ABC Family's original series The Fosters premiered this month and it's keeping it in our family with the story of two lesbian moms and their children.
Executive Producer Jennifer Lopez has brought the show to life. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum play the mothers meeting the challenges of one biological son, two adopted kids and a brand-new foster child. Saum plays the part of Lena, a school principal who agrees to take in Callie, as a foster child.
Saum landed her first lead role in Aaron Spelling's Sunset Beach while still attending school in Ohio. She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actress.
She went on to more parts with Revenge, Army Wives and Charmed, then was a regular for two years of Denis Leary's Rescue Me.
Windy City Times talked with Saum about the showwhich has sparked controversybefore its debut.
Windy City Times: Hi, Sherri. So The Fosters is about to premiere. Are you excited?
Sherri Saum: I am so excited! This is probably my favorite project I have worked on my whole career.
WCT: I was reading up about you and it seemed you were in school then fell into the acting career. Is that what happened?
Sherri Saum: Yeah, I was following in my sister's footsteps. She was so academically gifted. I wanted to the right things in school so I went to college. I was there in body and that was about it. I was studying psychology and things that I was interested in. I was just marking until my real destiny happened.
WCT: You got the role on Sunset Beach.
Sherri Saum: Yes, I was in college when I got that show. I then moved out to L.A. from New York.
WCT: Now you go back and forth to live?
Sherri Saum: I have a place in New York and we sublet it. We float around from one place to another according to where work is happening.
WCT: You will have to pop into Chicago on your way over.
Sherri Saum: [Laughs] I have to say I am always desperately avoiding any layovers in Chicago, especially if it is wintertime.
WCT: Let's talk about your character on The Fosters.
Sherri Saum: Her name is Lena Adams and she is a vice principal at a charter school.
WCT: Does your character fall in love with one of the kids and want to foster them?
Sherri Saum: Well, I first fall in love with my partner, Stef Foster, who has a biological child. We decide to expand our family and help out some kids in need at the same time.
WCT: Does The Fosters refer to the last name or fostering children?
Sherri Saum: Both.
WCT: Does the show break down lesbian stereotypes for American audiences?
Sherri Saum: It is definitely going to be groundbreaking in the landscape of television as we know it right now. Yes we see gaty characters on TV but it is usually not in a realistic way. We are not perpetuating stereotypes or playing it for laughs. It is showing a depiction of a slice of life of a family that just happens to be headed by two moms. We are not trying to push messages in people's faces per se but we are saying, "Hey, this a family and check it out!"
WCT: Do you think this is the perfect time for a show like this?
Sherri Saum: It really is. I think we are actually catching up to the reality. Television is finally portraying what is everywhere in society. It is very timely. There are high-profile people coming out. It is very topical right now coincidentally.
WCT: What did Jennifer Lopez bring to the table with producing the show?
Sherri Saum: As actors we are not privy to all of the inner workings of that aspect. She is the most recognizable name on the producer list. She came to the set a few times and we met her.
This whole thing didn't happen because she is a figurehead. It is very near and dear to her heart. She has an aunt who is gay and always wondered if she could have a family. She was fascinated by that and wanted to explore it. She was asked if she would do a cameo on the show and her response was that it stands on its own. It doesn't need a boost from a celebrity to make it fly.
She really believes in the show. I'm really honored by that.
WCT: That is good to hear. How is your co-star?
Sherri Saum: Teri is bananas. My abs hurt after working with her all day because we laugh the whole time. I love watching her and I learn a lot from her. She is a pro. If people could know what goes on between "cut" and "action" they would never believe it! It is so much fun.
WCT: You just went to the GLAAD Media Awards?
Sherri Saum: I went to the one here in L.A. and the one in San Francisco. I'm just proud to be a part of this whole new world. It is a really exciting time. We meet a lot of interesting people. I really hope people embrace the show. I hope the gay community get on board with what we are doing and they like what we do because we don't want to emulate or misrepresent anyone. We want to have a truthful portrayal and an honest one.
WCT: I saw on Twitter you met Adam Lambert at the awards.
Sherri Saum: I did. He's a doll and the nicest guy! He's so sweet and open. My mom, of course, had to ask for an autograph and I wanted to crawl under my seat and die. It was the one in San Francisco and we shared a car on the way to the airport.
WCT: By the way, you have the most amazing hair.
Sherri Saum: Thank you. I have worked on many shows where they try to wrestle it into submission and put it into a style. It really needs to do its own thing. True to this show's vibe they let my hair be. I'm thrilled for that because we are not burning it off with irons and not wrangling it. I am blessed that people are happy with it!
The Fosters is new every Monday at 8 p.m. Central on ABC Family.