The Real O’Neals, inspired by your youth in Chicago, starts its second season on ABC on October 11. How has it evolved?
The show is very loosely based on an idea I had. The writers went in a very different direction [beyond the basic premise about a Catholic family with a gay son]. More power to them: It’s a very good show. [As an executive producer,] I read scripts occasionally and make a comment—it’s a little bit like being the queen of England.
What has the show accomplished by featuring a gay teenager as the lead character?
If there’s anything that I’m proudest of—and I had nothing to do with this—it’s showing a parent whose kid comes out, and the parent isn’t instantly OK with it. But they’re still able to have a relationship.
Why is it important to show that?
It’s an ABC family comedy. There aren’t terribly high stakes. Nobody’s getting stabbed or thrown out. You don’t see that often. You either see the parent that’s a monster or you see the parent that’s instantly the president of PFLAG.
You’ve been vocally anti-Trump this election. Is there any upside for the LGBTQ community with the rise of transgender and gay Republicans such as Caitlyn Jenner and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel?
Caitlyn Jenner is not very bright, so let’s just set Caitlyn Jenner aside. With Peter Thiel’s libertarian, elite world, there’s room for wealthy gay white men to feel safe from discrimination and violence—he can indulge himself in political fantasies and ignore the world we actually live in. By trotting him out, the Republican Party can say, “We’re not homophobic,” as if the Republican National Committee did not unveil the most anti-LGBT platform in its history.
The election will be a week away when you speak at the Chicago Humanities Festival on October 31. How will you be feeling at that point?
Pessimistic, because I’m Irish Catholic. Before the election I’ll be holding up the sky by being in a white-hot panic that Donald Trump will win. The only thing standing between us and him is my panic.