Elizabeth Keener is no stranger to comedy. Whether on set or on stage her quick wit dials up the humor in any situation. Elizabeth became a lesbian favorite playing the deliciously villainous Dawn Denbo on The L Word. Plus she co-starred on the hilarious series 3Way. Her latest project, Skirtchasers, features an impressive array of talent both onscreen and off. The Tello Films production stars Elizabeth as Robyn Samuels, a lesbian with CDI (Chronic Daddy Issues). Like her father she is a writer who struggles with commitment and fidelity. Her father, played deftly by Barry Bostwick, has been estranged since leaving Robyn and her mother for a younger woman. When Robyn’s fiancée leaves her on their wedding day, the father-daughter pair has an opportunity to revisit their relationship and all the baggage that comes with it.
Meredith Baxter plays her mother, rounding out the dysfunctional family trio. Writing duo Stan Zimmerman and James Berg, who also wrote for Gilmore Girls and Rosanne, penned the script. Stan Zimmerman also directs one episode. Amanda Bearse of Married With Children fame helms the remaining four episodes in the series.
I had an opportunity to chat with Elizabeth about Skirtchasers, the show’s amazing creative team and producing TV shows with lesbian leads that have universal appeal.
|Delina:||You are starring in the new comedy web series Skirtchasers. Can you start off by describing what the series is all about?|
|Elizabeth:||Absolutely. It’s about Damien and Robyn, a father and daughter who are estranged. That’s the main crux, which I love very much. Both are writers. He’s successful; she’s not very. They also both have the same issues with relationships and intimacy. You don’t see that very often with a father and a daughter. It goes beyond just cheating, and the fact that they can’t keep it in their pants. It goes to the root of the issue, which is intimacy.
They have trouble, and I think they don’t really realize it until they come together in the pilot of Skirtchasers. They realize it when they get to mirror for each other. At first, he didn’t think he had an issue. He just thought, “Oh, there’s always the next woman and the next woman … ”
And when Robyn is talking about the breakup with her fiancée she says, “I can’t believe she read my e-mails.” Like it’s her fiancée’s fault that they broke up because she read Robyn’s e-mails. Then she realizes that she has issues like her dad. What’s so great is they have an opportunity now to work things out, not just between each other, but in their lives. They have a chance to maybe, hopefully find love and stick with things. It’s that kind of feel, but it’s also a lot of funny situations.
Robyn is a mess, which is great. I love playing a messy character who acts like they have it all together on the outside. There’s that, and there’s a lot of her trying to figure out her life, with her dad and even without her dad.
|Elizabeth:||Yeah, it’s a good dynamic. It really is. What’s great about the show is that, it’s beautiful that Robyn is gay; but she could be a straight character, or a bi character or any character. You can put anyone in there, and then you see it’s kind of universal. It really is about the family relationship and the parental dynamic. How much am I like my parents and how much am I not like them? What part did my childhood play? How much of a part did it play? Robyn is always talking about her childhood instead of growing up and saying, “Hey, I have to take responsibility now.”|
|Delina:||It’s a very interesting situation. I think it’s a question that a lot of us have to deal with. How much am I affected by my parents?|
|Elizabeth:||Absolutely. Right? That’s exactly it. How much am I affected, and then what do I need to do about it? Now, I have another chance to maybe have a friendship with my parent that I’m having issues with. Oh my God. Wow!|
|Delina:||Well, Robyn definitely sounds like a very interesting character. Do you feel like you can relate to her in some ways, or that you’re similar in any ways?|
|Elizabeth:||I think in the universal sense, I can totally relate to her. You are always trying to find a balance in life, and figure out where you are in the world and, again, how much of your past you need to let go. I think it’s not just me, but a universal thing. Searching for that right person and, if I can say, “I’m not fucking it up,” or if you do mess up, try to work on it. Don’t just go, “Moving on! Moving on! Moving on!” because that’s easier. I think we’re all trying to search for that, and search for it even in friendships. You are trying to keep a balance of who you are, but also how you are towards others and how you treat others. I think that that’s the balance she’s trying to figure out. I get that in the world.|
|Delina:||Trying not to make the same mistakes over and over again.|
|Elizabeth:||Exactly! Try not to make the same mistakes, and don’t lose yourself either. Don’t lose who you are, not for anyone else. Just learn from your mistakes, keep who you are, keep a balance if you can, and laugh as much as possible. Laugh at yourself as much as possible, too!|
|Delina:||Definitely. Can you talk a little bit about Robyn? I know she has a career as well that intertwines with her father being a writer. Can you talk about that?|
|Elizabeth:||Absolutely. There is a scene with Brandy Howard, who is awesome, where Robyn says, “Oh, I’m a writer,” and then she’s like, “Eh. Well, not really. I’m a … I guess I’m an editor.” There’s a huge, huge barrier that happened when she was younger. She remembers asking her dad to help with her writing. She had thought the world of him. He’s this amazing writer. He even teaches it. She wants to be like him. He gave her a harsh critique instead of just some love. It’s not even tough love. He didn’t have to do that. He could have found something, some constructive criticism, but he didn’t, because that’s who he is. That’s him. He would talk egotistically, because he doesn’t care about all of the people he puts to the wayside. Even in this pilot, you see it, look at all the people that he just kind of discarded.
