When television producers Peter Paige and Brad Bredeweg were contemplating the next show they would create together, one phrase popped into their conversation: “How do you define family?”
Paige, best known for his role as Emmett Honeycutt on Showtime’s hit series “Queer as Folk,” teamed with Bredeweg on the reality show “Fly Girls” and the partnership was now looking to create a family drama.
“We looked around at the TV landscape and thought, ‘There aren’t too many family dramas on right now,’ and it was something we both always loved as TV viewers and wanted to fill that vacuum,” Paige says. “We wanted to do it in the non-traditional family space, because we are seeing more of that around us.”
Two dads had been done before, but the idea of a lesbian couple raising a family was something that hadn’t been explored on television in a family drama. The fact that both men are gay made it a subject that interested them, and they outlined a plan for “The Fosters” (Mondays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family).
“Getting any show on the air is a long, kind of circuitous, strange, wandering path through the wilderness,” Bredeweg says. “Once we had the idea, a friend of ours was working for Jennifer Lopez and we brought the project to her and she got right on board and has been a champion of it ever since.”
Because of the type of programming that ABC Family was known for, it made the shortlist of the channels that both men thought would be best for their show. After all, the cable channel’s tagline is, “A New Kind of Family”; a match couldn’t have been more perfect.
Once ABC Family committed to the project, the two creators went about answering the question, “How do two women create a family?” and they decided to jam in as many ways as possible. Thus, “The Fosters” follows lovebirds Lena Adams and Stef Foster, an interracial lesbian couple who are married and living in the Mission Bay area of San Diego, raising Stef’s biological son along with adopted twins Jesus and Marianna. Another kid joins the bunch when Lena, a charter school vice principal, decides to take in troubled teen Callie.
“Having been an actor on ‘Queer as Folk’ for so long, I learned that everyone has an opinion. The best stuff comes out of listening to your inner voice and following that,” Paige says. “We have the added pressure of being one of the first-of-its-kind shows and you have to understand viewers will have a lot invested. They want to see themselves reflected so there’s a real importance in how our moms are being portrayed.”
The “moms,” as he calls the characters of Lena and Stef, are played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum respectively.
“They are both extraordinary. A beautiful yin and yang. Teri is very much like Steph, loud with no edit button. Sherri is very shy until you get to know her well. They are a lot like our partnership,” Bredeweg says. “Teri and Peter are very likely to put their foot in their mouth at any given moment. Sherri and I on the other hand are much more likely to play their cards close to the vest and destroy you with some wit or insight.”
The show is obviously resonating with a lot of people, as “The Fosters” has been one of ABC Family’s highest rated new shows, registering 1.8 million viewers in its first week and improving on those numbers for episode two and three.
“Timing is everything in this business and we felt that with everything going on in the world, we just felt the timing was right,” Bredeweg says. “We are very excited. Based on the feedback we are getting, people like what they are seeing and we are grateful for that.”
The lesbian community has come out in full force and both men have heard a great deal about the positives of representing their voice. Still, as with any show, not everyone is happy about everything.
“One of the things I am hearing is that people are wondering why they haven’t gotten too physical yet, but take a breath, it’s coming,” Paige says. “Viewers need to remember that it’s a long ride and hopefully we will have 100 episodes to explore every facet of their lives and that will certainly include sex and sexuality.”
In fact, a recent Tweet by Saum shows the two characters in bed together with the caption, “Last day on the set, making the most of it” underneath.
Paige and Bredeweg say “The Fosters” isn’t a show for just the LGBT community, but a show for everyone.
“It’s a show about family. It’s no difference whether they are lesbians or gay or straight, it’s all about the love of a family and how they respond to each other,” Paige says. “We are so grateful and excited and hoping to make the lesbian community particularly proud.”