HBO’s Big Love Parallels Polygamist Jeffs’ Plight
Creators Olsen, Sheffer Closely Followed Trial of Warren Jeffs
By B&C Staff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/30/2007 8:01:00 PM
You can bet Mark V. Olsen and Will Sheffer were paying attention last week when polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was convicted as an accomplice to rape for performing a marriage between a 19-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl.
Olsen and Sheffer, the creators of HBO’s polygamist drama,Big Love, have monitored the Jeffs story all along, given how eerily it has played out alongside the series’ first two seasons.
When Jeffs became an FBI fugitive in spring 2006, just as Big Love was closing out its first season, Olsen and Sheffer decided to write in an off-camera story line for season two involving the FBI pursuit, arrest and trial of Orlean Abbot -- an even creepier fundamentalist leader than the show’s Roman Grant (played by Harry Dean Stanton).
“We were worried that the [Jeffs] situation might have led to a Waco-kind of shootout, and so we wanted to somehow protect ourselves in case that came to pass,” Olsen told B&C. “If we’re all like cotton-candy-and-caramel-corn in the suburbs and then this horrific incident happens, even if it’s a totally different scale, it’s kind of like the problems that Sex and the City faced after 9/11.”
Although Jeffs has been convicted, his story will continue to reverberate in the show’s third season, which begins production in November.
“We’re going to start out our season with Orlean Abbot having been convicted pretty much of the Warren Jeffs crimes,” Olsen said.
Olsen and Sheffer added that Big Love will return to Sunday nights for season three. The drama was moved to Mondays last season in order to give John from Cincinnati a comfy post-Sopranos berth, then it closed out the season on Sundays after John ended its run. An HBO spokesperson said the schedule has yet to be finalized but Big Love's return to Sundays is a "likely scenario."
Thanks to their attention to detail in depicting both the seamy and sympathetic aspects of polygamy, Olsen and Sheffer said they frequently hear from polygamist fans of the show.
“Their common complaints are twofold,” Olsen said, “too much sex and not enough prayer.”
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