Nine Questions with Lost Girl Creator and Writer Michelle Lovretta
Last week we put up our interview with the stars of the new Showcase Original TV Series Lost Girl. This week we got a chance to interview Michelle Lovretta, the creator, co-show runner and writer of five of the thirteen episodes, via email.
In the interview Michelle talks about the show, how the lead character Bo relates to other strong female genre show characters, the role of sexuality in Lost Girl and much more.
I will also be posting my thoughts about the actual show soon, probably after I have seen a few more episodes so I can get a true feel for it. I will say so far I have been impressed with some aspects of Lost Girl, and disappointed by others, but it does have potential.
On to the interview…
ALEX: As the show Creator, Writer, and an Executive Producer can you give us an overview for our readers what Lost Girl is about? [I am not sure if Peter Mohan is the co-creator and co-writer, so please correct me if this is the case]
Lost Girl is the story of Bo, a young woman who realizes she’s a succubus (a woman who uses sex to feed, heal… and kill) when she hits maturity and drains her high school boyfriend to death during her first sexual encounter. Oops. She tries to run from her past and her nature, until encountering others like her and learning she’s part of the Fae, an ancient race living amongst humans and feeding off of them in different ways. They pressure her to join their ranks, but she distrusts their motives and chooses to go it alone, navigating the terrain between the humans and the Fae while trying to figure out her origins and gain control of her predatory sexual hungers.
or, um… something like that
Alex: The character of Bo follows a long traditions of strong female leads in genre shows – Xena, Buffy, Echo. Can you tell us how Bo both relates & differs from them?
Michelle Lovretta: She certainly shares some traits with each of them – she’s guilt stricken over her previous kills and trying to repair her karma by using her abilities to help others, like Xena. She has Buffy’s sense of both loss and wonder, when she realizes she’s not the “normal girl” she thought she was. And Bo shares Echo’s determination to live outside the “system”, and possibly bring it down.
A key difference would be Bo’s complicated relationship with sex. For Bo, “sex is power” isn’t an idiom, it’s a very tricky and inconvenient fact of life.
Alex: Buffy, Xena, Dollhouse, all created by male creators and writers. How will Lost Girl differ from those shows, with a woman as the creator and writer?
Ms. Lovretta: Well, clearly none of those series suffered in any way from having male creators. I’d love to be able to claim some unique moral highground or creative edge here as a woman creating a female heroine, but the truth is …I’m not sure there is any? Television is full of empowered, three dimensional female characters that just so happen to be created by men.
The difference here, if there is any, is what stories I might be more drawn towards telling. One of the dynamics I enjoy exploring most in Lost Girl is just that of female friendship. I get a little tired of the portrayals of shallow, catty, competitive girlfriends, the type who ditch one another when anything with a functioning penis walks in the room. That just hasn’t been my experience. I’m not those girls, I don’t like those girls, and I’d sooner not spend an entire season writing them.
I have no doubt that Kenzi and Bo would kill or die for one another, although there’s nothing sexual between them to be gained. I love that about them, and that platonic loyalty was very important for me to protect throughout the development process: that Bo and Kenzi are sisters, not love interests. I didn’t want to feed into the stereotype that because someone is bisexual (as Bo is) that they’re sexually available to, or interested in, everyone. I love me my Bo — so, I don’t want to paint her as a Walking Hungry Crotch, or someone’s fantasy fulfillment.
Alex: With Bo being succubus I assume you will be exploring her sexuality as the season progresses. How are you approaching that in a mature fashion, without being exploitative, which I feel shows like True Blood are guilty of?
Ms. Lovretta: Carefully! Actually, we originally planned to be a little edgier and slightly more explicit when we were developing the pilot, but other shows have come out since that do a wonderful job in that terrain. To keep going that way ourselves became less interesting to us, creatively. Our show is more on the “fun, campy romp…with a heart” side of the spectrum, so it would feel odd and exploitive to have Bo nekkid or suddenly, I dunno, fellate some source into giving her information. It’s just not us. I’m actually really glad about that.
Bo is a succubus, a grown woman, and bisexual — with that recipe, it’s pretty damn hard to not explore her sexuality in some way. And frankly, I *want* to explore it, that’s partly the point of the series for me. You can say a lot of things about sex with a series like this. And what’s a little intimidating is that people can also read whatever they want into it. The one thing I hope is clear is that, in our Lost Girl world, healthy consensual sex is good, and repression and shame can be dangerous. Part of Bo’s problem is that she’s been denying herself sex until the hunger builds into something ugly, and she loses control of it.
To me, what was fascinating about a succubus-in-rehab was more about the emotional consequences: yes, she can seduce anyone she wants and doesn’t know what rejection is, but she’s also an adult whose lovers always died, and so until now Bo has never had to deal with what happens AFTER sex. Also known as “the hard shit”. She has the sex drive of a pornstar, the heart of the girl next door, and the dating skills of a fifteen year old. There’s not just awkward comedy in that, hopefully there’s empathy: most of us have had less than ninja-level relationship skills well into adulthood, and it’s nice that Bo can be vulnerable and imperfect and relateable in that way.
