We’ve said it before — for a network aimed at a youthful audience, The CW has a notable lack of relatable, well-rounded gay characters. Luckily, we have high hopes for their “Sex and the City” prequel “The Carrie Diaries,” which introduced Walt Reynolds, a teenager just beginning to explore his sexuality, in the pilot episode.
Played by Brendan Dooling, Walt is a teenage boy with a bevy of female friends, including his long-term girlfriend, Maggie (Katie Findlay). As Maggie becomes more interested in sex, Walt’s interest in Maggie wanes, and he’s forced to come to grips with a future that he hadn’t anticipated. Executive producer Amy B. Harris is taking great pains to tell Walt’s story honestly, responsibly, and slowly, particularly because “The Carrie Diaries” is set in 1984. Where “90210’s” Teddy Montgomery
might look forward to a wedding and a family, those options weren’t
necessarily on the table for gay teenagers coming of age 20 years ago —
at least, not the way they are now.
“My very close friend said to me, ‘There were so many things I had to give up in admitting I was gay, and one of them was, in the 80s, the idea of a white picket fance and a family,'” Harris says. “The beautiful thing about 2013 is that those are things that are now available for gay people, but in the 80s there was an idea that you were giving up an entire lifestyle choice.”
“When shooting the pilot, I thought ‘Okay, I’ll have him realize he’s gay
in episode 2 or 3,'” Harris tells us. “Once we were shooting the pilot, and I was watching
Brendon in the part, I realized that this is 1984. He’s a kid who is
from a pretty waspy family that has some pretty
high expectations about who they think he’s going to be. And for some
degree, Walt has expectations for who he’s going to be.”
Harris decided to slow down the story. Walt knows that his feelings for Maggie aren’t what they “should” be at this point in their relationship, but he’s not ready to label himself as gay quite yet. Before Walt even approaches the idea of coming out to his friends and family, he’s got to figure out who he is. “Right now he’s uable to admit it, even to himself,” says Harris. “There are moments where he feels like he’s close to admitting it in some way, and then he pulls back.”
Walt certainly doesn’t have an easy journey ahead of him, but neither do the people closest to him.
“What he does to Maggie in the process
is pretty terrible,” Harris admits. “Maggie is the opposite side of the Samantha coin –
she uses sex to feel love and intimacy, and she always finds it lacking.
She’s picked a guy who always makes her feel lacking, but she doesn’t
understand why, and he doesn’t understand
why either. It’s not intentional.”
Naturally, Walt will begin to have feelings for someone else. “That’s the interesting journey. It’s
not ‘Oh, I’m gay, I want to go out and have sex with another guy,’ it’s
‘The people that I feel closest to, most intimate and romantic towards
are men.’ In the 80s that was a very scary thing
to think about. There was a life that you were having to say goodbye
to,” says Harris.
Luckily, Walt will have a friend to turn to. After all, “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw was a gay icon, and her younger self has all the makings. “She’s now got
this other world that’s teaching her some
things. She saw two guys kissing, she’s going to meet some of Larissa’s
friends who are gay. She’s going to start putting it together and for
sure, she’s going to be someone who Walt can lean on,” Harris says.