PaleyFest 2014: ‘HIMYM,’ ‘PLL’ and More!

For those of us who love, love, love television, one of the high points of the year is the Paley Center For Media’s PaleyFest, which kicked off last week in Hollywood at the Dolby Theater.

Through March 28th, popular series like “Mad Men,” “Parks & Recreation,” “Sleepy Hollow,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Veep” and “American Horror Story:Coven” are celebrated with cast and creator panels. And, to make it even easier for those outside of Los Angeles, the panels are viewable live on Livestream and there’s also a free PaleyFest app for download.

I attended several of the events this weekend and found some LGBT tidbits about some of your favorite shows.

Ashley Benson & Shay Mitchell (Kevin Parry/Paley Center)

Pretty Little Liars:” The ABC Family thriller wraps up season 4 this Tuesday night so it was a perfect time for the Liars, their men and the writing team that spins the fabulous yarn to be celebrated at a panel at Sunday’s PaleyFest 2014.

Besides becoming one of the most-tweeted-about shows on the air, the series also had one of the main characters, Shay Mitchell’s Emily, come out of the closet and have relationships without ever holding back. In fact, Emily’s recent break-up with her girlfriend Paige (Lindsey Shaw) is one of the cliffhangers but, I found out, we’ll have to wait until the new season to find out what happens next with the fractured same-sex couple.

On the red carpet before the panel, I asked series creator I. Marlene King if we’d be seeing any gay dudes in Rosewood in the new season and she told me, “Yes! Yes! We finally are bringing a gay male onto the show.” And, as if reading my mind, she added, “I’m sure he’ll be hot.”

While the new character, who will be a student, has yet to be named, King (who is out as is fellow Exec Producer Oliver Goldstick), did say, “We know what his role on the show is going to be and we’re excited to see how he’s going to shake things up.” (The “Pretty Little Liars” fourth season finale airs Tuesday at 8pm on ABC Family.)

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Laverne Cox (Kevin Parry/Paley Center)

“Orange Is The New Black:” The Netflix female prison drama doesn’t come back for its second season until June 6th but the cast and creator Jenji Kohan was present Friday night to talk about the popularity of last year’s first season as well as teased what’s to come once new episodes drop.

The show definitely has a gay sensibility with a lesbian love affair between main characters Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) but there’s also transgender character Sophia, played by Laverne Cox.

While on the surface, “OITNB” may look like a different show with such a diverse cast, creator Jenji Kohan said during the panel that she doesn’t see it that way. “You can’t view [the cast diversity] as tokenism,” she said. “You have to see them as people…it’s a naturalistic world and in the world there are all sizes and colors and ages.”

And while the series is based on Piper Kerman's book of the same name, Kohan also explained why the series is quite different from it's original source. "Truthfully, when we started season one, on the second or third day we got a call from legal that said 'you can't use any of the characters in the book except Piper. She's the only one who signed the release.' Very quickly, we'd taken some details from the book but quickly it became its own animal and really created these characters and plot just from people we knew or wanted to know more about."

Also during the panel, Cox marveled at the way the show has gotten people talking. "It's important that we talk about the conversations that this show has sparked," she said to the audience. "There have been so many conversations about prison rights and who's in prison and why are people in prison and maybe we need some prison reform in this country." She added, specifically for the trans community, "a lot of folks are having a lot of conversations about trans people that they weren't having before the show, amazing conversations about diversity and a lot of important things that we need to be talking about."

Neil Patrick Harris via Skype (Kevin Parry/Paley Center)

How I Met Your Mother:” While not known for it, the sitcom, which only has 3 episodes left to air before it ends its series run, does have some gay elements in that Wayne Brady (who moderated the Paley panel) pops up on occasion as the gay brother to Barney Stinson.  Stinson, of course, happens to be played by out actor Neil Patrick Harris and provides a great example of an out actor being able to play a heterosexual character – a shameless womanizer in this case – to great success both critically and by viewers.

Harris is currently in New York City deep in rehearsals for the Broadway revival of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”  but Skyped in during the panel to send his wishes to his colleagues on “HIMYM” and the fans that showed up for the series final Paley panel.

As for what will come in the end of the long-running series, the panel kept any big secrets quiet but all contend that fans will be satisfied with the ending on March 31st.

For more on PaleyFest 2014’s schedule or watching any of the panels via Livestream, visit the website

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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