We're at ATX Television Festival's sixth season, and today we attended the super fun and insightful BFFs panel: A Look Into Creating and Establishing Friendships on TV. Since we're BFFs ourselves and both attended the panel, we thought it would be fun to write it up together!
The biggest news out of the panel - moderated by Buzzfeed's Jarett Wieselman and featuring Sweet/Vicious' Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Playing House and Best Friends Forever's Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, Being Mary Jane and Girlfriends' Mara Brock Akil and Franklin & Bash's Kevin Falls - was about Robinson's intended ending for the gone-way-too-soon Sweet/Vicious (which I previously reviewed here).
Fans of the show, get your tissues out. When the topic of showing up for your friends was discussed, Robinson revealed, "I wanted [Sweet/Vicious] to end with Ophelia going down for everything, to give Jules the life that was taken away from her." The room literally gasped. THAT IS SO PERFECT, dammit, why was this ending taken from us?! Of the group of fans left bereft by Sweet/Vicious' cancellation, Robinson said, "The show brought together a community of people that I was proud to be a part of." We're proud to be a part of it, too.
Another revealing insight came from Parham and St. Clair when they discussed St. Clair's recent battle with breast cancer. They reflected that struggle in the narrative of the last season of Playing House, in which St. Clair learned more about how her illness affected Parham by watching her character go through it. "I was asleep for most of this," she joked, but Parham had to deal with the anxiety of watching her best friend be wheeled away into surgery. Parham shrugged, "With your friends, that's what you do. You show up."
A few more tidbits from the panel:
Weiselman asked all of the panelists to name their favorite fictional BFFs that they didn't create. Robinson said Seth Cohen and Ryan Atwood from The O.C., eliciting cheers. She said during a recent rewatch of The O.C., she realized she'd accidentally made Sweet/Vicious' Jules and Ophelia into an updated Ryan and Seth, respectively. "I just made these people women, so they're better now." Akil listed the friendships from A Different World, Golden Girls and Designing Women. St. Clair and Parham in unison (most of their quotes were in unison) gushed over Laverne & Shirley, while Falls' first response was, "I think I'm on the wrong panel." He eventually listed Friends, The Sopranos and The Wire.
Another great Robinson quote about Jules and Ophelia: "If you haven't murdered someone with your best friend, are they your best friend?" Food for thought. Parham agreed, "We've all been there!"
About the way they keep writing their friendship, over and over, St. Clair said, "We can't do anything else. This is our contribution. Pull back the onion, and you'll find more onion."
Falls talked about the certain unrequited, will-they-won't-they to the (platonic) friendship on Franklin & Bash. "If you have strong characters, that's a way into telling your story."
Akil discussed writing a storyline on Girlfriends that the network wanted but she felt like could have been a betrayal of her characters: namely, when Toni tries to sleep with Joan's boyfriend. "The network asked for something salacious, but this was before reality television when women, especially black women, are fighting all of the time, and I was like, 'Do I want to put that out there?' But in the end, I did it in the way I wanted to do it...It was just, 'how do I give them what they want my way?'"
There was plenty more scoop, but the real joy of the panel was watching these brilliant creatives laughing and talking over one another the way real BFFs do - and getting to do that together. More from ATX to come!