I just want to thank you all for being so patient! I had my lunch with Marc on Saturday and he answered many of your questions about "Desperate Housewives." Because of time contraints we did not get to every question but I did try to cover as much territory as possible, in some cases combining similar queries. Also, I wanted to give everyone a fair shot so some of you who answered multiple questions may not see answers to every single one. Please don't take it personally if your question isn't answered. This was the first Q&A for Season Pass and I've learned some lessons about procedures.
I've been lucky enough to get to know Marc a little bit over the last year. He's a generous soul and extremely sweet, with a razor sharp wit and a biting sense of humor. He's great fun to be around. He's also wickedly good game player although he's a bit of a taskmaster at charades. (Sorry Marc, but you know it's true!)
I read to him all of your lovely comments and he was very touched. And Julie and Karin, he was quite impressed that you made a video question. There was a little technical difficulty and he didn't get to that answer, but I'm hoping he emails it to me so I can add it later.
His favorite question was Simon's, about how the strike affected production of season 4. See below for that answer. But I'm going to start with a little video (please excuse the jiggling, I just got this flip video thing) where Marc explains his inspiration for the fast-forward device and his answer to fans and/or critics who aren't happy with that decision:
Bonus video answer (with text after in case you have trouble viewing it):
Q. What made you want to fast forward the show at a point in all the storylines when it would have been so simple to stay at the current time? — Kate
Q. I feel like we are going to be going through another upheaval again… Can’t we get a little stability? I was happy with the finale but so annoyed by the last five minutes that I at the time I never wanted to see the show again. — Jake
A. I thought it was a fascinating artistic choice and I thought it would be interesting for the gals. And I thought that really since all the storylines in some way relate to where we last left the characters I thought it would just be a fun, interesting move for the fans. I don’t think people will object once they see what we’re doing with the new season.
You know as an artist you get used to not everyone liking your art. It’s almost the definition of what it means to be an artist that some people’s ideas of what would be good will not coalesce with yours. I think that if this person tunes in to see the season premiere they’ll see how the five-year jump connects to where we left the characters. You know, what is a series anyway? You’re following the lives of characters and seeing how the respond to different situations. This five-year jump has just taken characters you’ve known and loved and just plopped them forward ahead in their lives and I think it will be just as interesting as it was if we’d stayed exactly with them. I actually think now that I’ve been writing it, it makes so much sense. I may start a trend with TV series. And, you know, I’m hoping people respond. But that being said, maybe it will turn out to be a big mistake. But I’m glad I did it because I’m having fun writing it.
And the winning question:
Q. What material was planned for the second half of the fourth season, had the writers’ strike not occurred? Did you manage to represent all the planned storylines, even if only briefly (such as Lynette finding faith in “Sunday”), or can you think of arcs that had to be scrapped entirely? Similarly, how would the season’s mystery have been expanded? This question can also apply to season three, with the mystery’s arc shortened because of Marcia Cross’ maternity leave. —Simon
A. That is a good question. We ended up using most of what we had planned and there were a couple of storyline ideas that we just pushed later. We had a storyline (that we had to let go of) involving Gabrielle and her stepfather who molested her. We’ll be revisiting him sometime in the future.
(and the second part of that question) Marcia’s twins caused me and my writers many sleepless nights. But I’m happy to say it was worth it because they’re so gorgeous and we did manage to come up with some good stories even though we had to shorten the mystery that season.
Q. What keeps you going? What keeps you wanting to write these exciting and ridiculous lives for these women? What drives you to get up every day and create? — D
A. Well, first, I get an amazing paycheck. So I am motivated by money, I will say that. A little bit. (Laughs.) But also I’m just fascinated by women and the problems they have, how they overcome obstacles in their lives. I just really love exploring the human condition and trying to find out little truths about gals of the suburbs – my gals of the suburbs.
Q. You have said before that your childhood was the inspiration for Lynette and her family and that your teenage life was your inspiration for Bree and her family. I am just curious as to what your inspiration was for Gabrielle, Edie, and Susan and their stories. — Julie B
A. I was inspired by a lot of single friends — women who were on the lookout for love and romance at a later age in life. So that was kind of my inspiration for Susan. And that probably reflects my own journey a little bit too — being of a certain age and still trying to snag some poor loser into loving you. (laughs). In terms of Gabrielle, I started out with one kind of character and it’s really Eva Longoria who inspires the journey that she’s now on. Eva and I sort of discovered the character together. At some point I started making Gabrielle selfish and mean and self-obsessed and materialistic and Eva kind of was scared at first. She thought people wouldn’t like her. But I discovered she had the same qualities that Rue McClanahan did in “Golden Girls,” which is the ability to do unlikable things and still have the audience love you. And once I was confident in her ability to pull that kind of character off, we really went for it. It’s all about coming up with ways for Gabrielle to do just horrible, horrible things and we’re having a lot of fun with it. And my inspiration for Edie really was a character played by Kathy Baker in “Edward Scissorhands.” She played kind of the neighborhood slut in that and I did a little tribute to her. I believe I had Edie talking about Ambrosia in the pilot and that was a direct homage to what Kathy had played in “Edward Scissorhands.”
