Gene Simmons of "Gene Simmons' Family Jewels"
Following my post about the wrenching premiere of “Gene Simmons
Family Jewels” (A&E, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST), executive producers Adam Freeman and Adam Reed contacted HitFix to give their first interview since the episode aired. They talked candidly about, well, the show everyone’s talking about, answering questions about whether or not they saw the split between Gene Simmons and Shannon Tweed
coming, what they think the end result will be and (yes) what they have to say to people who think it’s all fake.
Some people have posted comments stating that they absolutely believe what they saw in the premiere, while some feel exactly the opposite. What do you say to that?
Freeman: I direct all the episodes, so I practically live with them. I can attest that it's very real. As far as the people who doubt, everybody's welcome to their opinion. But putting the success of the show aside for a second and just as a human being, I wish it wasn't true. We really care for them… I mean, my kids call them Aunt Shannon and Uncle Gene
Reed: It's a very difficult rollercoaster ride for us. And producing is only half of it. As human beings, it's hard to ride the ups and downs of this when we're so close.
Did you see the split between Gene and Shannon coming?
Freeman: This is something that's been touched on in previous episodes, but it's always been laughed off. I think what we watched with Shannon is we saw the cumulative effect of 27, 28 years come to a head. I don't think it was any one thing, but I think Sophie leaving for college had a lot to do with it. There are points in your life when you stop and reevaluate.
Reed: Nick and Sophie are out of the house, and it's just Shannon and Gene there. And I think that in itself brings up a lot of feelings that, with the kids in the house, maybe weren’t addressed. And for the people who don't believe it's real, it's impossible to write the stuff that's happening in their lives right now. It's heartbreaking for us at times.
During the premiere, we see the crew exit when Shannon starts breaking down. Is there an unspoken rule as to when you guys put the cameras away?
Freeman: No, because we had never experienced that before. When she broke down like that, what you don't hear, because I don't wear a microphone, is me saying, “Okay, everybody out.” However open they are and however welcoming they are in their lives, it didn't feel right.
Reed: There are moments as producers when we do have to step back and cut the cameras and let them do what they need to do. But to their credit, Gene and Shannon are letting us see this process in the hopes it can help someone else, no matter how all this turns out.
But surely you got some pushback from them? It can’t be easy to have your life fall apart in front of the cameras.
Freeman: There were times when I would get a phone call, “We’re not shooting today.” And how do you argue with that? “I know your life is falling apart, but I'm on a schedule and a budget here”? You roll with it. We're not an exploitive train wreck show.
By now everyone’s seen the footage of their uncomfortable interviews on “Today” and on Joy Behar’s HLN show, during which Shannon walked out. Some people felt that had to be acting.
Freeman: I got a text from Shannon saying, “This is bullshit; I just walked off The Joy Behar show.” People want their celebrities to be human, but when they act human they call bullshit. So people ask why she would walk off, but when you're going through something traumatic, there are moments throughout the day when you pull yourself together and there are times when your boyfriend tells a penis joke on The Joy Behar Show and you want to just scream and punch a wall. And instead she excused herself.
Reed: When we saw it on the Internet, it was like seeing your parents or your friends fighting in front of you. We are that close to them, and that's why it's tough for us.
What does all of this mean for the future of the show?
Reed: There haven't been negotiations, because we as a company and A&E realize this is their lives. You'd have to be real cold hearted to sit down with them with a speadsheet and say, “Your relationship has cost us X amount of dollars.” But this is why we're late going to air, because we were giving them space and it took longer to get material in the can. And no one's going to tell Shannon Tweed and Gene Simmons what to do and when to do it.
What do they think about the premiere?
Reed: To their credit, they've been real troopers since this aired. They knew that people would have feelings about it. What's great for them more than anything has been the outpouring of support for the family. It’s been phenomenal.
What’s coming up on the show? Is the whole series about Shannon and Gene’s breakup?
Freeman: This season we have one of the most emotional shows that we've ever filmed. Gene's entire life has been defined by his dad abandoning him when he was seven and growing up an only child and having to raise himself. Shannon was talking to Gene's mom and found out that Gene is not an only child. Sometimes it’s the people who love you who know what’s best for you, and Shannon arranges something in Israel that really changes Gene's life.
Okay, tell the truth. Do you think Gene and Shannon can work things out?
Freeman: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they truly love each other and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in the end they really want the same thing. All we can do is love and support them as they try to get to that place together.
Reed: Suffice it to say, it's going to be a roller coaster of a season.