Gay audiences have always understood the value of a good bitch slap. From Joan Collins and Linda Evans wrestling each other into a pond on Dynasty to Heather Locklear ripping apart every female cast member on Melrose Place, crazy over-the-top escapades have always been key ingredients to must-see queer TV.
Thus when the fledgling MyNetworkTV promised this type of programming with a slate of nighttime soap operas, including the Bo Derek/Morgan Fairchild series Fashion House, there was much rejoicing over the pending hair-pulling, name-calling, and vase-throwing between the two legendary blondes. Network execs have since changed creative directions (away from scripted TV), but their latest soap, American Heiress, is still generating a strong gay and straight cult following across the country.
In American Heiress, Alicia Leigh Willis (General Hospital) stars as Elizabeth Wakefield, the youngest daughter from the affluent Wakefield family. When her aptly named evil brother Damian (Race Owen from Passions) sabotages her plane in hopes of taking over the family business, it not only introduces Elizabeth to her sexy love interest but also sets in motion an outrageous plot involving gunrunners and the ultimate dysfunctional family.
Richard Andreoli: How did you come up with this story?
Colet Abedi: I was given a basic story about the Wakefield family, but then started brainstorming and it took on a life of its own. As the story and characters grew, so did the bitchy dialogue and fight scenes.
Andreoli: Whats the process of writing a good catfight?
Abedi: You have to set the scene.
Andreoli: Which scene? In the show or in the writers room?
Abedi: The writers room. First you pour yourself a big cocktail. Or have one of your writers do it. [She pauses, inspired.] Be a dear and get me one now, would you? You know my favorite.
Andreoli: Tab Energy Drink and vodka. Oy! Its gonna be a long interview.
Abedi: Once you have a cocktail, then you have the two bitchiest girls in the roomthat would be you and mesit down and start lobbing lines at one another.
Andreoli: Was I good at coming up with JDs [the romantic lead] lines?
Abedi: You were like Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone.
Andreoli: Thanks! And you were like Auntie Mame.
Abedi: Whos Auntie Mame? Is she hot?
Andreoli: Lets just stick to the interview. From Morgan Fairchild saying Well if it isnt the woman who put the whore back in horrible to Annalynne McCord on American Heiress saying, You care about Jordan? Shes hideous. Shes like diarrhea in a white dress! These shows are full of bitchy lines. Where do they come from?
Abedi: Were lucky. I mean, how many times have you just hated someone and not been able to say anything to them? We get to have our characters say the things people think in the dark parts of their minds.
Andreoli: So this is based on reality?
Abedi: But of course [She takes a sip of her beverage and smiles.] I hate everyone. Secretly.
Andreoli: Of course. And what about the catfights?
Abedi: A lot of the catfights we threw in were on the fly. At first we were hesitant about the stunts because we didnt think wed be able to get away with it. But our boss said The bigger, the better. And our cast was always game. Always.
Andreoli: Whens the first smackdown?
Abedi: April 3rd. Didnt you write that scene?
Andreoli: [Batting his eyelashes] Oh, yes, I think I did. Isnt our cast wonderful?
Abedi: Yes! Alicia Leigh Willis is amazing as Elizabeth, and so is John Aprea (Knots Landing), who plays Lionel, the stable head of the Wakefield family. Theresa Russell (Spider Man 3) plays Lionels estranged diva wife, Jordan, and shes absolutely hilarious. But Race is darkly funny as Damian, and Annalynne McCord (The O.C.) stands out as Loren, the Paris Hilton of the family. Of course theres also dreamy Carter MacIntyre (ER) playing JD, Elizabeths love interest. Hes the perfect hero Are you rolling your eyes?
Andreoli: We also used former Abercrombie model Robert Buckley from Fashion House. He takes his shirt off a lot, doesnt he?
Abedi: Yes [They both sigh.] I cant say enough nice things about this cast. Theyre exactly what we envisioned when we wrote the show.
Andreoli: Any last thoughts?
Abedi: Every week is just a fun ride. This isnt a super-serious show. Get ready to laugh and have a good time... Oh! Theres one more thing. [Rick holds out for a moment of deep insight. Colet shakes her glass at him.] I need a refill on this drink.
American Heiress airs Tuesdays on MyNetworkTV. Check local listings for times.