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Washington Blade
by Bill Roundy
April 27, 2001

Laura Innes, who plays Dr. Kerry Weaver on the hit NBC hospital drama ER, says that she was intrigued when producers proposed having her character come out of the closet as a Lesbian.

She first heard about the idea last May, she says, after the last show of the season wrapped, when several of the producers asked to speak with her about the character.

"They were sort of beating around the bush about it, and I said ‘So she’s going to be Gay? Wow. What’s going to happen?’" she says, adding, "They weren’t going to do this unless I was entirely behind it."

Innes says she thought the idea was interesting and supported the development.
"What we try to do first and foremost are stories that are interesting and entertaining," she says. "And personally, I’m interested in issues of tolerance."
She did some research by talking with Lesbian doctors at a San Francisco hospital, who confirmed that they faced prejudice in the medical community. She also read a collection of coming-out stories and memoirs from married women who had come out later in life.

Dr. Weaver, in her first relationship with another woman, has taken a glacially slow pace in coming out to herself, and has told almost no other character on the show. After first denying her attraction, she went on several dates with Dr. Kim Legaspi (Elizabeth Mitchell). Even though she is seeing a woman, Weaver has failed to speak up when she overhears homophobic comments among colleagues. Even when Legaspi was accused of sexually harassing a teenage Lesbian patient, Weaver refused to come to her defense for fear of outing herself.

"To me, that felt very authentic," says Innes. "For someone who, at this stage of their life is just finding this out about themselves, it’s a very slow sort of process -- having the feelings, making overtures to another person, seeing how those are received, defining yourself privately, defining yourself publicly.
"And," she adds, "it’s how you work on a serial TV show -- you kind of dole things out."

Innes says that she would like the show to explore some of the problems that same-sex couples deal with, including the difficulty in getting society to recognize even long-term relationships.

"I hope we continue to explore the issue in a way that feels honest," she says. "I think we do a very mainstream show, and we’re doing a story that is kind of new for a lot of our watchers."

Innes says that despite the controversial topic, she has not gotten any negative reaction from fans.

"I personally have gotten a lot of very positive mail from people who are very happy to have their stories shown on television," she says. "I know that there are people who are upset -- or I imagine there are -- but I haven’t heard from them."
ER executives are wary of revealing any information about upcoming episodes, but Innes says her character’s orientation will feature more prominently in the next few weeks.

"Basically, Legaspi comes back to the hospital, and again I’m put in this position as to whether or not I’m going to defend her -- and I do," she reveals. "There’s more meat to the story."

"I’ve really enjoyed how it’s progressed," Innes summarizes. "For this character it’s interesting to really pull the rug out from under her, because she’s so in control … and the actor who plays Legaspi is wonderful, and that makes it fun."

ER airs Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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