From 1998 to 2002, a series called Any Day Now captured my devoted attention. It starred Annie Potts as Mary Elizabeth (M.E.) Sims and Lorraine Toussant as Rene Jackson. The two grew up together in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. Despite their difference in race and the upheavals and violence of the civil rights movement swirling all around them, they were best friends.
Lorraine Toussant and Annie Potts in Any Day Now. Image: Lifetime
Years had passed since those childhood days, which we saw in frequent flashbacks. M.E. has been in Birmingham the entire time and has a husband (Chris Mulkey) and kids. She was a housewife and aspiring writer. Rene had been gone, working as an attorney in Washington. She returned to Birmingham after her father's death, and they struck up their old friendship.
Any Day Now was about friendship and marriage and family. It was set in a crucible of the civil rights movement. The reverberations of race and the struggle for equality that affected the two friends' childhoods and continued into their adulthoods made for powerful storytelling. Even though there were heavy themes involved, the stories were told with warmth and understanding.
While I loved it for the characters and the stories, it's safe to say that it was a groundbreaking story of civil rights and race relations. Lorraine Toussant and Annie Potts worked together to weave stories with a message about equality and human rights.
Any Day Now ended over 10 years ago, but this week on ABC Family's series The Fosters, the two actresses will be together again.
The Fosters is about a multiethnic family of foster and biological kids raised by two moms. The moms are Stef Foster (Teri Polo), a police officer, and Lena Adams (Sherri Saum), a vice principal. ABC Family emphasizes the family relationships and downplays the two-mom aspect of this show, presenting it as just another family.
Much as ABC Family doesn't make the lesbian couple the focus of this family drama, there's still the lesbian issue right in your face. And the race issue: Lena is biracial; two of the adopted children are Hispanic. While I love The Fosters for the characters and the stories, it's safe to say that it, too, is a groundbreaking story of civil rights and race relations.
Sherri Saum and Terri Polo
On Monday night on ABC Family, in the season 1 finale of The Fosters, Stef and Lena are getting married. Their parents will be in attendance. Their mothers will be played by Lorraine Toussant and Annie Potts.
On the very day the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the wedding scenes in the series finale were filmed.
When the civil rights struggles began in the '60s, no one knew how long the fight would last or how hard the battles would be. A movement that originated around justice for African Americans has grown to include women's rights and gay rights and encompasses numerous social justice issues. It isn't over. We still struggle, despite all our progress.
It's a long and painful history of struggle and progress that I will remember when I see the wedding of two women on The Fosters. A history that is tangibly tied to the early struggles in Birmingham and the South by the presence of two women who worked on a show called Any Day Now. This episode of The Fosters represents much more than a modern love story. It represents 50 years of the fight for equality in America.
Bravo to ABC Family and The Fosters for pulling these threads together into this powerful television moment with two brilliant casting choices.
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