Both Savant and Leighton were going through the throes of professional success and personal distress. For Savant, that meant the end of his marriage and finding himself, at 32, the custodial parent of two small girls. For the 27-year-old Leighton, it was the end of her high-profile romance with another Melrose Place actor.
You know how the story goes from here. One day two close friends looked at each other with fresh eyes and realized they were destined to be lovers. "It was like, 'Where have you been?'" Leighton recalls.
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."