I think that she is devastated and she never got over it. Never. She just wanted to be a writer. She’s put that away. She stuck her draft in a drawer. Now she’s found a way to be around writing as an editor for a series of “for Morons” books. She loves her books, but she doesn’t feel like a complete writer. She thinks up ideas and edits, but she’s not writing.
She needs to get past that barrier in her own mind. Maybe being with her dad now, he can give her better advice, and say, “Hey! You’re Sexting for Morons book, it’s awesome!” Who knows where that’s going to lead. Then she might say, “Oh, let me pull out this book that I was writing when I was twenty.” Hopefully, that will all unfold.
|Elizabeth:||I guess it’s similar to people who want to be a singer, and they go make commercials, which I think is great. For me, personally, I think if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t matter what genre it is. I’m getting sidetracked but, the interesting thing now, is how things have evolved. Remember when some actors never did commercials here? Never. They did them all overseas, right? Now you see the $20 million actors in commercials, and it’s great! I think they should have done it before. It’s just funny. It’s the mentality. You have to get rid of that mentality. Remember when some actors did not do TV? Now they do TV because the landscape has changed. That’s the thing, no matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. It’s fantastic. It’s cool.|
|Delina:||Very interesting. Television has definitely changed so much in the last twenty years. It almost seems like you can do more in television than you can in film.|
|Elizabeth:||Absolutely! Just think about having twelve or thirteen episodes. That’s the arc. That’s what actors want to do. They can be in the same place for a period of time, and then go do a movie. It’s amazing.|
|Delina:||That’s awesome. How did you get involved in this project, and why did you want to be a part of it?|
|Elizabeth:||Stan Zimmerman, who has been my friend for a long time, is an amazing producer and writer. He wrote and produced for Gilmore Girls, and Roseanne, and Golden Girls, you name it. Fantastic. We always wanted to do something together. He said, “Hey, I have a script. Will you look at it?” I looked at it, read it right away, and I thought it was so funny. I laughed out loud, which is a big thing for me. I said, “I want to do it.”
Then we figured out who we could take it to. I thought, “What about Christin at Tello? She gets things done. It’s right up her alley.” I called Christin. Sent it over. She loved it. Stan asked Amanda Bearse from Married with Children to direct. She’s a great director, She said yes. It just kept going from there. Barry Bostwick said yes. Meredith Baxter said yes; and then a whole slew of amazing actors as the supporting cast said yes. It was great.
Hopefully, we’re going to attempt to sell it beyond Tello to other places, or another place, I mean. We’re going to get it out and see what happens. Tello is a great place, and people are watching it, and I’m really happy to be a part of it.
|Delina:||Great. Had you worked with Christin before?|
|Elizabeth:||Well, yes, but not in this kind of medium. About seven or eight, years ago, when I was doing The L Word, she had just started Tello Films. She said, “Can I interview you?” She interviewed me. I liked her, and we stayed friends. Then during the years, when she lived in Chicago, I went there two or three times. I did an improv show at a theatre that she owned at the time. Then I did an improv game show at another. I just did a few different things at different venues, but live instead of filmed. This is the first time doing something with Christin on film. I guess it’s not on film anymore, on digital.|
|Delina:||I actually was going to ask you about improv, because I read a little bit about your improv shows. I read that you actually improvised some of your lines when you were on The L Word. Did you do any improvisation when you were filming Skirtchasers?|
|Elizabeth:||I did. Let me just say, they had great writers on The L Word, and it’s so fortunate that Ilene Chaiken allowed us to do some improv. We got to just kind of throw words out there, and add to it. It added to the flair. I tell you who was great was Kate Moennig. She and I had a lot of scenes together. She was awesome at it and so was Pam Grier. We had a lot of fun.
