Cathy DeBuono takes the gloves off in this candid interview where topics explored range from semi-autobiographical-in-reverse characters on her Web series We Have to Stop Now to Meredith Baxter and the Sweet Cruise.
Nothing is held back, and everything is pure and unadulterated honesty.
Windy City Times: How did We Have to Stop Now come about?
Carla DeBuono: We Have to Stop Now came about because Jill [ Bennett, co-star and real-life girlfriend ] and I wanted to continue working together and we also wanted to work with our friends Robyn Denton and Ann Noble. Ann is the creator and writer of We Have to Stop Now and had this idea to create a show with two therapists who end up going to therapy themselves. There are all of these circumstances of why they decide to stay together. She actually wanted to have me and Jill play the characters, not actually knowing that I was also a therapist, which was pretty serendipitous. That was really kind of funny.
So, we decided to do something for the Web and see what our responses could be. I knew, for me, I wanted to do something that was for gay entertainment, meaning a show with gay characters that was just finally different from the things we mostly see. Like, for instance, you mostly see a lot of coming out stories and those are really important stories and they need to be told, but there's a whole ton of us who are ready to see more, which is really the lives we lead every day. That's what we aimed to accomplish with We Have to Stop Now and I think if you watch it, it very well could be any couple you'd see on the face of the planet. It's not really about them being gay as much as it is about two people in a relationship.
WCT: I've sat down and watched a few episodes and they are so true to life. At the same time, it's almost so real that you can't help but laugh at it.
CD: [ Laughs ] I'm glad to hear thatthat's what we were aiming for. We were like, "Look: Yes, we're gay. Yes, we had to come out. Yes, we had to go through that process but we're also living lives here. We're normal people with normal problems. We have the same intimacy issues as other people, we have the same relationship problems as other people," and when do we just reflect that back to the world? It is part of taking our community to the next level and taking our rights back. I think it's the fear of the unknown that keeps people from supporting our community at all. Doing a show where if some straight people were to catch on and watch it, they could be like, "Oh, we can identify as gay people. They are the same as us. They have all the same issues as we do. They're just simply in a relationship with someone of the same sex." I don't think that this is really well-known information out there in the straight community.
WCT: I know, you'd think that people would "get it" but they don't seem to be getting it.
CD: I don't know what they picture in their heads when we go back to our gay lives with our gay partners. I don't know what they think our homes look like or what our troubles look like or what our relationship issues look like. It's all the same.
WCT: Meredith Baxter is in the second season of We Have to Stop Now. How proud of her are you right now?
CD: Enormously proud, enormously proud. I mean, I don't take any of the credit away from Meredith, but I can't help but feel like We Have to Stop Now had something to do with her journey. The process of coming out, especially for someone as in the public eye as Meredith and as beloved by the public as Meredith, is a long journey, but I feel super, super proud that we were towards sort of the last exits of that journey. We share the same manager so I called her one day and said, "Do you think Meredith would do this role on my little Web series?" I wanted it to be palatable for her to consider doing it and I got a phone call from Meredith a couple days later and she sort of picked my brain a little like, "What is this show? What's your budget? How are you shooting it?" It was pretty much a "do you know what you're doing" kind of conversation and when she agreed to come and do it we were just over the moon about it.
We had so much fun working with her and We Have to Stop Now invited her to come on the Sweet Cruise and I guess one thing led to another and she decided it was time to come out. I saw her on The Today Show and realized that I was clutching my heart while I was watching it. I was so excited to see her. It was so endearing how nervous she was and then she charged ahead so beautifully and gracefully and with such class. I was very proud of her.
WCT: You mentioned that you're also a therapist. How much do you have in common with your character?
CD: I think the thing that we have in common is that we're both therapists. Beyond that, I don't think that we have a ton in common. Our writer, Ann Noble, specifically took sort of the core traits of me and gave them to Jill's character and kind of took the core traits of Jill and gave them to my character. Having said that, they are certainly not completely modeled after Jill and me, but a lot of the core places of where they come from are from our traits. Jill is a much more intellectually-based person where she lets her head lead her. I am much more of someone who comes from my heart and I feel my way through the world. In the show, those traits are very much flip-flopped. So, that also kind of affects how you would practice therapy. Having said that, I don't practice therapy the way Kit does in real life. I'm probably right down the middle.
WCT: It's funny that you mentioned the flip-flop because I did notice that it seemed like the characters in We Have to Stop Now were the complete opposite as your true selves in The Gloves are Off ( Cathy and Jill's other Web series on SheWired.com ) .
CD: It's true and I think that Ann has a little fun with us. When we look at the script as a group, I will inevitably see some sentence in there that my character has to say that I know Jill has just said to me in the last couple of weeks or vice versa. We'll have these moments where I'm in character and have to find a way to make an argument that I know is Jill and vice versa. I've watched Jill look me in the eye during a scene and say my words back to me as her character and it's oddly satisfying and a lot of fun.
WCT: Is Suzanne Westenhoefer coming back the second season?
CD: Oh, yeah, definitely.
WCT: How is it being friends and working together in scenes?
CD: There's a lot of buckling down. When you're in a room with Cathy, Jill and Suzanne there is a lot of that banter and fun, but when you get to set and you have to work, you've got to create a different environment. We'd never get any work done if we were that silly all of the time. So, we do have a ball with one another but we also get to the work of acting in our roles as our characters. Suzanne totally stepped up to the plate this season and totally upped her game. She is a really great actor.
WCT: Right now, when you look across the media, there aren't a lot of strong, multi-faceted storylines for lesbians. What advice would you give to newly openly gay talent in the business?
CD: I guess that would absolutely depend on what it is they would want to accomplish. I'd love to say, "come out, it will not destroy your career." I can't. I can't say that. It will change the course of your career. Then you have to decide if that is something that you want to do and the direction that you want to take. I find that doing anything where I have to be inauthentic is just not an option for me. So, I think it's for people to decide how they feel about that.
WCT: What would you say is one of the highlights of your career thus far?
CD: My character in Out at the Wedding was a really cool turning point. She was a gay character that broke all stereotypes in terms of storyline. She just happened to be the gay girl in the movie who happened to fall in love with someone. That was a good highlight for me. Another major highlight has been We Have to Stop Now. It is truly gratifying being part of a project through its infant stages and watching it grow and get better and better and build more of an audience.
I think season two is going to be so much fuller than season one. It goes deeper, it goes broader and it goes funnier. I am so excited for season two. Being in a little room filming with someone like Meredith Baxter was a highlight. I mean, she's this wonderful actor with this wonderful body of work who agreed come and do my silly little project and having her there and doing a scene with herI was just in heaven. To create something from your heart with people you love and something you feel passionate about and watching it grow and the interest in it grow is deeply satisfying.
WCT: Any last words to your fans?
CS: Their support has been absolutely what has allowed me to do what I love to do. Without them, there would be no way to make it happen so I want them to hear a big fat thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking around and supporting us in any way they have the means to do. Whether it's financial donations or word of mouth telling their friends, I want to say thank you. It's just been an amazing journey to create what I love to create for the Internet. The internet allows that interactivity and you get to know these people and that has been really enriching in my life. If you like We Have to Stop Now and you want more of it, we really need your continued help. Spread the word to not only gay folks, but straight as well because once they give it a chance, they can identify with it. Then we can all keep making it and we can all get to keep having fun with it.
WCT: I think you're onto something!
Want to learn more about Cathy DeBuono and keep up-to-date with her forthcoming and ongoing projects? Visit www.twitter.com/cathydebuono, www.facebook.com/cathydebuono or www.cathydebuono.com .