If you're a fan of Murder She Wrote and have a yen for big, hairy, gay guys, Where the Bears Are might be the show for you. Now preparing to shoot its third season, real life bear pals Ben Zook, Joe Dietl and Rick Copp are the stars, and the creative team behind this light, funny look at at three beefy LA guys who solve murders while they search for Mr. Right!
The guys engage in some of the wittiest banter this side of The Golden Girls. Co-star Rick Copp wrote many of the Bears' scripts. Copp knows a thing or two about comedy: his many credits include authoring the screenplay for The Brady Bunch Movie (1995). He even worked on The Golden Girls, which is one of Bear' influences. The Los Angeles resident chatted with SF Weekly about his furry offspring.
SF Weekly: Tell us where this idea came from?
Copp: Ben Zook, Joe Dietl and I have been friends for years and we always wanted to do a creative project together. Our backgrounds are all in comedy so we knew we wanted it to be funny. We all love The Golden Girls and in fact I was a writer on that show when I was 24. We decided to fashion our characters to some degree after Dorothy, Blanche and Rose. Once we figured out the tag line "It's The Golden Girls meets Murder She Wrote, but with big, beefy, hairy gay men," we were off and running!
Weekly: Can you describe the premise in greater detail, and the lead characters?
Copp: Ben, Joe and I play roommates in Silverlake (Los Angeles), which is on the east side of town and has a very hipster vibe to it, though we are far from that!
Ben plays neurotic, aspiring actor Nelson. Joe plays the dumb but adorable former Colt model Wood, and I play Reggie, and acerbic and biting true crime writer.
In the first season, we meet Hot Toddy, a young muscle club bartender, and because we're so much like The Golden Girls, he's become our "Hot Sophia." We've introduced a number of fan favorites who we love bringing back, including Detective Winters with the Tom Selleck mustache. We also have the incredibly sexy Detective Martinez, Cyril, the serial killer, hunky county coroner's assistant Hairy Potter, obsessed Wood fan George Ridgemont, and so many more.
Weekly: What were the front burner story lines of the first two seasons?
Copp: The bears discover a naked, dead body in the bathtub and become suspects after his death is ruled a homicide. They spend the rest of the season following clues in the hope of clearing their names.We had a Jagged Edge type subplot in which Reggie and Wood suspected Nelson's new boyfriend Hot Toddy of being the killer, but when it turned out he wasn't, he moved in with us!
Weekly: And season two?
Copp: In the second season, Reggie stumbled upon the body of a former college friend at his own political fundraiser, which was essentially a bear pool party. He's driven to solve the murder of his buddy in addition to getting another book deal writing about the crime. I loved my story arc in season two because I had a very handsome love interest.
Weekly: What has the response been? Is it an audience of bears, or has their been crossover?
Copp: We've been floored and humbled by the responses we've gotten from fans. A lot of them say they relate to the characters and I love when they say they would love to be part of our group and hang out with us.
There has definitely been a lot of crossover. We have many gay friendly straight fans who just enjoy the comedy or the murder mystery. Our show has very gay humor and themes but we try to make it accessible to everyone. So far it seems to be working.
Weekly: Is it difficult for bear type actors to get cast in Hollywood?
Copp: I think bear type actors are in demand, but if you identify the character as a "gay bear" then it becomes a whole different thing. Some network comedies focus on the stereotype of what they think a bear is, We try hard on our show to do a comedy murder mystery about a group of friends who just happen to be bears. We don't make a big deal about it.
Weekly: What was been the response from real bears?
Copp: Overwhelmingly positive. Without the fan support of bears, we would not be on the cusp of shooting our third season.
Weekly: And now you're turning to the fans for help, yes?
Copp: We have just finished our Kickstarter campaign and we are thrilled to have met our budget goals thanks solely to our fans. We are in pre-production now and hope to start shooting in early April. We still have a lot of casting and location scouting to do before we're camera ready. We hope to post the first episode in early August. Once again the show will post new episodes on Mondays and Thursdays for the run of the third season.
Episodes, and DVDs, of the first two seasons of Where the Bears Are can be found at wherethebearsare.tv