In its second week, ABC Family’s hot-button drama The Fosters saw a surge in viewership, leading some to ponder whether the controversy surrounding the show was a factor in drawing more eyeballs. The well-reviewed drama about a mixed-race, lesbian couple heading up a family where they are raising one’s biological son, along with a pair of adopted Latino twins and now a troubled foster daughter, drew the ire of conservative groups like One Million Moms for its subject matter. This was no surprise to star Sherri Saum, who plays one of the moms on the show. I talked with her recently about how the Jennifer Lopez-produced drama weathers the storm of criticism, and how she feels that despite claims to the contrary, there’s something in The Fosters that every viewer can relate to.
1. You’re at a magazine rack and can only pick three titles. Which ones do you choose?
Time, Betty & Veronica and O.
2. Your DVR can only carry three shows. Other than The Fosters, which ones would you want?
Reruns of Damages, this BBC series called The Slap and Dateline NBC.
3. What has been your strangest fan encounter?
Someone sent me a turkey baster in the mail one time, and that goes back to a show I did (Sunset Beach) where my love rival, the woman who wanted my husband, tried to impregnate me with a turkey baster with some other man’s sperm in it.
I’m guessing that was a soap opera.
(Laughs) How did you guess? So, yeah, turkey baster is going to follow me throughout my life. Doesn’t matter if I win an Oscar or whatever. I have to embrace it.
4. Tell me about a time when you were starstruck.
I worked on this Showtime series called Beggars and Choosers, this was like 2000, and Bea Arthur guest-starred on our show. I always loved The Golden Girls, and thought she was a supreme comedy actress, supreme actress period. I’d heard some scary stories about her, so I didn’t dare approach her but seeing her in the makeup chair was enough of a thrill.
5. Name three things you must have in your fridge or pantry.
Greek yogurt, rice chips and steak.
6. Jennifer Lopez is the executive producer on The Fosters, and we’ve seen her in some ads. How involved is she in the day-to-day production?
We just met her recently. She came on set and she’s been doing some great promotion for us. But I like what she had to say in one interview when the interviewer asked her if she was planning to make a cameo or act in the show, she really believes in it wholeheartedly and thinks it stands alone and doesn’t need any quote-unquote star power to push it out onto the scene. But I know the fundamentals of this story for her comes from a really personal place, and she wants it to be a show that’s authentic to that inspiration.
7. What do you make of the controversy surrounding The Fosters?
We’ve definitely heard loud and clear from this group One Million Moms and what they think of it, which wasn’t the surprise of the century. But for the most part, overwhelmingly, people are really excited because I think people can tell even just from the short promos that are out there that it isn’t just a show about lesbianism but a show about kids and struggles and issues that we all face. Everyone can find something in this show to relate to. The world has just kind of become a lot more complicated in a lot of ways. This show is going to deal with a lot of those things. The way that kids grow up today is just so different. It’s just a different place now. It just really reflects what’s happening in this world, whether it’s the cyber world, the virtual world, problems kids face at school, problems parents have navigating their children through this new world we live in. I think anybody would find it compelling storytelling.
Photo: © 2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Credit: Andrew Eccles