Look out Tyra: Your
transgender Top Model contestant
isn't the only one who'll be getting audiences talking this fall.
Nine months ago,
Dirty Sexy Money
left viewers with a cliffhanger of a season-ender when Carmelita (
) was kidnapped, despite the efforts of her lover -
's would-be Senator Patrick Darling - to keep her safe. As the first transgender actress to score a recurring role on network TV, Cayne blazed a new trail on and off camera, with both a big presence and a troubling on-screen disappearance, which leaves questions surrounding her capture and her relationship with the senatorial hopeful.
Now on the cusp of the series' return to ABC October 1,
, an executive producer on the show, gave TVGuide.com some insights into Carmelita's unique role and why she's become a fan favorite. He also assuaged our fears that she might have vanished forever - all in an L.A. absinthe den, no less, while celebrating the show's Season 1 DVD release.
"Carmelita is the most honest character on the show, and she's not afraid to defend that," Gross said. "She is who she is, and she's brave enough and bold enough and strong enough and willing to lose it all in defending that. That's what builds character in a person."
In a cast of characters who value money and power, Gross explained, the one who keeps it real is compelling. Yet, the same is true, he believes, of the show's handling of her character. "The reason why it works is because we're not getting up on a soapbox," he said. "We treat her like any woman who's in love with a senator. She knows what the consequences are of that relationship going public, and how a transgendered person is not really accepted to people as a whole. But still, she's willing to be who she is, embrace that, and celebrate that."
"And that's why we insisted on hiring a transgendered actor," Gross added. "Otherwise it wouldn't be authentic, it would be a joke." (Audiences can thank
Sex and the City
's Patricia Fields for the pick - she suggested Cayne when the pilot was casting.)
And as for Carmelita's married main squeeze, Patrick Darling? No soap boxes for him, either, despite his profession. "You're not going to have Pat Darling get up there, and start proclaiming the rights of transgendered citizens," Gross said. "However, we tell a very honest story about him being in love with a transgendered person. And to me, that's a better way of exposing an issue."
Gross' insights, however, still leave us hanging as to just how Carmelita's and Patrick's relationship will play out - once she's rescued - and if the senator will be taking more bullets for his affair. The wait is on until October, but you can catch up with the Darlings and all their affairs with
Dirty Sexy Money: The Complete First Season
Since seeing the brief first season, Has Carmelita affected your perspective on gender and relationships? -
Go ahead. Get your hands a little
Dirty with clips
and more of the show's cast and episodes in our Online Video Guide.