by: Sawyer Lahr
Note: This piece was originally published at Go Over the Rainbow and has been republished with permission. You can read the original here.
Receiving my call one afternoon, Mark Deklin pulls over to the side of the road in his car to park. I commented that he was working on the fly, and he said that’s LA for you. Deklin is the only male series regular on GCB (Good Christian Belles) and playing, Blake Reilly, the gay ex-husband of Cricket Caruth-Reilly in Dallas, TX. The new ABC series starring Kristin Chenoweth, formerly known as Good Christian Bitches, is based on the eponymous book by Kim Gatlin optioned by Darren Star (creator of the HBO series Sex and the City) who attached writer Robert Harling (Steel Magnolias, First Wives Club) to script the pilot. After Starr and Harling were separated from each other during production of the pilot episode, executive producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts were hired after the pilot to help Harling. Bobby, as Deklin affectionally refers to the writer, has worked closely with him to develop Blake’s character arch including a relationship with a character named Booth Becker (Denton Blane Everett, Lone Star).
The ever-handsome and smiling Deklin has a recurring role on CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 as the new husband of Scott Caan’s ex-wife, and the lawyer Kirk Stark on Hot in Cleveland. He is also known for his series regular role on the critically acclaimed, short-lived Fox series Lone Star, in which he starred as Jon Voight’s son, as well as a recurring role on Desperate Housewives in which he played the love interest of Eva Longoria. In addition to his work on the small screen, Deklin has held starring roles on Broadway including roles in “Sweet Smell of Success” alongside John Lithgow and “The Lion King” in which he played “Scar.” Deklin sketched out his character forGo Over the Rainbow before it’s premiere in place Pan Am on Sunday, March 6 at 10/9c.
I do. I’ve been on shows in the past that have gotten badly scheduled. I know how it is when you feel like we have a good show but they killed us with this slot. So when they announced the time slot [for GCB], we were all very happy. Sunday night is a good TV night. I think having Desperate Housewives as a lead in makes logical sense. That’s the demographic that we’re going to be appealing to. Our show looks a bit like Desperate Housewives of the south, but it isn’t. It’s its own animal.
How many episodes have you shot?
We’ve shot the whole first season, but it’s only a half season. We shot ten episodes. Those are all in the can. We’re not shooting now. We’re waiting for the premiere. It’s a little surreal because usually on a television schedule you’re just ahead of the wave and the viewers are couple episodes behind you. You feel that sense of ‘you gotta keep ahead of it.’ We shot in a bit of a bubble. It gave us the freedom to find it and make it our own, and make it a very distinct voice. We’re not worried about ratings or critics. So I think there’s a purity about the show that will resonate with people.
Did you have more time to develop the character?
We all feel very blessed that we have a creative team who are open to collaboration. We have our head writers Bobby Harling, who created the show, our head writer. I didn’t have a template for this character. There’s nothing stereotypical about Blake’s character. In real life, I have hundreds of gay friends, but they’re all out. I don’t know anybody who’s married or in the closet. The whole thing feels like it comes from another place, another generation. I remember saying to Bobby, “Do people still do that?” It turns out I was very naive. It’s more common than I thought.
Do you think it will feel dated for television?
I was thinking, as far as a template from TV and film, Dennis Quaid in Far From Heaven or the obvious Heath Ledger inBrokeback Mountain. They [the writers] made it clear from the beginning. Blake is not torchered. He’s not self-hating. He’s very comfortable in his own skin, but he’s made an arrangement. This is something that happens in southern society, something they call a white marriage. So I had to overcome any prejudices I might have about someone who’s living in the closet. Blake is not fey or swishy, but he’s certainly colorful. By episode 6, he [Blake] blossoms, and then we get to get wacky.
How does his relationship with Booth Caruth pan out?
There’s a real answer to your questions, which happens in episode 2. It does become sticky and Blake has to make some choices. He has to prioritize things in his life. In the course of watching that happen, we learn about who Blake is. Forget his sexuality or circumstances. The human being is a good guy. People are going to say ‘he has these flaws, but at the end of the day I can like him.’
Is Blake funny in a Steel Magnolias ‘track lighting’ kind of way?
He’s not a stereotype. I’m not doing Sean Haynes in Will & Grace. How much fun would that be. In many ways Blake is a dream husband. He’s a dream catch. He’s such an amazing and wonderful father. He just happens to have this thing on the side and this is the arrangement they’ve [he and his wife have] made. For the first half of the season, Blake isn’t so much wacky and funny. He’s lovable and sympathetic and one of the most trustworthy characters in the show. There’s a shift and Blake gets to unleash a little bit. There were a couple episodes where I just got to be over the top. We had such a blast. There’s a musical number in one of the episodes where Blake gets to shine. Bobby and I came up with this whole idea of a church musical.
How does religion play into his character?
Part of the world that Blake lives in, there are certain conventions. It has to do with the old money and the church conservatism. Yes, religion plays into this conservative society, so to be openly gay would change the dynamics within that society. It’s almost like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. That’s kind of where Blake is at. He has a good life. He loves his life. He’s a church goer and a man of faith. These are complex characters, but he’s made a choice not to rock the boat. People get a kick out of watching us [Blake and wife Cricket] in action because we’re best of friends, and we do have a little bit of tongue-and-cheek.
How close does Darren Starr work with the production? Did you get involved in GCBthrough your work with Darren on Sex and the City?
I know there was a point a couple episodes in, and apparently he and Bobby were butting heads creatively. Everybody decided that he might step back a little bit. So he did, but he was very much involved in the pilot and the creation and conception. There’s no hard feelings. There’s no weirdness. Everybody decided that this would be a more productive situation. Darren is the one who cast me in this.
Have you played gay before?
I played gay in an episode of Nip/Tuck, but not as a series regular. I played gay in the theater years ago. It’s not something that’s new to me.
What do you think about the controversy over the title of Kim Gatlin’s book and the change from ‘bitches’ to ‘belles?’
The people who tune in thinking they’re going to hate it for that reason are going to be pleasantly surprised because no it’s not disrespectful toward religion. It’s not an attack on religion. The message of the show is that the teachings of Christ are great. The problem is the people who claim to be followers of Christ who don’t act in a Christ-like way. The religion itself isn’t necessarily the problem.
What is your dream role?
Theatrically I have this dream. I’ve wanted to do a production of ‘Man and Superman.’ I had this idea of doing Act III of the dream sequence in hell and taking it out of the dream and running a simultaneous black box production. It would be a stage reading of Don Juan in hell, having the actors go from one theater space to the other theater space. I would want to play John Tanner who is Don Juan in hell. All of philosophical questions and some of the language, it’s just so delicious. The next film project I would want to do is an action movie, a western or a mafia movie. That would be fun for a change of pace. I don’t know if I have a single dream role. What I have is a dream arch and dream career where I am constantly challenged and turned on artistically. That’s one of the reason’s I decided to play Blake.