Lesbian TV writer Noelle Carbone on writing for gay cop Gail Peck on “Rookie Blue”

AE: [Laughs] So would you say you are the go-to person if there are any questions about whether or not the lesbian character is authentic?

NC: Yes and no. I write Gail as the person I would be if I didn’t care if people liked me. In a way, Gail is just me without a filter. And way hotter–let’s be honest. That’s independent of my sexuality and hers. It’s not like I’m projecting my personal life onto her. And thank God, because my personal life would not be suitable for television. If you saw me with my wife and kid you’d be like “Wow, that’s a family that really loves each other, but this is some boring shit. I thought they were supposed to cheat on each other and run after each other in the rain while Tegan and Sara plays in the background?!” We don’t do that. Mostly because running in the rain is unsafe. But also because that’s not who I am. I’d prefer to have a dry, rational conversation at the kitchen table. That’s more my speed. And nobody wants to watch that.

Noelle snaps a photo of Charlotte shooting on setNoelle 3

AE: You never know, someone might!

NC:  [laughs] Now, when it comes to experiences that are unique to the LGBTQ experience, I’m happy to be the go-to person and weigh in with anecdotes of my fraught past. After all, what was the point of all my college-era crying/yelling/ fighting with “roommates”/drinking/coming out/cheating/being cheated on/running through the streets if I wasn’t going to eventually exploit it for my professional gain?

 

AE: Well have there ever been times when someone else has written something about/for the lesbian characters and you have had to put them in check, like, “No, that is not accurate.”

NC: I can only remember a couple times where I tried to play the “I’m the lesbian writer so you have to listen to me” card. Once was when Gail pinched the social worker Lauralee’s bum in Season 5/6. It was meant to be an impulsive, out of character act from Gail who’s immediately embarrassed by it. And then Lauralee lets her off the hook by pinching Gail’s bum back. That was how it was written and shot while I was off on “paternity leave.” When I came back to work and saw the cut I was like, “We have to take that out. People are going to think WE THINK that’s how lesbians communicate that they’re into each other–like some bizarre lesbian mating ritual.” They ended up taking the second bum pinch out. And then when it aired, I got a bunch of tweets asking me if Gail’s bum pinch was going to lead to Lauralee pressing sexual harassment charges on Gail. So I actually made it worse. [laughs]

 

AE: Since Charlotte Sullivan has been a big supporter of Gail being a lesbian from long before she actually came out on the show, was the writer’s room unanimous in the decision of having her come out, or was there some hesitation?

NC: Charlotte Sullivan is an amazing woman. She’s incredibly kind and generous and hilarious and totally bananas in the best possible way. And she doesn’t make a lot of demands. In fact, she makes none. So, when she says she has a gut instinct about Gail, we all listen. As I said, Gail coming out was entirely her idea, and while it took a little convincing, her conviction ultimately persuaded us.

The weird thing about having an LGBTQ character in an ensemble show is that it kind of comes down to math. Say you have six characters and you want one of them to be a lesbian. If there are no other queer women in your ensemble, who are they going to have a relationship with? You end up having to parachute in an outside character to be the love interest. Those outside characters are A) played by guest stars who aren’t always available when you need them and B) not usually organic to your story world so it’s hard to fit them into each episode. And it’s really difficult to develop an authentic shipper-worthy relationship between two characters who are rarely on screen together.

ROOKIE BLUE 608-3

AE: Interesting!

NC: I know that’s not as exciting an answer as “We sit in the story room, gays on one side of the table and straight people on the other and we argue back in forth until a producer comes in and says we don’t have the budget to pay for the houseful of cats that would obviously need to accompany a lesbian character, and that’s how we decide.” But the truth is, a lot of the time it just comes down to math.