Alex: How much back story about the world of Lost Girl have you created? How much time did you spend researching the mythology that is used in the show?
Ms. Lovretta: Whoo doggie, SO much backstory. I’ve had to figure out the character histories, the Fae wars, all of that stuff. But short of a companion novel, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to put all of that out there into the world? We’ll see, hopefully we’ll have many seasons to explore it. I suppose I’ve technically been researching for this series since I first fell in love with folklore and cultural mythologies in early grade school, which was also the same time I started reading fantasy lit. This series is a true treat for a genre geek like me — world-building is the thing I love most about writing, and (perhaps until recently) it’s rare to have that indulged by a network. I’m really grateful.
Alex: Can you talk about the challenges that you faced making a genre show in Canada, on what I assume was a fairly limited budget?
Ms. Lovretta: We’re very, very lucky in the quality of work we get from our key creative departments, our award winning DP, our directors etc. And I could watch our cast put on a puppet show. We just stay sensible with where we allocate our splurges, try to be judicious with our use of VFX, etc. You have fewer days to shoot your eps, so it impacts on how many or big your action sequences and locations can be, etc. But, honestly, most series face budget constraints in some way — these aren’t feature film budgets — and I think in our case the solutions and aesthetics adds to the charm of the show.
Alex: When creating Bo did you have anyone in mind for the role. How was Anna Silk cast for the show? Did you have Kris in mind for the role of Dyson?
Ms. Lovretta: No, I didn’t see faces or even races when picturing these parts (although Bo was always a long haired brunette in my mind, as Anna is.)
We had a pretty intense search for the cast, and we were willing to delay production of the pilot if we didn’t find the right people. Anna was in LA at the time and first submitted a self-tape, which is usually so hard to judge by, but we loved her immediately: just really sweet and charming. I felt like she could exude strength, but also be someone that I’d want to go have a beer with, nothing cold or snotty about her. Ditto Ksenia – her first syllable and I choked on my coffee and clapped my hands gleefully like an idiot, I had no doubt we’d found her. And Kris has a stoic-romantic vibe that fits Dyson, and also this unique times-past quality to him: I swear, dude could be in jeans and a tee in my office, and in my mind he’s always wearing a doublet and sword.
I wasn’t there the first time Kris and Anna had their camera test together, but I heard they dented the wall with their aggressive kissing. That was a pretty great sign.
Alex: The best genre shows always have a sense of humour about themselves, that often offset the ridiculous nature of certain elements of the show. Will Lost Girl have this same sense of humour about itself?
Ms. Lovretta: Lord, I hope so. Truly, I’m a bit of a laidback goof, and i think the series has some of that spirit, as well. It’s often ironic or sarcastic in tone, but hopefully viewers will get that we’re taking the piss more often than not. I mean: hello, monsters and secret societies and a sassy sex predator: you can’t be too precious about that! We aim to entertain, to make people laugh and give them a world to get lost in and characters to care about, should they choose. I’m also a big “shipper”, and I’ve already shipped the hell out of every possible relationship dynamic on this show in my head for hours of my own enjoyment, and i hope our viewers feel that drive as well. That’s not just half the fun of watching a show like this, it’s half the fun of WRITING it.
For whatever reason, genre shows tend to have a life beyond the screen. The amazing thing about genre fans is that they take ownership of a series, create their fanfics, their compilation vids, debate lore amongst themselves, come to panels etc. Genre fans tend to be a creative and inquisitive bunch, so in a pretty unique way — if you’re lucky enough to create a genre show that fans embrace, and we’ll have to wait and see if we fall in that category — your stuff will mutate and expand and be out there in the universe beyond the ways you yourself have created. It’s trippy and fun and what i love as a writer AND a viewer of this stuff. Yeah, I’m the starting point: i created something in my head. But it ceases to be a one man show the moment you’re in development: then there’s the writers, actors, producers, directors, crew, network, website/motion comic peeps etc, creating something new. …and now, it’s finally over to those fans who choose to feel some sort of ownership of the world and make it their own.
Alex: How far our have you plotted the show? Do you already have the events of a second or third season worked out?
I knew the first season in rough points from early days, and also a Kenzi arc for second season, but it remains to be seen if we’ll stick to it. The way we leave this first season, there are *definitely* some questions raised that will need answering. My co-showrunner Pete and I were blessed with an incredibly creative writing staff this year, and I think it’s always wise to leave room for their inspiration and input before putting a season-long arc in stone, so we won’t know where season two will actually take us until/unless we get the greenlight and have assembled our staff again and bashed around some thoughts. But — fingers crossed — I’m excited to find out.
I’d like to thank Michelle for taking some time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. Lost Girl airs on Showcase Sundays at 9pm.