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Lesbian News
The Case of Dr. Kerry Weaver
Karen Ocamb
May 2001

Laura Innes laughs easily and comfortably. There's no way she's going to divulge what happens next to her character on the hit NBC show ER, no matter how hard a Lesbian News reporter presses. But, the reporter insists, the last we saw of Dr. Kerry Weaver, she chose the cowardice of the closet and betrayed her new psychiatrist girlfriend during a professional crisis. Is the lesbian story line just another plot device to boost ratings?

"This is the tricky part of talking," Innes says in a recent phone interview during her lunch break from directing an upcoming episode of the show. "I can't give away what happens. The story line was done in a way that's organic and was doled out very slowly in little bites. We think that's authentic for this character, that her feelings are very deeply buried or she never felt them. But the story line is not over. Elizabeth (Mitchell, who plays lesbian psychiatrist Dr. Kim Legaspi) is coming back. We're interested in the ache of what somebody's going through. We try to not concern ourselves with what people want us to do.
That's my little dance around that. There's more to come."

But, bearing in mind lesbian invisibility in the media, other than spot jokes, made-for-TV movies and a character on ABC's All My Children, a promise of "more to come" doesn't necessarily mean that Innes' character will eventually come out. And while the wonderful Laura Innes might deserve an Lesbian News cover, does her character?

Innes is sympathetic. But she's also committed to the creative process that has kept this taut TV drama an NBC hit for seven seasons. "I'm straight and I have a lot of gay friends. So I did all this reading about what it was like for a woman my age (42) to start having these feelings. It was sort of like, 'Gee.' It took a long time. There's lots of denial - thoughts like, 'She's my friend. Why does my heart beat faster when I'm with her?' Intricacies like that are more important than feeling sort of obligated to resolve this for any sort of cultural or political motive. We try to be driven by what's a good story, what's truthful, and the drama of what happens next. What's so interesting is that [Weaver's] so controlled and so about work, but suddenly she feels like a teenager. There's such a sweetness that's disarmed Weaver in a way few things could. I'm very happy with that development."

In the context of Weaver's compassionate-but-tough personality, the late discovery of her sexual orientation is grist for the creative mill. Unlike other dramas where a problem is resolved within a specified time frame, ER is a serial character study of a handful of doctors, nurses and support staff whose lives revolve around a county emergency room in Chicago. The show assumes the audience's intelligence and strives to make art imitate life. Intricately interwoven with constant life and death crisis and curve ball plot twists are delicate private moments and nuanced clues about a character's background. The question LGBT viewers ask is: will Weaver be the fictional equivalent of Ellen and Melissa or will she turn out more like Anne and Julie? ...

Laura Innes and Elizabeth Mitchell in the Media

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