‘Good Trouble’ EP Joanna Johnson Talks Spotlighting More ‘Fluid’ Sexualities

Freeform/Matt Petit
Joanna Johnson

The February 19 episode of Freeform’s Good Trouble, titled “Swipe Right,” is a bit of a departure from past installments, says series creator/executive producer Joanna Johnson. Callie (Maia Mitchell), Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), and their new pals are headed for some good fun as they make some surprising love connections while out at a bar.

Read on as Johnson explains why Callie and Mariana were chosen as the characters to be spun off from The Fosters and the theme of Good Trouble’s freshman season. TV Insider threw a few questions to the actress-turned-producer/writer about her days on Bold and the Beautiful as ingenue Caroline Forrester and later, her twin, Karen. Plus, find out which cast member from the CBS soap might be popping up on Good Trouble in a behind-the-scenes capacity!

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The actresses also preview the 'Imposter' episode, in which Mariana and Callie face romantic and professional challenges.

Before we get into tonight’s episode, why were the characters of Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) chosen for the spinoff?

Joanna Johnson: We know Freeform targets females so it made sense to choose Maia and Cierra. They have such a great dynamic. They’re different and they’re best friends in real life. They have a wonderful, great chemistry.

Why choose downtown Los Angeles for the show’s locale?

I wanted to set the show there because I don’t think there aren’t any shows set there. I didn’t want it to be a show about the business or be set in Hollywood. We’d done the beach and San Diego with The Fosters. Downtown LA has become so vibrant. Many people are living there now.

Steven Krueger, Alisa Allapach, Cierra Ramirez in the “Swipe Right” episode on February 19 (Freeform/Mitch Haaseth)

The “Swipe Right” episode presents characters in same-sex relationships, three-ways, and other dynamics not always seen on TV. Can you talk about Freeform’s support with all this?

Freeform is tremendously supportive. They’ve been pushing the envelope in their shows for a long time with social issues and with what’s happening now. People now aren’t so stringent in their definition of their sexuality. They’re more fluid and are open to new experiences.

Davia (Emma Hunt) doesn’t hit it off initially with her date Paul (Joe Burke), but all that takes a surprising turn when she realizes her boyfriend Jeff (Chris Sheffield) is in town, but isn’t making time for her.

Yes. She’s having an affair with this married man, who said he wasn’t coming to Los Angeles, but she found out on social media he was hanging out with his ‘bros’ at a basketball game. She felt hurt by that. People aren’t smart about social media. They don’t know who’s seeing their posts. People have alerts and can set notifications. You can’t lie anymore.

The Good Trouble cast (Freeform/Gus&Lo)

What are you exploring on Good Trouble that you didn’t tackle on The Fosters?

Our show is heavily LGBTQ. We were bringing two straight characters over to the spinoff. We didn’t want to do the same stories we’d done before on The Fosters. One thing we hadn’t explored a lot was bisexuality and the fact that a lot of people don’t believe that people, especially men, can be bisexual. Men who are bisexual face a lot of stigma. Some say, ‘Oh, you just can’t come out of the closet.’ They don’t believe you can [be attracted] to both sexes.

This is especially true when you see someone like Tommy [Martinez, who plays Gael Martinez], who is [both] masculine and feminine. He’s soft but he’s masculine. He’s sensitive. There is masculinity in bisexuality [and] homosexuality. It doesn’t have to be one way or the other. People have this [one] idea of what a gay man or a gay woman should be and it’s just not true.

Which shows do you think paved the way for the content you can address and deliver on Good Trouble? The L Word? Queer As Folk?

Those shows, yes. I don’t know that they reached a huge audience because they weren’t on network television. Will & Grace, The Fosters – any show that had a huge LGBTQ audience [helped pave the way]. A lot of cable shows can only reach a certain amount of people. The network shows can reach more.

What is the arc or theme of this first season?

It’s about what happens when you leave college. You think you’re going to conquer the world and then the world slaps you in the face. It’s not as easy as you think it’s going to be. A lot of millennials are facing that. They can’t get jobs in their fields and they’re in debt. Nobody’s ready for them to come in and rock their world. People say to them, ‘Hey, you might have been a superstar in college, but here, you’re getting coffee. You’re starting at the bottom.’ It’s about struggle. It’s about identity, asking, ‘Who am I? What am I? Who are the family and friends that I’m going to have?’

Roger Bart doesn’t appear in this episode. Tell me about his character.

He plays Judge Wilson, a conservative, but he doesn’t see himself that way. They have an interesting dynamic. He’s brilliant and amazing because he’s just brilliant in everything he does. Roger’s a brilliant comedian so this role is something different for him.

This episode tonight is very peculiar and very different. I want the show to be serious and then funny. I don’t want people to know exactly what each episode will bring.

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The actress teases 'The Fosters' spinoff as we head into the first season.

Who from B&B are you still in touch with?

Susan Flannery (ex-Stephanie) and I are very good friends. She’s great. Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) and I will text each other, but I haven’t seen her in a while. Also, Heather Tom (Katie) has shadowed our directors. I’m hoping to give her an episode at some point to direct. She’s really talented. She’s done some wonderful shorts and has directed at B&B.

For B&B’s 20th anniversary, fans selected as their all-time favorite moment the “charm bracelet” scene in which Caroline learned Ridge (then Ronn Moss) had discovered that she was dying.

It was a wonderful story. [Bill] Bell did it great. I’m bummed that they don’t call me anymore to play Karen, but I guess there’s not as much reason to anymore.

Ronn Moss (as Ridge Forrester) and Joanna Johnson (as Caroline Spencer) in The Bold and the Beautiful in 1990 (CBS via Getty Images)

Speaking of calling home, it’s only natural to do that when things don’t work out after you’ve moved to a new city. How tempting is it to have Callie and Mariana call home a lot or even go back for a visit?

They have each other for support, and Teri [Polo, Stef] and Sherri [Saum, Lena] came on in Episode 5. Hayden [Byerly, Jude] was in episode two. It’s very organic when family members visit. We want the whole family to come on as much as they can.

Good Trouble, Tuesdays, 8/7c, Freeform