Q. Which of the housewives do you feel has evolved the most over the course of the series and was this intentional? — Craig
A. I think Gabrielle has evolved the most over the course of the series but I do think that what we’re doing with Susan in this upcoming season will take that character forward. Teri (Hatcher) felt that the character had gotten too emotionally needy and she wanted to play a more emotionally detached Susan and so we’re writing some interesting colors for her in this upcoming season. And so I think that will be an interesting development for the fans.
Q. Is there any "Golden Girls" in "Desperate Housewives" at all? – Troy
A. Well certainly any time I get them around a table together it’s my own little homage to the “Golden Girls.” What I know of female ensemble comedy came from that. So when I was creating the pilot I was very careful to make sure that all these four women had very distinct points of view because that’s really the only way you can write female ensemble show is to make sure all the voices are clear and distinct. But other than that I’ve taken “Desperate Housewives” to places where the writers of “Golden Girls” would never have dared to go; because we are part drama. So I think we’re pretty much our own thing now.
Q. Since 5 years have passed, the characters are the same, but not the same... how did you redefine their new selves ? Did you and the writers use your knowledge of the strengths of the actresses and their characters. Do you write them differently? — Juliette
A. Yeah. It’s always a collaborative effort. I’ve tried out things on the actors that they have not cared for or maybe didn’t do well. And then they come to me with ideas and areas that they would like to explore. Marcia (Cross) was instrumental in coming up with the decision that Bree would go back to work, that Bree would have a career. Marcia wanted to get out of the kitchen a little bit, so of course we found a way to keep her doing both with this new upcoming storyline. But by and large, most of it starts with me. Then I check in with the gals every now and then to see if they like where we’re going and how they feel about everything.
Q. “Desperate Housewives” features several openly homosexual male characters, like Andrew Van De Kamp, Justin and the Hunter/McDermott couple. Do you ever plan to follow in the lead of shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The O.C.” and introduce lesbian or bisexual characters on your show?
A. At some point there will be a lovely, domestic lesbian. I just have to figure out my new take on it. If I do it, I want to do something fun and different with it. We’ll get there. Lesbians just need to be patient with me.
Q. With the addition of the wonderful Gail O’Grady this season is there a tentative plan to introduce a new character every single season? — Kate
A. New people are always dropping by Wisteria Lane. That’s something that I started very early on in the process. Like any serialized show, new characters bring with them new storylines. Also, it gives me a chance to work with actors I’ve always loved.
The following question is a mixture of ones asked by Scheherazade, Jose and Stephanie
Q. If you were a character on the show, which housewife do you think would be your best friend?
A. I think I would be best friends with Gabrielle — like the gay character played by Alec Mapa, Vern. There’s just something about her character. She’s just so fabulous — certainly last season. I don’t know about this season now that she has kids and is broke. But the Gabrielle that was always thinking about fashion and going out shopping and doing her thing, you know, that’s the kind of gal I would probably hang out with. I tend to find in my real life that once my friends get married and have kids I just don’t see them that often.
Q. I wish that Andrew, who is one great, underused actor on the show, would have a more prominent role in the show — are there any big plans this season for him? — Sarah
A. We’ve got some interesting storylines coming up that feature Andrew. He will be featured helping Bree out in her career, sometimes resorting to trickery and skullduggery to achieve his ends. As far as any romantic life for him, we’ll get there. But I’d kind of like to solidify Bree’s new storyline first.
Q. Edie needs a storyline! — Andres
A. Edie’s character is the focus of the mystery storyline this season.
Q. Who is the deceased character on your show (excluding Mary Alice) you miss the most? – Renato
A. (Marc answered this without hesitation). Mrs. Huber. I killed off Mrs. Huber in episode 7 of the first season. And it broke my heart because Christine Estabrook, who I created the part for, is a dear friend. And I always knew the character would be killed in the first season because I thought it was important to establish “Desperate Housewives” as a show where people you love could suddenly disappear, much like life. But there are times when I wish she were back because I loved writing for that character so much. That character flowed out of me. It was one of the few characters I could write quickly.
Q. Do you ever plan on bringing back characters like Paul, Zach, Betty and Felicia, because I thought they were brilliant, and I’m not the only one who thinks that way, and if so, approximately when?
