Ava Willis (Queen of the Willis)
|Queen of the Willis / Quillsville Cold Case character|
|First appearance||"Pilot" (2006, Queen of the Willis)|
|Last appearance||"Into That Final Good Night in Quillsville" (2026, Queen of the Willis)|
|Created by||Ava Zinn|
|Full name||Aeverine Melanie Florence Willis|
(born Frank Michael Willis)
Ol' Top (by Tina Kelso)
A.B. (by Peggy Willis)
Ruby (by Melissa Rose)
Ava Wills (by John Mellencamp)
|Spouse(s)||Angie Donaldson (m. 1991; wid. 2026)|
Kellie Martin (m. 2028)
January 4, 1973
Aeverine Melanie Florence "Ava" Willis is a fictional character and the main protagonist of the syndicated animated television series Queen of the Willis and its spin-off Quillsville Cold Case. She lives in the fictional town of Quillsville, Indiana with her family and currently is Homicide Detective for the Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department. She retired after 35 years as the manager of a local branch of Craven Gifts. She likes to drink cola in the alley behind her house with her friends. She is voiced by series creator Ava Zinn. The Economist described Ava Willis as one of the wisest transgender people on television, and in 2006 Indiana LGBT Monthly included her on its annual list of the most influential Hoosiers.
- 1 Development
- 2 Character biography
- 3 Personality
- 4 Physical appearance
- 5 Character’s Careers
- 6 Character analysis
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Ava has been compared to Claudia Davidson, the "disapproving woman" who is a neighbor of the title characters on Zinn's earlier series Amanda & Elisa. Television columnists have written, "Ava still looks and sounds like a young Ms. Davidson (beleaguered, baffled Vietnam veteran of 'Amanda and Elisa'). But she's more in touch with contemporary reality (sort of) -- and funnier." Throughout the show's run, Ava's character personality appears to primarily be built around the image of the all American, authoritarian family man living a transgender woman. In a 2017 interview, Ava Zinn said, "Originally I was going to have Ava be her [Ms. Davidson's] transgednered daughter. I was kind of thinking we'd tie it into "Amanda and Elisa" as a sort of spinoff or something, but ATE Media said no." Holly Everman, another creator of the program, has said that Ava Zinn is "based on a lot of neighbors I've had… She's upset about how Indiana is changing, and she doesn't know what to do about it."
Ava Zinn initially conceived Queen of the Willis in 1999 at Mississinewa High School. During middle and high school, she created her thesis entitled Frank's Life, which was submitted by her professor at R.J. Baskett Middle School. In 2000, Zinn created a sequel to Frank's Life entitled Frank & Brittani, which featured a younger adult-aged character named Brittani and an intellectual goldfish, Amber; the short was broadcast in 2003 as one of ATE Media's shorts. Executives saw the Frank's Life shorts and contracted Zinn to create a series, entitled Queen of the Willis, based on the characters. ATE Media proposed Zinn complete a 15-minute short, and gave her a budget of $5,000. Several aspects of Queen of the Willis were inspired by the Frank's Life comic strip.
The voice of Ava Willis is provided by Ava Zinn, who also provides the voice for Tabby, Shushu, Heather, Pamhouser as well as the voice for various other recurring and one-time only characters, most prominently those of news anchor Zach Mullins, Angelika Mullins (Zach's daughter), Doctor Mario Coxson, Peggy Willis (Ava's mother) and Ned Shanks (Angie's stepfather). Zinn has been part of the main voice cast from the beginning of the series including the pilot and had been voicing Ava from the start . Zinn chose to voice Ava and several other biological male and transgender female characters herself, believing it would be easier to portray the voices she already envisioned than for someone else to attempt it. Zinn's speaking voice is not very close to Ava's; Zinn used her normal voice as the voice of Heather Willis. However, Ava and Heather's singing voice is Ava Zinn’s normal singing voice as seen in “Valentine’s Day in Quillsville, Indiana”. The first Queen of the Willis episode to feature Zinn's singing voice was in the 2008 episode "Mellencamp Fever" when Ava Willis performed Wild Night.
Zinn drew inspiration for the voice of Ava from the classmates she overheard talking while she was attending Mississinewa High School; according to her, "I knew a few transwomen who would not think before they spoke, like [switching to Ava's voice] there was no self-editing mechanism. [Pointing to herself] Everything in here, [pointing to her front] it's coming out here". Zinn also voiced many of Ava's ancestors who share the same type of voice. She noted in an interview that she voices Ava and the rest of the characters partly because they initially had a small budget, but also that she and Holly Everman prefers to have the freedom to do it themselves. In another interview, Zinn mentioned that Ava's voice is one of the most difficult to do.
