It started in Cannes. Vancouver-based TV producers Rob Bromley and John Ritchie were at a TV conference cocktail party when they noticed KISS front man Gene Simmons and his Canadian-born Playboy alumna wife Shannon Tweed.
“There was nobody else talking to them; they were kind of sitting off to the side. I always liked their show Family Jewels,” says Mr. Ritchie, executive producer at Force Four Entertainment. “So we just went over and started chatting.”
The rest is history – or at least, a new reality TV series. Shannon & Sophie – about Ms. Tweed and her aspiring actor/singer daughter Sophie Tweed-Simmons. It premieres May 20 on W Network.
Among the season one plotlines: “Shannon bets Gene she won’t shop all weekend, and Sophie swears off first dates. But the gals make it harder on themselves when they head for Whistler …”
The show is shot partly in Whistler, where they own a home, and metro Vancouver, where Sophie lends her name to a child advocacy centre in Surrey, Sophie’s Place. The Globe and Mail reached them in Toronto.
Why did you go with a Canadian production company?
ST: They asked me. That basically was it. A funner story was I was in Cannes at the film festival and I met John Ritchie from Force Four and it came up that I was unemployed. So he took the idea to the W Network and they liked the idea and then I roped Sophie into it and the idea took off.
I’m curious about why you would want to open your life to the cameras, and then what that in turn does to your life.
ST: It’s always been open, so it’s not new for us. And what it does is it enables us to have a platform for what we might want to do, or what we might want to talk about – for instance Sophie’s charity.
So Sophie, for you, is this show – or Family Jewels before that – helpful for your career?
STS: No, not really. I guess with music it kind of helps because I have the platform to get my music heard. But with acting, casting directors already have a preconceived notion of who you are because they’ve seen you already playing yourself. So I walk in and they kind of think like, ‘Oh she’s on TV; she thinks she’s going to get this role; I’ll show her.’
If you’re trying to be a serious actress and start a career, could being on a reality TV show in fact hurt that?
STS: Yeah, definitely. I mean sometimes I walk into casting and they’ve only let me in because they’re a fan, and they just talk to me about my life. It’s like when I go on a date with a guy and all they do is ask me about my dad.
Speaking of dates, I saw the first episode in which you and your date walk in on your parents getting it on in the house. I’m curious: To what degree are the situations planned out?
STS: Walking in on my parents is not new to me, unfortunately.
ST: Oh come on; we never do that. I saw you were gone.
But how much of this is set up or even loosely set up in advance?
ST: I try not to set up my sex life. We weren’t actually doing it. We were just snuggling.
STS: To answer your question, we have to pre-clear a lot of things like locations and people.
Do you find yourself being a slave to the camera in some way? Okay, we’ve cleared this location so we have to go and do something there?
ST: That’s kind of what you sign on for. But I don’t think it’s called slavery. I think that’s a pretty serious word for what we do. We’re having a lot of fun. And when we do shoot out of the house we obviously have to get permits and permission, so we tend to shoot a lot at home for that reason. It’s easy and fun and mostly we are at home.
Do you guys watch any reality TV?
ST: I do watch a little Kardashians. I like the makeup artist that they wake up with in the morning. And I watch talent shows mostly. Idol and The Voice and so on.
STS: I really like American Pickers where they go through people’s crap.
What do you guys think of the Kardashians? Is that something you’re trying to emulate?
STS: We are definitely not like that. We do not wake up and have our makeup done. We do not have wardrobe people. I think we’re pretty relatable and normal.
ST: I guess [the Kardashian show] is like a car accident. You can’t help watching it. But it’s not, I don’t think, in any way real.
You don’t want people saying that about you guys, right?
ST: They will anyway. You can’t control what people say. It’s fine. You can say whatever you want, [as long as you] watch it. Say that. Say we’re naked on TV on Tuesday nights.