Charlie Richards and the Road to Life at the Pond
- Monday, October 15, 2007
But he hasn’t really done that with Desperate Housewives. I don’t even know if there’s a gay character on there.
No, but the message is that all heterosexual relationships are a complete mess. He’s done other shows with gay characters, though. At the time [I was there], they were finishing Golden Girls (previously called Golden Palace). He started a new show called The Crew about flight attendants and all the writers were gay. The show had one gay guy—and he was the smart one. There was actually a very successful heterosexual relationship and the network wanted to play it up, because that’s what audiences were responding to, but Marc refused. He was willing to walk away from it instead of doing that.
What happened after that?
Marc had said that it would take five years to break in—and that’s exactly what it took. I had so many close calls. Once, right before I left for an interview for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, they found out that I was actually white. They told me not to even bother going. But five years and one month later, I got the call for House Rules. I had finally landed a job in Hollywood on a show.
What was that like?
I loved my time on that show. The executive producer was Chris Thompson, who created Bosom Buddies and who was the showrunner for Laverne & Shirley. The first day, Chris is so excited because he has a package, this VHS tape that’s a combination of porn and people killing themselves—clip after clip of just really gross stuff that he insisted on showing us all.
[Before I got the job] I had prayed, “Lord, I know I’m going to have to take a stand someday [for my faith], so make it obvious. They’re going to find out I’m a Christian, and I don’t want to mess this up.” So [when this happened] I got up and walked out. He asked where I was going and I said, “I can’t have this stuff in my head.”
Well, I thought I was finished, but interestingly enough, he liked that. I was a rebel like him, even if I was going in a different direction. I got along really well with him and we had many discussions about God. There were still plenty of times when my Christianity caused a lot of problems in the writers room, though.
So can you be a Christian and write for television?
Dramas have a lot more Christians [writing for them] than sitcoms, and they suit the family lifestyle a lot more. With sitcoms, you have “run-throughs” [every day at the end of the day.] The nature of a run-through is that it finishes at five o’clock and is then rewritten. At six p.m. they give you the rewrites and you have to [make changes before the next morning.” At the end of the week, you get the rewrites on Thursday and have to have the new script to the actors by the time they get up the next morning, so they can look it over with their morning coffee. There are plenty of sitcom writers who don’t see their kids for nine months at a time. That’s what drove me from it. Am I going to keep pursuing this or are we going to leave this town and pursue a different direction?
What’s the difference with dramas?
The dramas don’t have run-throughs. You don’t have to worry about the late nights. The writers can see what the director wants [and make the changes on the spot]. Sitcoms are an awful life for writers. I knew seven sitcom writers who were Christians and all left for dramas. That’s one of the reasons why sitcoms are so morally disgusting—because the writers who stay live very different types of lifestyles. Your good family man or woman is very unlikely to stay.
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