The ABC Family television channel is pushing the boundaries and redefining what a normal family looks like with its new show, “The Fosters.” And actress Sherri Saum, who stars in the show, thinks it’s about time.
The show, produced by Jennifer Lopez, premiered on Monday, June 3, and stars Ms. Saum as Lena Adams, one of two gay moms, who together are raising a multi-ethnic family.
“It is groundbreaking in the landscape of TV as we know it,” Ms. Saum said during a phone interview last Wednesday during a break in shooting in Los Angeles. “But families like this exist, it’s time we caught up with that reality.”
With the prominence of the LGBT movement pushing for marriage equality rights in 2013, it is almost surprising that this is the first show about a bi-racial, lesbian couple, she added. “I was wondering if ABC Family would sugarcoat it, but we definitely push boundaries, and present it as real as we possibly can,” she said.
Sexuality aside, Ms. Saum’s role as Lena Adams is not a far cry from her personality in real life. The transition from Lena back to Sherri is a seamless one, as the character is loving and family oriented, and so is she, the actress said.
“I get to go from one family to the next,” she said. “I slipped into the skin of the character really easily,” she said.
When she learned that she had landed the role, at first she panicked for a minute, worrying about how to play a lesbian. But Ms. Saum said she quickly threw her fears out the window and just “grounded the character in love.”
The former soap opera star is married to Kamar de los Reyes, her former “One Life to Live” cast mate. The couple lives to travel, the actress said, and one of their favorite destinations is Montauk. They go back and forth from Los Angeles to Manhattan frequently, and on “lucky weekends” they get to stay with friends at The End.
“We actually do a lot of barbecuing and just enjoy the weather,” she reported when asked about her favorite East End activities.
Ms. Saum hopes to find time in her busy schedule of filming “The Fosters” to make a trip out east this summer. Once, the actress said that she even took a commercial audition in New York just to have an excuse to get out here during the summer.
“I didn’t get the job,” she said through laughs, which was fine because that wasn’t the real goal of her trip.
Ms. Saum said that her television character has a soft spot for helping kids in need. She brings home a new foster child, Callie, who is played by Maia Mitchell, a tough teenager with a rough past, without consulting her partner, Stef Foster, who is played by Teri Polo.
In real life Ms. Saum’s friend Karen Osborn founded Kusewera, a Malawi-based charity that empowers children through active and creative play. The actress helps raise money and awareness about the organization whenever she can, she said.
“Its a great example of how one person can change a kid’s life for the better,” she added, drawing a similar comparison to the intended effect of “The Fosters.”
“No matter how familiar you are with ABC Family I think everyone will be surprised by what they get out of the show,” she said. “It’s really entertaining.”
“The Fosters” airs on Mondays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family. For more information, visit abcfamily.go.com.