Harriet Braun: Lip Service Chat
The Skinny talks to the creator and executive producer of the BBC's hit lesbian drama, Lip Service, as she prepares to come to Glasgow to meet fans of the show
In the first episode online dating, Facebook and Gaydargirls are mentioned – do you think the Internet has changed the way we do things in the lesbian community?
I think the internet has had a big impact. It’s almost certainly helped lesbians looking for a partner. I remember years ago there was an article in The Pink Paper called ‘Go Out, Meet Interesting Women, Ignore them.’ Unfortunately, often women still aren’t raised or encouraged to be assertive and this impacts in social situations. The internet can cut through that initial shyness. Also for women coming out, it must have made a big difference. Gone are the days when you hung around your local library's lesbian aisle in the hope of meeting a girlfriend. Or had to stand outside a gay bar too scared to enter. Now you can get online and start chatting to other gay women straight away. That said, I think the internet is a good starting point, but there’s a lot to be said for getting out there and meeting people face to face.
And for lesbians who are isolated or living in countries where it’s still illegal or very underground, the internet must be a total lifeline.
I loved the breaking of the vase – can you tell us what you were thinking writing that scene? Did it take a couple of tries to get exactly right or is Natasha pretty easy to write those types of moments for?
I’m afraid I can’t answer that as although I storyline the whole series, I don’t write every episode. That scene, which I love, was written by a writer called Lena Rae. I can tell you that I find Sadie a total joy to write for. She’s the character I knew least about when I created her, but she just came alive on the page. I remember thinking, wow, this is fun. It was even more fun once we’d cast Natasha. She’s a fantastic actress who manages to capture Sadie’s irreverence but also convey that there’s a lot of depth and damage beneath the surface which Sadie is hiding.
What moment in the show perfectly summarises, for you, what it means to be a lesbian in Scotland today?
I don’t know if there’s any one moment, although I’d probably mention Sam’s scenes with her fellow cop Ryder as examples of how we are making strides as a community. A lesbian happily chats to a straight man about her same sex relationship. There’s no awkwardness or homophobia in their friendship, he’s at ease and so is she. I’m aware this isn’t the whole picture, there’s still plenty of homophobia out there, but we see a lot of that depicted on telly. I wanted to show how, in certain quarters, things are also changing.
Is Frankie enjoying New York? Do you think the other characters are coping without her?
I’m not sure Frankie ever purely enjoys anything, she’s got too many demons. Considering the circumstances under which she left, I’d imagine she’s trying to lose herself in various people and things and probably failing. I’m sure they miss her, but I don’t think Frankie was ever the reliable rock that they could lean on type.
Do you think the show has made Glasgow a more obvious choice for lesbian and bisexual women to visit, move to, or holiday in?
I hope so, it’s a great city. I think it’s highlighted what a picturesque place it is and that it has a thriving gay scene. And if the LoveScotland Lip Service tours are anything to go by, I’m guessing it will have become a more popular destination for holidays.
A lot of straight women I know watch and love the show. Do you think the themes and stories make sense regardless of sexuality?
Yes, absolutely. Think of all the straight shows that lesbians and bi women watch and love. Everyone can relate to human emotions, falling in and out of love, jealousy, heartbreak, grief etc… I always felt that if the characters and the stories were engaging then it would also appeal to a straight audience. And anyway, I tend to think sexuality is fluid, so just because a woman is straight today, doesn’t mean she hasn’t thought about a same sex relationship or couldn’t fall in love with a woman somewhere down the line.
Did you have an idea in your mind what clothing the characters were going to have or did you shape it round the actresses’ own personal style? Do you think there is such a thing as lesbian fashion?
Yes, I do think there’s such a thing as lesbian fashion. Our fantastic head of costume, Lesley Abernethy, had lots of pictures of famous lesbians on a cork board in the wardrobe department. I did have an idea about what clothing the characters might wear and where they might fall on the butch/femme spectrum, but who is cast and what suits them, definitely impacts on their look.
There seem to be a lot of love triangles. Are they there to bring dramatic tension or do you think lesbians are particularly prone to affairs?
No I don’t think lesbians are any more prone to affairs than anyone else. I think it’s simply that love triangles do, as you say, create dramatic tension. That said, I do really enjoy dramas that explore the ups and downs of long-term relationships. Good examples of this are Keith and David in Six Feet Under and Tina and Bette in The L Word, although both those couples had their fair share of breaks ups, affairs and conflicts. Watching two people have a long term, happy, harmonious relationship in a television drama would soon get very boring.
The event on July 15 will be a chance for fans to meet some of the cast and have their questions answered. Do you have a good relationship with the Lip Service fans?
The Lip Service fans are great and have been hugely supportive. I can’t wait to go up to Glasgow again, I love it there. And it’ll be great to get together with Heather, Anna, Fiona and James, and to meet the fans in person and answer their questions. If they get me in the right mood I might even reveal some comedic, behind the scenes secrets.
I was recently sent a schedule for the event and it looks fab. It’s been a real labour of love by two big fans of the show, Lee and Sarah of GreatLezBritain. As well as writing their hilarious episode recaps, they run an events company. The care and attention to detail is amazing – they’ve got a Dykes of Hazard party, a Rubies Lounge and a Shots o' Clock bar and there’ll be live music from Kat Mackenzie and Julia and the Doogans who are on the soundtrack. I can’t wait.
I also desperately miss the Trans Europe Café, they do one of the best burgers in the UK. I ate there all the time when we were filming and fully intend to pop in for lunch.