Liz Tigelaar of “Life Unexpected” and her Inspiration

WASHINGTON— Liz Tigelaar is one of the most well-known screenwriters and producers in Hollywood. She has written episodes for “Dawson’s Creek” and “Melrose Place” and is also an author of books for young people.

Tigelaar’s latest project is “Life Unexpected,” which airs Monday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern on the CW. She is creator and executive producer of the drama.

“Life Unexpected” is about “Lux,” a foster child who reconnects with her birth parents and finds they have more growing up to do than she does.

Social workers are often at the forefront of helping foster children get counseling, find homes and navigate life after they age out of the system. So talked to Tigelaar about what motivated her to create “Life Unexpected,” which premiered this month and is already getting favorable reviews. is a National Association of Social Workers Web site designed to get social workers talking about and influencing how they are depicted on television, in movies, and in the news. Social workers also use the Web site to discuss how issues they care about are portrayed in the media.

Here’s our interview with Tigelaar:

Q: What prompted you to do a series on a foster child?  Were you a foster child yourself?

A: I wasn’t in foster care myself, but growing up as an adopted kid I was always kind of interested in that subject –foster care, orphanages, etc.  I really wanted to tell a story about a kid who never had a permanent home, who never felt truly settled or wanted.  I felt so wanted by my parents [my adoptive parents] and havestill dealt with feelings of rejection and abandonment, of holding on to people so tightly, being fearful that they’ll leave. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I never truly felt wanted.  So that’s the story I wanted to tell: a story of a girl who didn’t feel wanted and never had parents and basically was in this world alone.

Additionally, I feel like there isn’t much of a voice for foster kids, for what they have to endure, for what they have to go through at such a young age. I know we do the TV version of it but I thought it was a group that was underrepresented.

Q: What issues and experiences will “Lux” have in the opening episodes?

I think one of the biggest things is feeling torn.  She’s been put back in the custody of great people (maybe not great parents yet but great people) while her friends have not.  Tasha is still in foster care or at a group home, while Bug and Gavin have aged out of the system but have little support.  The four of them were supposed to be a family together but now Lux has a new one.  I think she feels incredibly guilty, not wanting to pass up this opportunity but also not wanting to leave them behind.

Q: Social workers often work with foster children.  Did you consult with social workers or other professionals when developing the series?

A: Yes, absolutely.  We certainly check with experts on everything but sometimes there are conflicting opinions or different states have different ways of doing things.  To me, it’s the foster care element that makes this show so unique so it’s important that we’re able to tell those stories in a way that’s palatable for a CW show and our audience while being true to reality.  I will say that the stories that involve foster care are some of the stories that touch me the most.  Look for a story in the seventh episode between Lux and Tasha that just breaks my heart.

For more information on how social workers help children in foster care, check out the National Association of Social Workers “Help Starts Here” Adoptions and Foster Care Web page:

Updated 01-26-2010

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