The true-life spouses of TLC's Sister Wives (premiering September 26 at 10/9c) have more in common with the Henricksons of HBO's Big Love than just their polygamist lifestyle. But there are major differences as well. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Fundamentalist Mormon Kody Brown and his wives, Meri, 39, Janelle, 40, Christine, 37, and soon-to-be fourth wife Robyn, 31, about how their challenges compare to those of Bill, Barb, Nicki and Margene.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you relate to the Big Love brood?
Kody: I can relate to Bill as the guy you see and go, 'Oh man, you're in Hell. This is hard.' I've been there. But that show is completely soap opera. I think we're more interesting.
TV Guide Magazine: On Big Love, first wife Barb maintains a strict calendar of bedroom rotations. How do you divide time with Kody?
Kody: It's a mess and we're still working it out, but Meri doesn't dictate the schedule.
Meri: There's no seniority with us. It's all a team effort.
Janelle: Kody's schedule is always flexible and in flux.
Christine: I like more of a set thing so that I am able to know, for instance, on Wednesdays I can go hang out with my friends.
TV Guide Magazine: Last season, Nicki was caught using birth control. How would your family deal with such a situation?
Christine: The sexual intimacies we have are very individual and private.
Kody: But I would add it's a woman's choice what happens with her body. I don't tell them how to live.
Janelle: And if he tried, can you imagine?
TV Guide Magazine: Eldest Henrickson child Sarah decided that her family's lifestyle was not for her and moved away. How would you deal with this?
Meri: You're going to see that on our show.
Janelle: My daughter Madison is 14, and I think it's great to see her free to make a choice for herself.
TV Guide Magazine: Margene found Bill a potential fourth wife whom he briefly married. Relatable?
Meri: Janelle says I'm in mergers and acquisitions, but that's not my role. It just so happened that we met Janelle through my family, and Christine through her sister. Kody and I met Robyn at the same time.
TV Guide Magazine: Bill had sexual relations with fourth wife, Ana, before they wed. Is Kody allowed to 'date'?
Kody: I saw that episode and it bugged the hell out of Meri and me. I thought it was very unrealistic. Robyn and I have had a courtship, but it has been non-sexual.
Robyn: There are boundaries that aren't crossed and it's a huge taboo if they are. I spent a lot of time with all the wives as well as with Kody.
TV Guide Magazine: Together you are raising 14 children, age three months to 16 years. What is your reaction to Big Love's long flirtation between youngest wife Margene and Bill and Barb's teenage son, Ben?
(All the wives voice loud shock and objection)
Christine: Are you serious? That's just sick and wrong. We'll leave it at that.
TV Guide Magazine: Last season, after struggling so hard to keep his lifestyle hidden, Bill had a calling that his family should be accepted publicly. He went so far as to run for office and got elected. Could you ever see yourself entering politics to gain acceptance?
Christine: Since our lifestyle is illegal, we're not allowed to hold public office.
Kody: But I do hope someday someone in my lifestyle will be able to run for office.
Robyn: We would like the rights that everyone has.
TV Guide Magazine: This issue parallels the current hot topic of the rights of gay men and women, which are not supported by the traditional Mormon Church, even though Big Love has presented the struggles of closeted gay Mormon characters. Where do you stand on this issue?
Janelle: Everyone should have their rights as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone else's.
Christine: Consenting adults should be able to live how they want to live.
Kody: I wish I had the right to love and marry who I want. I think this should be left out of the hands of the state and left to churches based upon the tenants of their doctrines. Or individuals based on their choices. We deal with prejudice from family and friends on a daily basis. We are people who just want to be free to love each other the way we choose.