Talking “Blindspot” with the show’s lesbian staff writer Katherine Collins

Blindspot is NBC’s new hit action thriller of the season, and it’s already been picked up for a second. Starring Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe, a woman who woke up naked and completely tattooed with amnesia in the middle of Times Square, the mystery of her identity and the images inked on her body lead to an FBI investigation that Jane is very much involved in. Every week, the show analyzes one of the tats and finds a new clue, and that’s something that has viewers hot for Blindspot. (It doesn’t hurt that Jane is a huge babe that didn’t forget how to kick ass—it comes naturally.)

This week it was revealed that FBI Assistant Director Bethany Mayfair (played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste) was previously in a relationship with another woman: Deputy White House Political Director Sophia, played by Sarita Choudhury. Sadly, we find this out in flashbacks, as Sophia eventually takes her own life, feeling guilty about her role in Operation Daylight. Mayfair is haunted by the memory of her lover, who asked her to leave the country with her as the events are inevitably tied to her work on Jane’s case present day.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Bethany MayfairBlindspot - Season 1photos courtesy NBC

We talked with Blindspot‘s out lesbian staff writer Katherine Collins about the episode (“Persecute Envoys”), Mayfair’s sexuality and if we could see Jane ever falling for a woman.

Katherine Collins
katherine-collins I’d love to know how came to the show and a little bit about your writing background.

Katherine Collins: Sure. I am one of four Canadians on the show and so my history is writing for television in Canada, specifically in Vancouver. So I worked on series there that were ranging in genre, mostly mystery, sci-fi shows. And last year is when I’d say I wanted to try to make the big move down to LA. And so a part of staffing season was obviously meeting lot’s of different showrunners and production companies and such, and when I met Martin Gero, who is the showrunner and creator of Blindspot—he is also a Canadian and we had an enormous amount of people that we knew in common and we just really hit it off. So I joined the team as a staff writer in May, and it’s been just a really exciting ride since then. So that’s kind of how it all came about.


AE: This show is one big continuous mystery—how difficult it is to write on a show like that?

KC: It is different, I suppose, in that it’s this much longer arching mythology for the series, so the longer serialized story. But what’s so great is how Martin conceived of the show—he had so many of the answers. So when we all sat down at the table, we talked enormously about what the whole story was, and so when we do our weekly procedural story of the week, we are very aware of kind of where the story’s going in a larger sense for Jane and for [Special Agent Kurt] Weller. That gives an enormous amount of confidence, I think, to everybody involved, knowing that we know where we’re taking the story and that Martin has all the answers. So, in a sense, it’s kind of a calmer experience because we’re not searching for answers every week. We have them and it’s a matter of more how we reveal things that I think is where all the fun is.


AE: TV viewers have been burned before by shows where they are waiting for a big reveal at the end of the season. How do you satiate them at the end of Season 1 but still have reason for them to return for Season 2?

KC: My wife at home is watching the show and I normally come home at the end of a day and talk to her about what I’ve been doing at work during the day and hear her thoughts on the story and I share all of that stuff with her, normally. But this is the first show that I’ve kept all of that from her because she wants to watch it just as a viewer. She’s such a fan of this type of television and she really, really is enthralled by the story and refuses to let me tell her anything. And I keep telling her that she will be incredibly surprised, satisfied and, I think, really hooked to keep moving forward, which is really what you’d ask from any story like this, where you invest essentially 23 hours of your time in watching chapter by chapter. So I would say there are exciting big reveals coming. It’s a really great ride. I’m very excited to be involved in it.

Blindspot - Season 1

AE: We definitely got a big reveal this week, especially as far as AfterEllen is concerned, in that Bethany is a queer character. When was that first brought up in the writers’ room?

KC: From day one. Martin, when he talked about how he conceived of Mayfair, it was always as an out lesbian and everybody in the room—we all just nodded and moved on the way we would if that character’s backstory had a love interest that was a straight relationships. The room is full of incredibly educated and progressive-minded, thoughtful people and I don’t think there was anybody who even stammered at the idea that she would have had this great love who was a woman. I think it was just in the DNA of the character and so, for me, that was exciting to have someone present that character in such a way.


AE: Do you feel any kind of pressure or duty when you’re in the room and talking about that kind of character’s motivations or “lesbian moments”? [laughs] 

KC: That’s a great question. I would say that, in the past, absolutely when I’ve been in rooms and television shows where I felt I was the only voice to represent a feminist approach or a queer approach. But, to be honest, this room and Martin in particular is just so thoughtful, so in tune and knows so many people and his family is diverse and all of that stuff around the room, so I don’t feel I have to be the only one whose on the watch for the truth in these characters and in these relationships. So, certainly with Bethany, I think that was the case as well. I think everybody was on alert and everybody wants to make sure these characters feel real and relatable. So I guess I was part of the chorus of making sure it felt real.


AE: Now that we know this about Mayfair, I think a lot of fans will be hopeful she will be able to find another relationship and love again. Can you give us any hope that’s in her future?

KC: The thing with a show like this is that, for the most part, the characters’ lives outside of work don’t tend to infiltrate our storytelling unless they are particularly puzzling or somehow related to how the mystery is going to unfold. I think [this week’s episode] was a really big moment in terms of kind of understanding the depths of Mayfair and what she might have gone through to get to the position she is in and what she might have sacrificed and how hard the loss of that relationship was. In terms of all of our characters, their backstories and their relationships outside of work don’t play into the story, I suppose, as much as they would on something that has more of a relationship angle. But who knows? I’m optimistic. I’m excited about her character and what’s to come.


AE: A gay journalist friend of mine asked Jaimie before the show premiered if she could see Jane as bisexual and she said it was a possibility. She definitely has a bad ass, tattooed vibe that would lend itself well to being queer. [laughs] Is there any chance Jane could ever have a relationship with another woman? 

KC: I would love that, as well would all of my gay friends and all of my tattooed friends. So I’m on that ship as well! I don’t know. Right now I think there’s obvious chemistry with Weller and some other story elements that come into play later on, but who know? I don’t think that would ever be off the table in terms of character development or reveals in the future.

Blindspot - Season 1 

AE: I know you can’t say too much about what’s coming up going forward, but can you give us any teases that might tantalize fans of the show?

KC: You know, I think we’re coming up to a mid-season finale in two weeks and one of the things that’s so exciting about the show is there are really opportunities for everything to take a huge kind of spin or a turn or things like that, which I know would keep me watching as a viewer. I think one of the things the writers and Martin have been really attentive to is that we deliver on that. So I think viewers should be tuned in and staying close to their TVs because you never know what’s going to happen, and I think that’s a really exciting part of the show.


AE: Lastly, I’d love to know when you go home at night, is there a certain show or genre of television you just love?

KC: The show that everybody in the room religiously watches that I watch as well is The Good Wife. Everybody just feels, me included, that it’s such incredible storytelling, it accomplishes so much in such a short span and everybody’s in love with, certainly, Alicia Florrick and so The Good Wife would be my pick.


AE: Such a great show. I’m upset Kalinda left, but I’m dealing. I’m getting through it.

KC: I want to know what happened there!


AE: So many things we’ll never know!


Next week’s episode is written by Katherine. Make sure to tune into Blindspot Monday nights (10/9c) on NBC and follow Katherine on Twitter.