With the second series of UK lesbian dramady Lip Service now available on DVD in Australia, we caught up with the show’s creator and writer Harriet Bruan for a chat about her sexy cast and the tough crowd that make up queer television viewers.
We hear Lip Service was born from a very vague brief you were given to ‘write a lesbian TV series’. How did you decide which direction to go in from there?
At first it was really intimidating. I thought, ‘but I could do anything!’ Then ideas started coming to me and I just decided to go where my imagination took me. In a way ideas find you rather than vice versa.
Is it true that each cast member was given a manual on lesbian sex that they were expected to read before shooting began?
I think this notion arose out of something one of the actors said in an interview – it’s actually a myth. There was lots of research material around about all aspects of lesbian culture, and it was there for people involved to read if they might find it helpful. If the actors wanted to read up on lesbian sex or anything else, then they could, but no one was required to read anything.
Did you have any concerns about casting straight actors in lesbian roles?
I wasn’t concerned about casting straight actors. As long as we found the right person for the role and they were convincing at the audition stage, I was sure it’d be fine. An actor’s job is to act and if they’re good at their job, then they can act being in love with or fancying anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Given that representation of gay people is still limited on TV, it makes sense queer shows inspire quite rapid fan bases. What are Lip Service fans like, and do you communicate with them?
On the whole the Lip Service fans are fantastically supportive. Gay audiences are a notoriously tough crowd, because, as you say, there are a limited amount of gay shows or characters on TV. When they do appear, they come under a lot of scrutiny. I always knew I wouldn’t be able to please everyone, but I was delighted by how many people embraced the show and how much they engaged with it.
I also read a lot of what people write online, and it really helps me get an idea of what’s going down well. Last series I got the feeling a lot of people would like to see more of Sadie and Sam, and as I was also excited about developing their characters more, I went ahead and did so.
The flipside of that fandom is that queer viewers often expect to see themselves represented in whatever gay-themed shows are out there. Were you conscious with Lip Service of presenting a range of different lesbian characters?
To an extent yes, but it’s a small budget show with a small cast, so I was always aware we wouldn’t be able to represent everyone. I think the answer is to have more lesbian or bi women characters on TV, rather than put pressure on one show to try and include a whole community.
One of our own, Anna Skellern, stars in season two of the show as Lexy. Were you keen to write an Aussie into the show given how much of a scourge we are in the UK?
Personally I’m a total sucker for an Australian accent. Although I didn’t know Lexy would be Australian, it was a nice surprise. Anna Skellern just blew us away at her audition. Generally, when we’re auditioning, only the first script is written, so who we cast can inform upon the rest of the writing process, which is great and means we can be really flexible.
Do you have visions for where you’d like to take the show in the future?
We’re still waiting to hear from the BBC about whether there will be a season three. I do have an idea of where I’d like the show to go, although I think it’s way too soon to say. I will say if it does go to a third series, I might cut Tess a few breaks – she’s had a hard time of it!
INFO: Lip Service Season 2 (Icon Films) out now on DVD.