There have been only four occasions where Ava Zinn did not voice Ava Willis. In "Harsh Tom" and "Ten Years To Life", Melvin Runecraft voiced Evil Ava after Ava runs out of medication, but Zinn voiced Ava for the rest of the episodes. In "Meet the Pamhousers," Frank Davidson voiced Ava (as a male) after marrying Pamhouser, but Zinn voiced Ava at the end of the episode. In "Quillsville Cold Case", Davidson also voiced what was then Frank Willis before undergoing male-to-female sex reassignment surgery, but Zinn voiced Ava Willis in that episode.
Early life and family
Ava Willis was born Frank Willis on January 4, 1973 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio (at 9:07 pm, measuring 19.5 in and weighing 7.5 lbs). According to the episode "Buckeye Ava," Ava proudly believed she was born in Indiana to Margaret Harriet "Peggy" Willis and Harrison Elroy "Harry" Willis but finds (to her disgust) that she was actually born in Cleveland. Her father told her Peggy gave birth to Ava in the women's restroom at Cleveland Municpal Stadium during her failed attempt to assassinate Vladamir Putin during a rare American visit. After referring to herself as a native Hoosier for 35 years, she was sad to learn she was born in Ohio, but over time, accepted her heritage when she realized that many of the Mississinewa heroes were not from Indiana, either. It is unknown when Ava was born, but she is mentioned as graduating high school in 1991. Her birthdate is ten years before her voice actress Ava Zinn. Ava, who previously thought she was the older child and older sister to Albert, finds out she has a Russian half transgendered brother named Vladamir (born Veronica) in the episode "To Russia: With an F2M Brother". This is due to an affair Peggy Willis had with her Russian doctor while recovering from leg injuries in Russia. Also, in the episode "Ava Gets Dianed", Ava is shown to be the cousin of former WRTV Indianpolis anchorwoman Diane Willis. Peggy was also revealed to have slept with many men before and after that (148 as Peggy once stated), meaning Ava likely has several other illegitimate brothers and sisters, although none of these other relatives have been confirmed throughout the series.
Ava is a Cub Scout. Ava is set in her ways and afraid of taking risks, but generally a good person. Although she is traditionally conservative in her attitude, in how she dislikes change and novel situations, she can adapt to them quite well, quickly mastering unfamiliar social milieus. She can be pushed too far on occasion, usually by neighbors Tiffani Donovan and Melissa Rose (later Kendra Kendall, Karly Jameson, and Melissa Rose).
Most openings of Queen of the Willis start with Ava, Melissa, Tiffani and Anna Pamhouser (later Ava, Melissa, Karly Jameson, Alisan Porter, and Kendra all agreeing to something before the action kicks in, drinking from Mississinewa branded cola cans. A running joke throughout the series is an angry Ava yelling "I'm gonna kick your ass!" This is just a threat; she rarely, if ever, harms anyone. Ava's honesty and naivety often get her in unpredictable and troublesome situations. Ultimately, Ava cares for the people around her, particularly her family and friends and is always out to do what is right. One characteristic that Ava shows is when she lies to someone, she turns her head or looks around the room.
Ava is a known workaholic who "solves current and cold cases" as a homicide detective at the Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department and formerly "sells retail and retail accessories" as an assistant manager (later manager) at the fictional Craven Gifts, a local retailer. Much to the discomfort of her boss at Craven, Tina Craven, she refuses to miss a day for anything; including sickness and injury where she refused to go on Worker's Compensation after injuring her back on the job, despite repeated attempts at suggesting too much work will make her sloppy. She even went into work when her hero Tom Carnegie died (though she thought it was Diane Willis making it up). When she gets a phone call in the middle of the night, she often immediately starts with the Craven slogan, "Craven Gifts, enjoy the gifts, not the kicks", showing her dedication to her work. Ava also has a habit of announcing herself as "Ava Willis, Manager/Assistant Manager, Craven Gifts" (later "Ava Willis, Detective, QMPD"), even in situations where it has nothing to do with her work such as when called on to give a speech as Paige Pamhouser's best woman at her wedding rehearsal dinner.
