The idea was born over a series of dinners: Jane Espenson, Hugo-award-winning writer for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, fell in love with her friend Brad Bell’s idea for a show about a fabulous actor (played by Bell), his gal pal (Alessandra Torresani, Caprica) and his boozily accidental wedding.
There’s a twist here, though, and it’s that the groom (aka Cheeks) didn’t marry the gal — he married another groom (Sean Hemeon, As the World Turns), a nervous and newly out ballplayer. The show’s name: Husbands. It’s a classic sitcom setup, opposites in love. But instead of on a network, it’s on the internet — at lovehusbands.com. Espenson and Bell created it together, and Espenson (currently a consulting producer of Once Upon a Time) funded the first season from her own pocket.
In Season 1 (11 episodes of about two minutes each) the grooms wake up married in Vegas and decide to make it work. Season 2, which debuted this week, picks up with the newlyweds living in their new home and dealing with the public fallout of their union. It will unfold over the course of three episodes of about eight minutes each, with behind-the-scenes specials for each one. Fans paid for the second season via Kickstarter, raising $50,000 in a week.
The second season also ups the ante on guest stars, with a virtual who’s who of the Whedonverse – including Joss himself, who appears in all three episodes. You’ll also see Amber Benson and Emma Caulfield (Buffy), and Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse). Plus Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) and Sasha Roiz (Caprica).
Espenson and Bell spoke with Amazon Studios about Husbands, creative freedom and working with Joss Whedon, actor.
On distributing the show online:
Espenson: We thought, oh, we’ll show that there is an audience out there, and then we can take it to the big stage. And then we realized, “There’s no bigger stage than this.”
Bell: What stage is bigger than the internet?
Espenson: You wish you had the big budget, but our fans supported the show … and we don’t have anybody above us saying “Oh, you can’t show that to America.” “We can show it to America, whatever America wants to look at — and beyond America.”
Bell: That’s how you get a hit, you make something that nobody else knew the rest of the country was actually ready for. And they were so ready for it that they loved it and embraced it and that’s how it becomes a hit. We get to do that, we get to push forward … and really have fun with our audience and tell an important story, but first and foremost, we get to entertain.
On working with Joss Whedon, the actor (he plays an agent in all three episodes):
Bell: He liked it so much, we were like “You want to be in it?”
Espenson: We had written a part and we were talking about other people.
Bell: Then we went back and tailored it once we knew it would be Joss. … We were very particular about the agent’s voice because we wanted a character who in classic agent fashion says “look, this is the situation and basically explains how things are dire and horrible” and you suddenly realize how dire and horrible it is and they say, “Whoa, why are things so dire and horrible all of a sudden?” … It was fun to give Joss that sort of voice of contradiction.
Espenson: There are a couple of moments where it takes some real acting finesse to make these turns, and he landed it, every time.
— Stephanie Reid-Simons