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Husbands Creator Jane Espenson Chats About Season Two and Once Upon a Time

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Television writer and producer Jane Espenson and her Husbands co-creator and star Brad Bell (“Cheeks”) recently announced that their “marriage equality” web series will soon start filming a second season. Raising the needed funding on Kickstarter, a web-based platform that allows anyone to donate towards funding a new creative project, Espenson, Brad and the entire Husbands team will soon be back on the web with new episodes.

I caught up with Jane last night via email to ask her about the new season of Husbands, as well as the current (and heating up) season of Once Upon a Time, which heads into its final five episodes of its premiere season.

What led you to a second season of Husbands?
The first season of Husbands.  Which sounds flippant, but it’s true in its essence.  Doing the first season convinced us that there wasn’t just a single story to tell.  In fact, if you look at the last three episodes of season one, they are a sort of pitch document for what additional stories might look like.  And after we finished production on season one, Brad (Brad Bell, “Cheeks”) and I found that even more story ideas kept suggesting themselves.  Little bit of dialog and physical business would crop up and we’d think, “We have to use that.”  Eventually, it became clear that we had to make more.

What has been the reaction to the first season since it ended?
In some ways it was immediate – we got a lot of views and a lot of initial media attention right away.  And in other ways it was more of a slow build… people kept finding it online, and the fan base kept growing.  What was a very small and enthusiastic audience for our panel at New York Comic-Con last fall had grown by a factor of 5 into a large and enthusiastic audience for our panel at Wonder-Con two weeks ago. That was when we really sensed that something had changed, that we’d reached some kind of tipping point.  The day after Wonder-con ended, we launched the Kickstarter campaign, and the response confirmed what we’d been feeling – something had changed when we weren’t looking.

How many webisodes are planned for season two?
We are keeping everything open for now – the eventual Kickstarter total may influence what and how much we will film.

Are all the characters we’ve come to love in season one still on board?
Oh yes.  Cheeks (Brad Bell), Brady (Sean Hemeon) and Haley (Alessandra Torresani) are going to be back, along with Jack Russell Mix the dog (Beau the dog).

Any new characters/actors joining the series—or putting in guest appearances?
Yes!  We want to open up the world a bit, and bring other people into the mix.  Look for some great new characters, but our young couple is always going to be at the center of the show.

When will the second season premiere?
This summer!  Not long at all!

Who will be directing the webisodes?
Jeff Greenstein will be back as well!

What’s the process for putting an online comedy together from idea to execution?
It’s a lot like creating a TV show, but with more flow.  Brad and I had an idea for a show and we worked together hammering out the script. Alessandra was already on board.  We approached Jeff about directing and M. Elizabeth Hughes about producing.  She assembled her crew, including D.P. [Director of Photography] Benjamin Kantor, while we went about refining the script, and casting our Brady. 

By the time we found Sean, it was time to do the cast photos and a table read with joke-writing pros.  One last script polish, a production meeting, and soon after that we were in a hotel room, shooting.  These are all things that you do within traditional TV, but with a lot of conversations at every stage with the network and studio.  Sometimes those conversations lead to positive revelations, and sometimes they lead to compromises, but they usually take some time.  Without them, we were able to streamline everything because there was no network or studio.

How has Kickstarter been working for you?

As advertised and then some! It’s a great tool for crowdsourcing and we took full advantage of what it has to offer.  We already had a very open back-and-forth with the Husbands fans over Twitter, and this opened it up even more. I like to say that the fans renewed the show, and it’s really true.  We met our $50,000 goal in exactly a week, and the campaign continues.   Kickstarter let the backers feel safe and we felt supported. It’s really ideal.

Where did you get the idea to use that platform (great idea by the way)?
I’d watched the Austin TV Festival meet their goal there.  And then a musician I know named Eric Lichter met his goal, too.  I think it might have been Brad’s idea at first to use Kickstarter, but I was on board quickly once I saw what it was accomplishing for others.  I knew I wanted to continue to put my own money in Husbands, but there’s a limit to how much one person can finance on their own, and the money we raised will allow us to grow the show in a way I could not have done on my own.

How does Kickstarter work?
It’s similar to other crowdsourcing sites, like the wonderful micro-lending site Kiva.  Visitors to the Kickstarter site get to view proposals for all kinds of projects, and pick which ones they’d like to back. It’s not an investment in the project, it’s a donation, but there are a variety of incentives that the projects can offer to backers. We are going to be making a lot of DVDs of season one of Husbands to give to those who are helping us make season two!

How close to your goal are you?
We met the initial goal, but many of the projects on Kickstarter far surpass their original goals, allowing the creators to do more than they’d planned.  We would love to surpass our goal and bring people an even better version of our show.

How can people contribute?
The page is here until April 18th, 2012. All people have to do is click to make a donation. 

Anything else you’d like the fans to know about Husbands or the upcoming second season?
It’s going to be awesome.  If you saw season one, you know what we’re about, and we want to bring you more!

I couldn’t let Jane get away without asking her to answer a few questions about Once Upon a Time, for which she is a writer and consulting producer. Jane has written several episodes of this first season, including “That Still, Small Voice,” “Desperate Souls,” “Red Handed,” and “Skin Deep.”

We are now at episode 18, “Stable Boy,” which airs April 2. Are things going to start heating up more and more as the season moves towards its climax?
Oh yes, things are heating up in a big way.  Look for more insight into Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and more epic-ness from Snow (Mary Margaret, played by Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (David, played by Josh Dallas).  You’re going to learn why the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) is so angry with Snow.  And get ready for a HUGE season finale.

When does the next Jane Espenson episode air?
I have it in my schedule as April 15th, but that might have changed (it hasn’t).  My next episode is called “The Return”.  Look for it!

Any plans to bring back Emilie deRavin this season?
I’m not sure if I can say, but I do know that I’m allowed to say that there will be another appearance by The Huntsman, aka Storybrooke’s former Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan).

I’m sure you won’t tell me (but you can’t blame a girl for trying), but what’s Mr. Gold got up his sleeve? He seems in cahoots with Regina all of a sudden!
Is he?  Who does he align with?  He’s clearly playing his own game. Look to learn more about him in my next episode.

Can you share any upcoming episode titles?
Sure.  “The Stable Boy,” “The Return,” “The Stranger” and “An Apple Red as Blood” are all coming up soon. Keep watching. We’re on metaphorical rocket ship now and that big finale keeps getting bigger and bigger on the viewscreen. [The season finale is called “A Land Without Magic.”]

Follow Jane on Twitter to hear the latest about her new Husbands venture. Once Upon a Time airs on ABC Sunday nights at 8:00 ET.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.