. I don’t want to undermine their courage at all, I think that they’ve done incredible, but I think until we have someone who is a star in one of the big three American sports, basketball, baseball, football…I think that’s what this episode does a good job of presenting [is] what a huge decision this is and how life altering and scary it can be for these guys. I certainly got more of a sense of that and appreciation for their struggle really.
Finally, Cho expressed that she’s surprised the issue of gays in sports has not been a bigger deal before now. “I think sports in general is quite a homo erotic art form into itself. So it’s surprising that there’s not more out actually but I love this episode because it really it talks about some of these very current and obviously Josh had been working on it before we even heard from Jason Collins. So this is a major thing I thing I think [Josh is] psychic when it comes to these stories.
Drop Dead Diva airs Sundays at 9pm on Lifetime.