During her time at Craven Gifts, she was briefly promoted to manager when Tina's then-husband/now ex-husband (affectionately referred to as "Crob Bob") temporarily took over Craven Gifts. Ava was also briefly promoted to manager by Tina Kelso while helping Tina rebuild a house for Habitat for Humanity as part of Tina's community service after a drunk driving conviction, before being demoted again after she blurted out "I love you" to Tina; in "Ten Years To Life", Ava is permanently promoted to manager after Tina retires from Craven Gifts (Tina initially annouced her retirement in "Quillsville Cold Case", but was not official until 2018) and becomes Quillsville's First Lady. Unlike Tina and her business enemy, Harrison Walter "H.W." Ivey, Ava believes that selling goods through honesty and hard work is what life is all about. Ava won the Retailer of the Year Award for three years, as well as the prestigious Ruby Medal of Valor Award. Her greatest attribute is her reliability. Another trait of Ava appears to be customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. While appearing to suffer a sales slump during the month-long "Gift Stravaganza" sale, she remained confident her sales would come in at the end of the month, trusting her tried and true method of giving customers pamphlets and simply telling them to return if and only if they're "ready". Despite this she managed to sell more goods than anyone else at Craven in a single day by simply giving one customer that pamphlet, she later sold that single customer 5,000 units, and in doing so won the sales for the Gift Stravaganza. Craven has referred to Ava as her Golden Goose. This virtue was tested when she threatened to quit rather than continue working at a carwash (which Tina and Lando bought stake in) and continue to take verbal abuse. She also threatened to quit unless Ava fired a new employee who was making crude jokes and sexual innuendo (eventually in frustration, Ava actually dragged the new employee into the men's washroom and washed his mouth out with soap). Ava's work ethic extends past her occupation.
Ava looks up to Tina, who calls Ava "Ol' Top" and keeps a somewhat idyllic picture of her, even though she recognizes her boss's many shortcomings (excessive gambling, alcoholism, adultery, and a general lack of principles). Ava must frequently clean up her boss's unsavory "situations": bailing her out of jail, facilitating her vices, and performing suspicious errands. In one episode she went as far as covering up Craven's illegal price fixing agreement with the other local retailers providers to keep her from being arrested. Ava also seems to think that being a retailer is the best job there is (and wants her children, Tom and Deanna Willis, to follow her footsteps and start a retail business of their own). Ava loves her job very much, but throughout the series always makes a big deal out of it when her closest friends and even family find her occupation boring and somewhat useless and even find her obsession with retail odd. In the episode "A Case Managing We Will Go", Deanna questions Ava about her new job as a volunteer mental health case coordinatoe, in which Deanna says she is surprised because Ava always seems to exaggerate and make a big deal about being a retail saleswoman. Although Ava is often confused and irritated by the eccentricities of Tom and Deanna, she clearly loves her children, even though she's uncomfortable in saying it to their faces. She even feigns an interest in Tom's passions such as comedy and theatre. Ava is relieved when her Laotian-American neighbor Lando Abhrams (a transman) tells him that she caught Tom and Trevelle taking their clothes off since, up until that time, Ava was uncertain of Tom's and Deanna's interest in the opposite sex. Ava is also relived when Tamara Sousa tells her she caught Deanna and Brandi having lesbian sex in "Brandi See, Donkey Do" after Brandi gives birth to Ava's graddaughter Tessanne (despite Deanna herself, like Ava also conieved as a woman). From their eccentricities, Ava often says of Deanna, "That girl ain't right" and "That girl still ain't right" since "Ten Years To Life".
In the first episode of Queen of the Willis, her first wife Angie Willis prompts Ava to tell her transgendered children (Tom and Deanna) that she loves them — after she finally manages to do so, Tom says that he thought of himself as a "big disappointment," which Ava immediately rejects, earnestly declaring that her children as well as her grandchildren are the one thing in town that has never disappointed her.
Ava is openly transgender and suffers from an enlarged clitoris after Melissa, a sex reassignment surgeon, performed Ava's surgery on November 1, 1999. A running joke throughout the series is Ava's enlarged clitoris, a topic Ava is sensitive about and often becomes annoyed about if brought up to people outside the immediate family.
Ava was on the high school boys basketball team (as were Kendra, Melissa, and team towel manager, Pamhouser). She was a point guard and led the league in assists and three pointers (her record remains unbroken and her jersey #41 is retired). She had a promising career in the NBA until she snapped her thigh in the state championship (although this cost Quillsville Central the game, she is still celebrated for "taking them to State"). This incident exacerbated Ava's already-restrained emotionalism, as she saw it as punishment from God for doing a celebratory dance after scoring a three-pointer earlier during the game. After graduating from high school, she went on to work as a salesman at Lingerie West, a clothing retailer, until Tina found that she was a good salesman and hired her at Craven Gifts, where she taught Ava everything about retailing and retail accessories. According to her neighbor Melissa, she also had a brief stint as a mower salesman.
