Are Lesbians the Latest TV Trend?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, March 5, 2004.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight, TV has finally discovered lesbians, and a new series on Showtime (search) is called "The L Word." (search) It will be go up against "The Sopranos" (search) on Sunday evening.

Joining is now from Los Angeles is Ilene Chaiken, the program's creator, and Jennifer Beals, one of the stars of the program.

Ms. Beals, we'll begin with you.  You're married, and you have some steamy sex scenes between you and another woman in this, not that I watch much of it.  I -- no, I did.  I have to be honest.  Was that hard for you to do that?

JENNIFER BEALS, ACTRESS:  Well, what was interesting about the role is that, you know, I play Bet Porter (ph), and she's really sort of a Type A personality, and she's so taken with her work that, as an actress, when I was preparing for the role, I thought more about how to prepare for that aspect of her life, and then the day came when I had to do a love scene with my partner, Laurel Holloman, who plays Tina, and I thought how do I go about this, and then it occurred to me that I know how to love someone, so that I know how to do this scene.  It's not...

O'REILLY:  OK.  I -- you know, if I were an actor...

BEALS:  ... appreciably different.

O'REILLY:  If I were an actor, I have to say I could not do it.  I couldn't do it with -- a scene with another guy, a romantic scene, even if there was a lot of money involved.  I just couldn't do it, and I'm -- probably because I'd never be an actor, I'm not that uninhibited and all of that.  But you didn't have any thoughts about that, or did you discuss it with your husband or anything like that?

BEALS:  No, I didn't have any thoughts about it because the writing is so good, and the love scene wasn't just a sex scene, it was really -- it comes at the end of the first episode, and it was really about these characters reconnecting after having been in a relationship for seven years and going through some difficulty.  So, as an actor, I was focusing more on that than...

O'REILLY:  Now, Ms. Chaiken, you are a lesbian and created this series.


O'REILLY:  You obviously have, I would imagine, a message you want to put out there, and what would that message be?

CHAIKEN:  I don't have a message so much as stories I want to tell.  My agenda, if I have an agenda, is to entertain and move people and to tell great stories and to engage the audience with these characters, and, as they get engaged with these characters, there might be a message underlying that which is that we all have so much in common, that emotionally and spiritually and philosophically, we're going through a lot of the same things.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Who's the target audience of this?

BEALS:  And I think that's really the most radical thing about the show really, is that -- not the character's sexual orientation as much as the love that these people share.

O'REILLY:  OK, but, obviously, the sex is going to get all the play and -- it does.  What is the target audience for this, Ms. Chaiken?  Who's going to watch this show?

CHAIKEN:  I hope everybody watches it, and the feedback we're getting is that we're getting a broad audience.  I've seen both articles and data that say, of course, we have our core audience of lesbians, but gay men are also loving the show, which was really unexpected, and straight men are tuning in, which was...

O'REILLY:  That's not unexpected, by the way.

CHAIKEN:  That is not unexpected, but...

O'REILLY:  No.  I mean it is something in the straight man gene that's curious about lesbianism.  All right.

CHAIKEN:  Always welcome to that audience.  And straight women...

O'REILLY:  Yes, I was invited on a gay cruise last week, going up there and...

BEALS:  I heard about that.

O'REILLY:   OK.  You know, now listen...

CHAIKEN:  Are you going to go?  I went on that cruise.

O'REILLY:  Yes?  I think I'd clear the boat.

Ms. Beals, you've had a very interesting career.  You made it big with "Flashdance," when you were a student at Yale, and then you -- you weren't somebody who was like working all the time.

BEALS:  Yes.  Actually, I worked all the time, but I wasn't in projects that were embraced necessarily by the media.  So I've done over 50 films, but there have only been a handful that have really sort of broken through in terms of the press and...

O'REILLY:  Tough world out there in Hollywood?

BEALS:  Actually, no.  I've been very, very lucky.  I've done really, really wonderful films and worked with great people, and this project is certainly one of them.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Ladies, we appreciate you coming on in and talking to us.  And good luck.

BEALS:  Thank you.

CHAIKEN:  Thank you.

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