The Fosters 'no issue show'
As the first season of The Fosters heads towards its climax, the drama's co-creator Peter Paige reveals the secrets behind the show's success.
"We did not set out to be an issues show."
Peter Paige, The Foster's co-creator is holding firm to that belief even as his drama wins praise for its portrayal of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and multicultural cast.
The show which follows the lives of the eponymous Foster family, consisting of an interracial lesbian couple (Stef and Lena) raising a blended family of biological, adopted and foster children, is about to wrap its 21-episode first season and has already had a second run greenlit.
However, Paige says rather than by sparking debate and controversy, he believes the show has won a loyal audience through making story choices that are surprising and engaging. "Honestly, we don't sit and go, 'well you know, what's really hot right now is immigration - so we'd better do an immigration story'. The truth is we love this family and we want this family to be on the air forever. And the most amazing and subversive thing we can do is keep people watching."
Paige also welcomed the criticism from American Family Association offshoot One Million Moms who were outraged at the show's premise. "The stamp of disapproval from them was like a critic's pick for me. You tell me not to watch it - I'll be sure to check it out."
When it came to the characters' ethnic diversity, Paige says the only conversation they had with the network was "whether Lena [eventually played by Afro-American actress Sherri Saum] should be black or Latin".
"We knew we wanted to create this very 21st Century family. We knew we wanted to create a family that looked like the families we see in the world around us, you know, that aren't on television yet."
Paige paid tribute to the cast, who he believes have become like a family themselves. "In between scenes, they cuddle up in bed together, spoon - and don't run lines," he mock sighs.
Executive producer Jennifer Lopez has also been invaluable. "She's an unbelievable supporter of this show," says Paige. "She has been since the very first time that Brad [Paige's co-creator Bradley Bredeweg] went into her office and pitched it to her. She was incredibly valuable in helping us assemble this cast, this extraordinary cast, and she, in addition to helping us promote, gives us invaluable feedback as, sort of, the first line of response to the stories we are telling."
However, Paige admits there is one issue the writers are having to deal with currently - Saum's pregnancy (especially while her character is struggling to conceive). "Fortuantely Sherri's one of those really annoying people who doesn't even really look pregnant. So pretty much, our brilliant, brilliant costume designer, Deena Appel, takes care of it. The only thing that's really happened is Sherri's boobs have gotten spectacular."
One of the writers has already come up with a solution for that though, he says. "Next season she gets a new job where she has to wear a sandwich board".
The Fosters 2.55pm, Saturdays, TV2