Although her career in retailing is later shown to have started with a chance meeting with Tina Craven, a flashback to 1985 shows younger Ava, Melissa, Tiffani and Pamhouser on a scouting trip, talking about what they're going to do when they grow up. Ava says, "I'm going to sell gifts and gift accessories... if my grades are good enough," which is confusing since she met Tina at Lingerie West, although it can be explained if Ava mistakenly puts in her adult passion for gifts into memories from her childhood, or it may have been possible that Ava had to work at Lingerie West due to a tight job market and her goal of working in retail was finally realized with the sale to Tina. This same episode reveals that Ava and Melissa (as boys) and Tiffani and Pamhosuer (as girls) entering the Order are 12 years old.
Ava drives a GMC Sierra truck. She formerly drove a blue Ford Super Duty truck, which replaced her original truck, a red extended-cab Ford Ranger (1993 model depends on the episodes) after it was blown up in season 6 despite trying to make it last as long as mechanically possible. The Ford Ranger and Ford Super Duty Trucks have manual transmissions while all the trucks Ava drove carries a bed mounted toolbox for times when Ava takes her truck out on Craven-related business. She gives great love and affection to her lawn, her carpet her crab Heather, her dog, Tabby (formerly Rags) and cat, Shushu.
Much of the humor of the show results from the collision of Ava's deeply conservative manner, nature, and philosophy with the world and people around her. She is uncomfortable with intimacy and with expressions of affection or sexuality (as demonstrated by the running joke throughout the series, in which Ava is extremely averse and overreacts to physical contact or anything sexual concerning Baxter/Bianca, but she has a healthy relationship with her wife Angie (later Kellie), as well as the rest of her family. She believes passionately in hard work, honesty, tradition, and convention (she refuses to leave work early, even so much as 10 minutes early on a Friday); and is a proud Hoosier and American, to the point of occasionally struggling to suppress mild xenophobia, though always trying her best to see others, regardless of culture, for their personal character. She is, however, a highly respected authority among her friends and family, who often seek her help and advice, knowing that she will always advocate doing the right thing in the right way.
One of Ava's most treasured hobbies is the care she takes over her lawn and carpet. She's unofficially nominated the best home in the neighborhood. She uses a fictional "Kankanee" 2500 series carpet shampooer, a carpet cleaner she also covets to the point when the Kankakee Corporation undertook the focus group discontinuing her model in favor of a new one, she managed to point out all the flaws in the engineering and convince the group the shampooer was inferior. In the episode "Queen of the Mouse Hill" with March Madness approaching, Ava purchases an exorbitant new carpeting for $2.25 per square foot, which Melissa destroys as an act of revenge to Heather having sex with Melissa's mother in retaliation ("The Story of Melissa's Mother"). When she converted her den into a basketball court, she installed hardwood (much to Angie's chagrin). In only one episode did Ava purposely allow her carpet to die; when the great recession forced Ava to run for public office on a platform opposing the city policy which wasted more funds than it saved. She later discovered Lando was bribing the health department employee to keep his lawn green and carpet shampooed and Deanna blackmailed him to keep Ava's house from deterioration. Refusing to be corrupt, she ceased shampooing. Ava has also states that she has held back "tender feelings" towards her family in order to focus on the lawn and carpet.
Ava resided in a single-story Rancher (later renovated to a two-story home that began in season 7 and completed in season 9), that she claims has historic value until moving to a similar Rancher in Quillsville Cold Case. She is a noted do it yourself (DIY) enthusiast and prides herself on homeownership. She is skilled in home repair, lawn and garden and automotive repair. She meticulously obeys virtually every building code in the city ordinance. She gets a great deal of joy engaging in home repair and her level of skill (and attention to detail) was repeatedly shown to exceed that of workmen/workwomen she employed.
Ava is also a follower of sports. She is a huge fan of basketball and football, being a former player of both sports herself. She is a long-time fan of the Indiana Colts, and before the Colts arrived from Baltimore in 1984, is also said to have previously been a fan of the Chicago Bears because they play in a different conference and wouldn't play the Colts unless it was in an all Indiana Super Bowl (in a coincidence, the all-Indiana Super Bowl Ava mentioend did in fact happen on February 4, 2007 when the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI and in the same football season Queen of the Willis premiered). She is also a long-time fan of and a supporter of the Ball State Cardinals.