And... will we ever see the return of Felicia Tilman? I thought Harriet Samson Harris was brilliant.
A. I have an idea. I’m not going to say who, but one of those characters could very well be returning this season.
Q. Is the creepy neighbor Art ever going to come back to the Lane? It seemed like SO much more could have happened with that storyline/arc...it just seemed to leave me hanging...did the actor not work out or something? — Ruthie
A. I haven’t really thought about having Art return because he was such a scary character. To go into that area of a potential child molester again… I think we pulled it off the first time. I don’t know that we want to revisit those waters. But I also learned to never say never.
Q. Will there be any chance of Gabrielle’s step father coming back to cause drama? Or her mother? I would love to see her (and maybe Carlos) involved in a mystery. — Meaghan
Please see the answer to the strike question
A. Simple question: Where did Bongo go? — Julie B
A. I always wondered how many of the fans would have been thinking about Bongo. We had this dog for Mike but when he had his accident we assumed that during the time he was in his coma, Bongo had been either given to someone else or possibly even passed away. We would have had to put Bongo in one of the women’s houses and that would have been a little bit difficult. Not to mention the fact that the cost of dog trainers is a bit exorbitant and when we have to cut things for our budget, the animals are always the first thing to go.
Q. Wisteria Lane is probably the deadliest street on current primetime television. You keep saying that Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle are the only safe characters on the show. Well, hypothetically, if one of them were to die, to shake things up, who would you kill off? — Renato
A. No comment
Q. I just want to know who will die in the Season 5? — Giuliano
A. Characters you’ve come to know and love. And it will make you cry. Sorry.
Q. Marc, I find the strangest scenes in the show to be between the women themselves — the way they interact with each other is completely different from the way they engage with the other characters. Is this observational? — Samuel
A. I think it’s hard to capture a lot of friends all talking at once. I think that’s one of the trickiest things to do in writing. Also, unlike “Sex and the City,” I didn’t want my group of women to be the kind of women who always shared their innermost secrets with one another. I always found that to be somewhat of a fantasy. The women I know, when they are with their friends, are not revealing their most embarrassing secrets. I wanted my women to communicate in a different way and I think you see much more truthful relationships with the husbands than you do with the friends, which I think is probably reflective of real life.
Q. As your show is a serialized drama, do you ever design an episode to appeal to casual viewers who can’t commit to a full season run? — Anthony
A. Certainly my season premieres are designed so that you can come on in and understand what’s going on and hopefully stay for a while. And I do try to design the storylines so that there’s resolution for everyone’s story by the end of the episode. I think that you can just jump into “Desperate Housewives” at any time and sort of get what’s going on. But that being said, how I do the show is how I do the show.
Q. Is there anything YOU regret about the series, some character or storyline that now just doesn't work for you? If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be and why? — Renato
A. I regret most of season 2. But the reason was, while there were some really terrific moments in it, we were having so many problems behind the scenes in terms of the schedule. We had an abbreviated schedule that year due to the fact that ABC wanted an additional episode. I didn’t have time to plan. I was so exhausted from season 1. But a lot of things just didn’t have the kind of elegant outline that I usually demand of the show and of myself. If there’s anything I could do I would just go back and make that all much more streamlined and think it through. But I think I had some subsequent really good seasons because I learned my lessons the hard way in season 2. So it’s best not to have regrets.
Q. Did you ever think of getting out of the business during your long dry spell and what else would you have done? — Troy
A. I thought about getting out of the business during my long dry spell and I could not think of a single thing I could do so I was really worried (laughs). Thankfully it all worked out.
Q. You’re the creator and executive producer of a brilliant show. If you could be the head of another already existing TV show, what would it be, and why? — Renato
A. That’s a fun question. I wouldn’t mind having created “CSI.” Lord knows I could afford a lot more.
Q. I know many creators of hit long-running TV shows already have the ending scene of the series etched into their brain. You’ve said publicly before that you will be ending DH after 7 seasons. So my question for you is… do you have the series ending already stored in your mind? Or will you just have to wait and see where the wind takes you? — Karin
A. I know what the last scene is. I already have that in my mind.
Q. Do you feel that “Desperate Housewives” has come to represent something significant for woman all over the world? — Alexander
A. I think the term “Desperate Housewives” or “desperate housewife,” everyone knows what it means now. It’s come to represent a woman who’s chosen a life for herself but she’s going a little crazy. Something’s wrong. Something’s not working and she’s not happy about it. And these women have always existed throughout history, I just kind of coined the phrase. And I think the phrase will be around for decades and decades to come.
Hope you folks enjoyed that!
— Kathy Lyford