Sherri Saum calls it the meatiest role she’s ever had.
The Fairmont High School graduate, who has worked as a professional model and actress since her college days at Ohio State University, will star as a lesbian mother in a new ABC Family series that premieres at 9 p.m. Monday, June 3.
“The Fosters” is a one-hour weekly drama about a multi-ethnic family that includes foster and biological kids being raised by two moms. Saum portrays Lena Adams, a charter school vice principal with a big heart. Her partner is Stef Foster, a police officer played by Teri Polo (“Meet the Parents”).
“It’s the first of its kind. It’s going to portray a family most people aren’t accustomed to seeing on TV because the family is headed by a gay couple,” Saum explained over the phone from Phoenix, where she has been helping out a friend who just had twins. “There have been a lot of gay characters on TV, but they are usually portrayed for laughs. This is a drama — although it does have laughs in it.”
Saum lives in both Los Angeles and New York with her husband of six years, actor Kamar de los Reyes (her former “One Life to Live” cast mate). The couple is currently spending more time in California because of the new show.
“We’ve filmed seven episodes and are working on the eighth. We’ll shoot 10 for the first season,” Saum explained. “It’s exciting because there are billboards for the show all over L.A., so it’s kinda surreal and hard to take in.”
Saum grew up in Kettering, where her mother, Lois Saum, still resides. For Mother’s Day, Lois’ daughters Lisa and Sherri — who both have homes in L.A. — invited their mom out to California.
“We went to a red carpet gala in San Francisco by chartered limousine and walked the red carpet at the GLADD Media Awards, ” Lois Saum explained. “Sherri and Teri (Polo) gave a presentation at the award show.”
GLADD recognizes media for their “fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives.”
Sherri Saum said she believes the Foster family is portrayed “in a grounded way.”
“People will be surprised by how much they’ll relate to what is going on and the issues they face that are faced by any family,” Sherri Saum said.
The executive producer is actress/singer Jennifer Lopez.
“This project is near and dear to her heart,” Saum explained. “She had a gay aunt who never had a family, and she’s always wondered how her aunt felt about that.”
The actress, who has been featured in a number of television shows as well as in films, says this particular cast and crew are her all-time favorites.
“I adore the kids and the people — from the key grip to executive producer,” she said.
While in school, Saum landed her first lead role on Aaron Spelling’s series “Sunset Beach,” for which she earned a Daytime Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Younger Actress.
She starred in Showtime’s critically-acclaimed series “Beggars and Choosers,” the John Cassevetes Award nominated film “Anne B. Real” and had guest-starring roles on TV’s “Revenge,” “Law & Order: Trial By Jury,” “Body of Proof,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Unforgettable,” “Army Wives,” “CSI: NY” and “Charmed.”
In 2006, Saum joined the cast of the Emmy-nominated series “Rescue Me” starring Denis Leary for two seasons, followed by a starring role on the Golden Globe nominated HBO series “In Treatment.” Her film roles include “Ten Stories Tall” opposite Josh Hamilton and Ally Sheedy and “Relative Stranger” starring Eriq La Salle and Cicely Tyson.
Right now, Saum says she’s exactly where she wants to be in her career.
“This is 100 percent what I know I should be doing,” she said. “There’s nowhere else I’d want to be.”