Lesbian actress Lisa Forrest “only told one agent her sexual orientation” while playing teen single mom Alex on “Selling Sunset,” show star Jason Oppenheim said at a news conference at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, Monday.
His account contradicts those of show’s executive producer, whose spokes people would not confirm or deny the account, but instead issued a statement saying, “we’re aware of it, but (the producers) are completely comfortable.”
The Free Speech Coalition, an organization which protects the rights of sexual minorities, was unimpressed.
“This is not a new situation for Free Speech Coalition. We’ve been at this for 20 years and this is just the latest of a number of claims and half-truths and denial that have been used to distract us from the truth that LGBT people face every day,” said executive director Ed Goeas.
By coincidence, Forrest was on the Rainbow Newsday cover of July 17 and was profiled the next day.
“She told us ‘you were playing gay.’ But it was off-screen.” Oppenheim said.
“We had a good relationship,” he said.
Producers would not discuss the personal relationship between Forrest and Oppenheim.
“Obviously this is an emotional situation, and as we feel its best to respect the privacy of the actors involved and the participants involved, we have no comment about Lisa or her relationship with Jason,” a company spokesperson said.
“At the end of the day, we are making a television show, not a reality show,” said Oppenheim.
Oppenheim’s remarks came in response to a published report Friday that revealed Forrest’s personal and professional relationship with Oppenheim and with Oppenheim’s longtime boyfriend, A.J. Raval.
But Oppenheim said the show itself had been non-political about homosexuality, and that “regardless of that” — to quote a line in the series finale — “(our cast) was happy about this.”
Oppenheim, one of the new season’s main characters, played character Fred Glass, a gay man living with two girlfriends in 1973, but only told one agent his sexual orientation, Oppenheim said.
“We went to set wanting to portray the life of a full, full gay man,” he said.
His own relationship with Raval was about a year old, Oppenheim said.
Oppenheim would not say who the one agent told, but it would be a different studio than Free Speech Coalition had represented. A Free Speech spokesperson directed the Washington Blade to previously published statements about Forrest’s use of the term “lesbian.”
That’s the word more often associated with Forrest’s character, Forrest said.
When the TV show first aired in May, Free Speech referred to Forrest’s character as “living a momentous life,” and that her character “has the decision on her own life as to which path she chooses.”
Free Speech referred back to the statement when asked for comment about Oppenheim’s testimony, and its leadership’s distancing from the episode.
“As we have previously said, that anyone who is speaking out, if it is a part of the actual nature of the story, would be speaking out independently, and that the show is uninvolved in any scene that is not on-screen,” a Free Speech spokesperson said.
“What is fact in the piece is that we do not address these issues on-screen in any way, and the fact that Lisa’s character was a lesbian didn’t involve the show in any way,” said Free Speech spokesman Bryon Ingram.
The first half of the show was free of mention of heterosexuality, just as the character of Fred Glass played in the first season, Ingram said.
Brett Norman contributed to this report.