In Skirtchasers, I did some improv, but I really wanted to be true to Stan’s script, because I hadn’t worked with him before. He also writes plays, so I just wanted to be true to his writing this first time. So I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to just feel it out.” Because it’s a whole different dynamic, and a different rhythm. Once we do more of them, I think I’ll allow myself. There was some improv, but not the way I do it. I like to really throw things in there. I’m going to do it the next time, for sure.
|Delina:||Makes sense. I know a lot of times when you see LGBT characters on television and even in films, it’s all written and produced by straight people, but Skirtchasers, obviously, has a lot of LGBT talent, both in front of and behind the camera. You’ve got yourself, Amanda Bearse, Meredith Baxter, Christin and some other people. How do you feel having so many LGBT people involved in the process affects the show?|
|Elizabeth:||You know what it is? I see the talent first, and they’re all so freaking talented, all of them. So talented. I think that’s what it is. Not only are they part of the LGBT community, but they are also true artists. They really have a flair for what they do and a confidence in what they do, which makes people want to watch.
It is fantastic that the main character’s gay. We love it. We want more of that. And when you have really talented people from the LGBT community, it becomes this amazing thing that goes beyond the character just being gay. You don’t see a show very often where the main character just happens to be gay, or happens to be bi. But this show is truly that. It really is. The dynamics of the father and the daughter are in the forefront. You can plug in anybody. You can plug in a guy or girl, someone who is straight, gay or bi, and it still works.
It’s kind of amazing when you get the right people that know what they’re doing, and are really talented. It just shows. It was cool working with all of them. It was like a little family, honestly. It was really fun, too. We laughed all the time.
|Delina:||You guys definitely had some great talent there. I’d love to see more shows like that where you have an LGBT character who, like you’re saying, just happens to be gay, but that’s not what the story is about.|
|Elizabeth:||We’d love them to be LGBT. Great. That’s what we want, but where it just happens, and the stories are the stories. That way, everybody can watch it, and everybody gets to feel included. Just like we want it in real life, right?|
|Elizabeth:||We want everything to be universal. Hello? Everybody’s the same.|
|Delina:||We’re all people.|
|Elizabeth:||We’re all people, yeah.|
|Delina:||Well, we were talking about Amanda Bearse. I know she’s very well known for her role in Married with Children. She was directing in this series. What was that like working with her as a director?|
|Elizabeth:||Fantastic. She really knows what she’s doing. Like I said, there was a rhythm to it, and she kept you with the rhythm. By “you,” I mean everyone she was working with. She had everything ready. She was very professional, but really fun. That’s what I love, again, when someone really knows what they’re doing and can make it fun. She’s so respectful of the actors, because she was an actor. Well, she still is an actor. She’s just fantastic, fantastic at what she does. It was a real honor, because she’s kind of iconic.
Stan was great too. That was his first time directing. He directed plays before, but this was his first time directing a TV show or a webisode. He was awesome.
|Delina:||Good. Barry Bostwick plays your character’s father. In watching you two on the screen, you seem to have a very natural relationship. Had you worked together before, or did you just hit it off?|
|Elizabeth:||It just happened. We never worked together before. He’s 6’4”, just this tall guy. His blue eyes are so sweet, and he’s just funny. He is just is who he is. You get that right away. You get a warm feeling. He’s really sardonic, so he’s fun on set.
