'The New Normal': Justin Bartha on tonight's ep on Boy Scout gay ban
NBC’s The New Normal definitely does not shy away from tackling social issues and, in tonight’s episode, the Ryan Murphy-Ali Adler comedy takes on the Boy Scouts and their ban on gay members. It’s a timely topic — Madonna just criticized the organization’s policy a few weeks ago at the GLAAD Media Awards in New York (and even dressed up in a Scout uniform).
Normal approaches the controversy from the perspective of Justin Bartha’s David. “David is an Eagle Scout and you’re an Eagle Scout for life,” says Bartha. “Since they’re having a boy, he is very much interested in looking back at his time with the Boy Scouts and kind of getting back into it because he’s very proud of his membership and what he learned. Then, that current topic of sexuality within the Boy Scouts is raised. But it’s not dealt with in a preachy way. It’s brought up and it’s open for a conversation as hopefully the show will be.” EW talked to Bartha about the hot-button episode.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are the Boy Scouts aware of this episode?
JUSTIN BARTHA: I’m not sure if we’ve reached out. But I don’t think they have actually seen the episode. I think we touch on the topic in a responsible and interesting way. We’re very proud of this episode and I think it embodies what we like to do with the show.
The show touches on a lot of social issues, like gay issues and race. How do you tackle these topics without being preachy?
I think one of the criticisms of our show from some people is we can come across a little preachy sometimes. Personally, I don’t think we are. I think we’ve always shown both sides of the coin. It just so happens that the main characters of the show are gay and liberal. The point of the show is how these guys evolve through their relationship with the very diverse people that are now in their lives, including a single mother from the Midwest, her very conservative grandmother, a female African-American colleague.
I think the main concept of the show is to see how we evolve through other people’s points of view and there’s no right way to do anything. Like with this Boy Scout episode, the obvious instinct is that obviously the gay couple or gay man will absolutely disagree that they are not approving of homosexuality. But then you see that he comes into contact with another gentleman and has just as different and valid point of view.
Yes. We try to do it in an intelligent, very funny, and provocative way, which is ultimately really the wheelhouse of what we’d like the show to be. This is an episode that, right away from the second that everyone read the script, we were all very excited to shoot and we’re very proud of the result.
We didn’t want it to be a trite telling of just a liberal point of view. We wanted it to be very thought-provoking, moving, and funny. I think this was a topic that was very much on everyone’s mind.
On a lighter note: Are you an outdoorsy fella? There’s a quick montage of David doing Scout stuff and it looks believable.
We did have an Eagle Scout on set and we made sure everything was done exactly how an Eagle Scout would do it, down to where we’d wear the sash. We like accuracy as much as possible on the show. I am personally a Jew, so I tend to hire people to do outdoorsy stuff. I’m more of a guy that hires someone to pitch a tent and then I order tent service.
But in all seriousness, I do love outdoorsy stuff. Personally, I went camping very recently on New Year’s. I’ve thought about this a lot, because one day if I’m lucky enough to have children, you have to make those choices. I would absolutely want my child to be part of an organization like the Boy Scouts. On the other hand, I can’t necessarily condone it if their values don’t promote equality.
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