Dark Angel’s Valarie Rae Miller on the show’s fight for queer representation

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The two-hour pilot of Dark Angel cost $10 million, a staggering number for network TV at the time, but a lot went into creating a darkly futuristic Seattle set in Vancouver, where the show filmed. It’s where the cast would bond, where storylines would be hammered out, and where Miller realized the show she had just signed onto was going to be different from anything else on television.

Miller: It, was one of the projects that I worked on, on TV, where, from the moment I read the first script, I was hooked. I would have watched the show regularly. You know what I mean? And for me, Jessica just reminded me of a little sister. They made us do something that they almost never do anymore, which is an actual chemistry test. That’s how I got the job. That is why I was cast because after you saw Jessica and me together, there was no question. Jessica and I were probably the two closest [members of the cast]. She would try to make sure and look out for me, but you would want to take care of Jessica, that’s how I felt about her. They worked that girl. She had no life outside of there.

For [my character] though, it was always a fight. I thought it was cool to have someone that was a lesbian at the time because they had never had a lesbian character on a primetime series that was a major character. And [the story] didn’t make a big deal out of it. It just was. Even though it was handled that way initially, it was a big point of contention at the network and among producers. So, Charles Eglee, Chick was what everybody called him, was the one that fought for Original Cindy to be a lesbian. He basically declared war with Fox. Which ultimately became some of the undoing of the show.

Sometimes you pick your battles, but Chick just didn’t give a f***. There were memos that came out weekly about the show. I definitely was the character that got the most notes from the network. Every week, it was something. She can’t wear a crop top. She can’t be this. And then there was one big famous meeting where the network asked Chick why Original Cindy had to be a lesbian. And Chick’s answer? “She’s a lesbian because she only eats p****.” Word it how you have to word it, but that was the quote.

My character was in the crosshairs more than any character. On some level, I feel like Chick would actually antagonize a bit. My character spoke in slang a lot. Sometimes it was too much. I would just go through the script and scratch words out, because [he] was taking Urban Dictionary and just “drop, drop, drop.” Nobody talks like that. I felt like sometimes, that was his way to lean in, to rebel.

We had fights about the lesbian [storyline] too. They brought in the girlfriend for Original Cindy, Diamond, [in] the Shorty’s In Love episode. I got to be present and read with the women they were considering. It’s fascinating to watch their process, to see the logic, because they were doing this stereotype that they do — they wanted the girlfriend to be almost like a carbon copy of Original Cindy. I had problems with it, because you’re saying that because she’s a lesbian, everything about her identity comes from her girlfriend. It’s like you get bit like a vampire. And then all of the sudden you become a vampire. Is that how it works?

That was one of the [fights] I lost.



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