He’s very loving. We had a great time. In between takes on the first day of shooting, we sat on the bed, and laughed, and talked effortlessly. We just clicked.
|Delina:||It’s great when that happens.|
|Elizabeth:||We were really lucky.|
|Delina:||Obviously, this was a comedy, and you’ve done a lot of comedies, but you’ve also played some different roles, some more dramatic roles. I know recently you did a horror film. Do you have a preference? Do you prefer comedy over drama, or do you like the diversity?|
|Elizabeth:||I love the diversity. I love comedy, but I also love comedy set in realness. Like all these shows that are called comedies now but they have really dark humor: Nurse Jackie, Weeds and Shameless. They’re all comedies, but there’s realness to it. I love those kinds of shows, because the genres are getting blurred a little bit. I even like the comedies that aren’t quite like Weeds. There’s Community and Parks and Recreation. They’re all unique, but they all have layers of the others, which I really like.
I, of course, will always love a good Law & Order type of show. I’d do those in a second.
|Elizabeth:||I love procedurals. Love them. Horror was great. That was my first horror flick. It was really fun to do. With each project, whatever the genre is, you have to kind of push whatever you need for that genre. In horror it’s really scary, and creepy, and freaky. You always have to do a scream. It’s awesome.|
|Delina:||When you were filming Skirtchasers, I read that you filmed it in five days, which works out to about one episode per day. What’s it like as an actor having to work at that kind of breakneck speed?|
|Elizabeth:||Well, you know, it was okay. I’ll tell you, I have worked guerrilla-style before for a movie where we worked 17-hour days. We weren’t supposed to, but it was a labor of love. It was okay, because as long as the people on the set know what they’re doing, and everyone’s professional and ready to go, it works.
That’s what filming Skirtchasers was like. Everybody was ready to go. They knew what they needed to do. Everyone, from pre-production to post, and everyone behind the camera. They all were so professional and so amazing. Lighting, sound, you name it, they were all fantastic. When we filmed, we only did maybe two takes. If we had time, we’d maybe do one more. Even Stan, his first time directing, felt like he knew what he was doing. Christin has done this before, because that’s what she does. She’s like, “Five days? Let’s get it done.” It was okay because we would wrap eight-hour days, which is great. It was just fun, because everyone was on their A-game.
|Delina:||This was a five-part series. When I got to the end of it, I kind of felt like there was a lot more story left to tell. Are there plans for a season 2 of Skirtchasers.|
|Elizabeth:||I don’t see why not. I’m speaking out of turn, because we haven’t talked to Christin, but I hope so. I hope we do it on Tello and somewhere else. This is just such a great group of people. Rarely do you get actors that come together for a project like this, and also get great talent behind the camera. You don’t get that very often. Maybe you get it working for a network, and when you’re doing a show for $5 million. We’re really fortunate. I hope we stay together as a team, because it’s a pretty good group.|
|Delina:||It’s a little more challenging on an independent budget.|
|Elizabeth:||Yes. Budget? What budget?|
|Delina:||Exactly. I have a random question. Hollywood seems to be creating a lot of remakes these days. If you could star in a remake of any movie or TV show, what would it be and what character would you play?|
|Elizabeth:||Well, let’s see. I’ll tell you what I wish they would do a spin-off from The L Word. I wish there was a Dawn Denbo Show. I would love that. That was probably my favorite character to play. So I’d love to play her again.
I will say another one, though, Columbo. They’d have to change it to a woman. I’d love to be the kind of person, that’s just, “Where’s my coat?” Where I can act like I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m the smartest person in the room. I loved that character. Loved it.
|Delina:||That would be awesome.|
|Elizabeth:||Both of those characters are interesting, because they’re different. He’s really funny and unassuming, and she’s the opposite, but they both are kind of manipulative. I just thought of that. He manipulates in the sense that he acts like he doesn’t know what’s going on and he gets answers out of people. Then of course Dawn Denbo tried to manipulate everything for her own gain. Maybe I like playing those characters, because you can see the human behavior of people.|
|Delina:||That would be really interesting to take a traditionally male role and put a female lead in it.|
|Delina:||If you did the Dawn Denbo Show, would your lover Cindi be there with you?|
|Elizabeth:||Oh, yeah, she would! Are you kidding? She’d come back. I’d literally make her crawl. Not even on her knees. She’d have to crawl, and maybe I’d take her back for a little while.|
|Delina:||Funny. Great. Well, thank you so much for your time.|
|Elizabeth:||You too. Thank you!|