Savant tried to be responsible, despite his feelings: "When we started to fall in love, I said, 'Run, don't walk.' You're young. I have two kids. You should go." For her part, Leighton says, "On paper, a guy with two kids and an ex—that's not a plus. And I never said, 'I've always wanted an instant family.' I never saw myself as 'the stepmother.' But I fell in love with the man and the kids."
They married in 1998, and soon found themselves pinioned by irony. "People would see us together and go, 'So, you're not gay,'" Leighton recalls. "It was amazing how many people said that."
It began to dawn on them that Savant’s Melrose Place fame was, in business terms, more like notoriety—the role was a career killer. "What was life after Melrose like?" Savant muses. "Well, no one tells you the truth. It's all innuendo. People congratulate you for being a blip on the evolutionary map of gay characters on TV. They say you're 'brave.' And then they don't hire you."
George Clooney understood why. "It's one thing to be gay in a movie," he told Savant. "It's another to come into their houses every week and say, 'I'm gay.' TV drives it home: That's who you are."
Savant worked, but not steadily. Meanwhile, Leighton's career also hit a speed bump. Good news: a new baby (their first) in the house. Bad news: the money flowing out. In 2003, Savant went to work with his brother in commercial real estate. He hated it and, unsurprisingly, wasn't good at it. And then, the very bottom—he contracted spinal meningitis.
Love often goes out the window when money gets tight and health is threatened. But what Leighton and Savant felt for one another was never close to being tested. "At the end of the day, it's not just 'Wow, she's hot'—it's about values," Savant says. Recovering from his illness, he knew he had to go back to acting. "One of us has to get a job right now," Leighton told him. "Something has to change.'"