Joanna Johnson Dishes on “The Fosters” Episode Two
The producer, actor and out lesbian preps Curve on upcoming “Fosters” drama.
Episode two of the intriguing ABC Family drama, “The Fosters,” will hit the tube this Monday. The show is about a multiracial family headed by Stef Foster (Teri Polo) and Lena Adams (Sherri Saum); the lesbian partners undergo the tender trials of caring for one biological son, two adopted twins and two foster siblings. The pilot ends with troubled foster teens Callie and Jude finding a new and “temporary” home with the atypical, though deeply loving, family. Executive producer Joanna Johnson talks to Curve about the show’s current success, plus a taste of what’s to come.
How have viewers responded to the show so far? What are fans saying?
The Twitter remarks have been amazing. Like, 98 percent super positive. That’s been really exciting. We’ve been blessed to have really great reviews. I have to say, I had even quite a few of my friends call me to tell me that they watched [the pilot] and that they loved it and that they’re addicted to the show. I’ve been on a lot of shows and even created my own and not necessarily had all of my friends call and say they were addicted to watching. So, I’d think that’s a pretty good review in of itself.
What can we expect to see in episode two?
In episode two, we’re going to explore the “pills issues”; Mariana [one of the adopted twins] was selling pills at the school to give money to her birth mother, who she was secretly in contact with. And someone at school who she sold to is gonna get busted; it’s gonna have some surprising sort of reverberations, especially considering that one of her moms, Lena, is the vice principal of the school…We’re gonna find a little bit more about how long Callie and Jude are going to be staying with the Fosters. [Lena and Stef are] really going to have to take on two more teenagers in the house. Not only is that a lot of time…and responsibility, but they don’t have all the money in the world. So that’s going to be an issue. And there’s gonna be a romance that begins between Mariana’s best friend and her brother, Jesus, that they don’t tell Mariana about…We’ve got a nice balance between romantic stories and also the parenting stories.
How are Lena and Stef going to cope with their five kids and still keep up with their relationship?
There is a story coming up soon; I think it’s in episode five, where a good friends-couple of [Lena and Stef] tells them that they’re splitting up after 20 years. It kind of freaks them out a little bit, and they realize that they’re not making time; they’re not prioritizing their relationship. One thing that suffers when you have a lot of kids and you don’t have a lot of time is your intimacy. And so they kind of make a date to have sex.
What about Mike, Stef’s ex-husband? In a lot of lesbian fiction, the “ex drama” usually is with another woman. How are the three adults that are so far in the picture going to deal with their relationships?
I love [that story]. It’s a very mature and complicated relationship, and it’s one that I think is very representative of a lot of people in this country—where, a man or a woman who’s now in a homosexual relationship and they have had a heterosexual relationship before. And in this [show], there is a son that has been produced, so now [Stef and Mike are] bonded forever. [But] Lena and Stef have been together for about ten years and so Lena is also a mother to Brandon. So, you know, “How do you guys all parent?” That’s going to be an issue in the next episode that airs Monday: how do these three people parent?
...When Stef met Lena she was still married to Mike, even though they were having some issues and they were having a little trial separation. And [Stef] realized that she was gay and that was one of the biggest problems in their marriage—that she wasn’t being authentic to who she was. That was really hard for Mike to take. And I know a lot of people who have been married or who have been really serious with someone and then discovered and realized that they’re gay. That’s a tough pill to swallow…But Mike, I think Mike still really cares about Stef…
What else excites you about the rest of this season?
We’re just telling a lot of really interesting stories. There’s a really wonderful story coming up about religion, and how you reconcile religion and certain peoples’ views on homosexuality. We’re gonna learn that Stef was sorta driven away from the church as a younger person because she was basically taught to believe that God doesn’t love you if you’re gay; and she had issues with her father who had conflicts with her being gay. And of course we’re gonna bring up the issue of gay marriage; our moms aren’t married legally. At the Supreme Court, the decision [about DOMA] is supposed to come down soon. And if Proposition 8 is struck down too…our moms, will they choose to get married? I’m excited about that.
Why should everyone—lesbian, gay or straight—be watching the Fosters?
Well, I think because it’s completely universal and relatable. If you’re a kid and you have two parents and you’re a teenager, you’re gonna have the same issues. It might be slightly different if you have two moms, but not tremendously. But I think the reason that people should really watch the show is not from that angle as much as it’s an interesting show about foster care and foster kids, and the struggles that they go through to find a home. [The family] also has two adopted kids who were fostered first and then adopted. So I think that sort of blended, melding family where some [children] are blood siblings, some are through adoption; then you have these foster kids—are they really siblings or are they just staying with them? I think that [dynamic is] really interesting and hasn’t been done in a television show before. I think that it gives you fresh issues in a family show.