Making the Jump From ‘Girlfriends’ to Spouses
Claire Conroy Brown and Karin Gist didn’t think they would become girlfriends in anything but the platonic sense when they met on the set of the TV show “Girlfriends” in 2003. Ms. Brown, then an assistant to the showrunner, and Ms. Gist, a first-time TV writer, were focused on establishing themselves in Hollywood. Both remember a certain chemistry, though.
“There was always something about Claire for me and always something about me for Claire,” said Ms. Gist, 49, the writer/producer of “Our Kind of People,” which premiered in September on Fox. “We hung out all the time.”
After “Girlfriends” ended its eight-season run in 2008, they continued hanging out. While Ms. Brown, 44, racked up credits as an executive producer on series including “The Game,” Ms. Gist wrote and produced episodes of “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” For Ms. Gist, hangouts with Ms. Brown took the edge off Los Angeles.
“We would go to Vegas or hang out at the Abbey (a West Hollywood gay bar),” said Ms. Gist. “Claire was very Scottish at the time. She drank a lot and partied a lot.”
Ms. Brown grew up in Prestwick, Scotland, where she was a star soccer player. At 18, she won a full athletic scholarship to Oregon State University. She graduated with a political science degree, then moved to Los Angeles to find work in the entertainment industry. Ms. Gist spent her early years in Washington. In her early 20s, she was briefly married. “It lasted 16 months,” she said. “If you blinked you would have missed it.”
By the time they started dating in 2018, both had their share of romantic battle scars. So when Ms. Gist announced that year she was going to venture back on dating apps, Ms. Brown offered to write her profile. “We knew each other so well,” she said. But Ms. Gist had a counteroffer. “I said, ‘How about if I’m still single in a year, we start dating?’” Less than a week later, they had their first kiss.
On Oct. 7, at SoHo House in West Hollywood, “we had one of those brunches that last all day,” Ms. Gist said. “By the time we left it was just the two of us, and they were turning out the lights like, ‘Can you please leave?’” Later, both had the date tattooed on the inside of their wrists. Each had been waylaid by love.
“We had been logical about these feelings we had until then,” Ms. Brown said. “It was probably called fear.” But after that brunch, she was fearless. “I said, ‘If we do this, I’m not in it to date you. I’m in it to marry you.’”
With that, the wheels of a Hollywood-style proposal were set in motion. But not before Ms. Gist and Ms. Brown, who is also a producer on “Our Kind of People,” figured out who they are as a couple. “We’re such lesbians,” Ms. Gist said. “We started this thing where we’d turn off all the lights and slow dance every night,” sometimes at Ms. Brown’s house in Long Beach, others at Ms. Gist’s Hollywood loft. In 2019, when they moved to Los Feliz together, they set up an “emotional office” on their balcony. “We sit up there and talk about the day and play our music.” One song, Willie Nelson’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” always made the playlist.
On Aug. 24, 2019, Ms. Brown drove Ms. Gist to IPIC Theaters in West Hollywood, where she had agreed to speak on a panel for aspiring filmmakers. “She told me, smartly, that I would be speaking to a young mentee of hers,” she said. “She knew I wouldn’t cancel on a young woman.” When Ms. Brown picked her up, “Willie Nelson was pouring out of the speakers.”
Inside the movie house, the curtain was raised to a screen of Barack Obama and a soundtrack of Etta James’s “At Last.” “I thought, whoever this woman is who made this film, she’s brilliant!” Ms. Gist said. “She put all my favorite things together.” Then she saw her own face onscreen. At the end of the seven-minute film Ms. Brown had made about their romance, 20 friends who had hidden in the theater popped up. Ms. Brown proposed; Ms. Gist said a tearful yes.
On Sept. 11, Ms. Brown and Ms. Gist were married at Borthwick Castle in North Middleton, Scotland, by Gillian Robertson, a Scottish celebrant, and taking part was their friend Albert Loya, who became a Universal Life Church minister for the occasion. Ms. Gist wore a crystal-embedded Berta gown. Ms. Brown wore a custom-made traditional kilt. Marrying in Scotland was important to them: “As a gay person in an interracial relationship, it means everything to get married in the white, Catholic, conservative place I grew up,” Ms. Brown said. “Also against the backdrop of a castle that has remnants of one of the most bad-ass women to walk the globe, Mary Queen of Scots.”
Their wedding day, by contrast, was pure tenderness. “We’re so madly in love,” Ms. Gist said.