She also follows basketball as a fan of the Pacers and Fever. However her idyllic passion is golf and bowling which coincides with her love of lawns and floors. She once converted her back yard into a putting green and her den into a bowling alley and a basketball court. She is however critical of some sports. She was critical of baseball/softball, claiming to Tom "I didn't think I ever needed to tell you this, but I would be a bad parent if I didn't; Softball was invented by women to keep them busy while their husbands did the cooking"; this changed after marrying Kellie in "Into That Final Good Night in Quillsville" which Kellie reveals to be a fan of both the Los Angles Dodger and Anaheim Angels. She is however, still critical of soccer and hockey.
While more of a stereotypical transgendered geek and redneck in earlier episodes, for example, idolizing singers John Mellencamp and Crystal Gayle, Ava becomes more of a small town, middle class conservative who is extremely law-abiding. Everybody looks to Ava when they have any seemingly useless or dull work that needs to be done. Her gruff, temperamental, and impartial tendencies have been challenged a few times throughout the series, during which Ava always proves herself to be on top of her game. When Rags and Shushu attacked a black repairwoman named Millie (voiced by Kim Fields) working on their heating system, she was accused of being racist/sexist and portraying those feelings onto her dog and cat, though it was later proven that she is not racist nor sexist but that in fact she hates repairmen, as she prides herself on proper home maintenance. Before Rags and Shushu had attacked Millie, Ava had told her that "A woman should not be judged by the color of her skin but by the actions of her heart". She prides herself on having taken auto-shop and shop class in junior high, high school, and college and refuses to let mechanics touch her truck, feeling that she can accomplish anything without help. Ava has briefly worked at AldiMart as a saleswoman trainee after AldiMart drove Craven Gifts out of business. Ava's reserved nature probably resulted from years of verbal abuse from her war-veteran educator mother Peggy Willis. However, if sufficiently provoked, Ava has proven not to be a pushover, often ending disputes with her self-popularized quote "I'm gonna kick your ass!" (though she rarely follows through on this threat). She is also staunchly pro-Indiana. In the episode "Indiana Blizzard," in which a blizzard has torn off all her clothes, she is given the choice of covering herself with the Indiana flag or tarp. With barely a thought, she chooses the tarp, thereby sparing the flag.
She is for the most part an outspoken conservative (she once said dreamily that she missed voting for George W. Bush). She was initially a huge fan of former Vice President Mike Pence, but had second thoughts about voting for him because of his weak handshake, and when asked if she would vote for "the other guy," presumably John Gregg, she responded "I don't know." Ava is a registered Republican, but has respect for some old-school Democrats. However, Ava also shows deference to Richard Lugar when they meet and greatly respects former Democratic Indiana Governor Joe Kernan (although she displays great respect for, and deference to, all authority figures, but the respect was most likely the result of Ava's great liking of Indiana culture and history as mentioned throughout the show). She has also expressed support for labor unions and equal rights.
In nearly every episode, Ava and her friends Melissa, Tiffani (later Kendra) and Pamhouser will stand about in the alley behind Ava's house, drinking Mississinewa Cola and discussing the events of the day. When consensus is reached and at breaks in the conversation, they will give short words of agreement, such as "yup" or "mm-hmm." She considers her wife her best friend and feels that physically punishing children is wrong; she is verbally strict, but not directly abusive. In the "Revenge of the Male Anchors" trilogy, it was revealed that Ava does not mind two women co-anchor a newscast, yet has a huge dislike for two men anchoring a newscast when the male fills in for the female anchor after seeing Clyde Lee and Howard Caldwell in 1984 (that eventually eventually leading to her gender transition).
Political parties aside, Ava is very conservative and old-fashioned, being largely ignorant (and disdainful) of new trends; several episodes involve her reluctantly dealing with subjects outside of her comfort zone. Despite her discomfort with change and unfamiliar or awkward social situations and milieus, when her involvement is unavoidable, Ava repeatedly shows the ability to adapt to (and even learn from) them, even to immerse herself and become intellectually or emotionally invested in them — Ava's surprising ability to adapt to the awkward and uncomfortable is also evident from her good relations with all three members of the Stephanie Rose love triangle. Ava is portrayed as having traditional family values and she is shown to be uncomfortable with hiring a man to work at Craven because she was believed to be too handsome, even though he was overqualified; instead, she hired a woman for shallowly expressing a fondness for the Indiana Colts and a blatantly fraudulent adoration for retail. The woman was later revealed to be a completely unreliable alcoholic. Her old-fashioned ways extend to a suspicion of new technology. She does however, eventually get a cellphone and briefly becomes addicted to a computer game whose main character is modeled on her. In the episode Scrappin' Meth Scrap, Ava made the mistake of purchasing meth she assumed was scrapbook materials; when her liberal lawyer explained that virtually everyone has consumed drugs she comments, "Not my Governor! I voted for (David) McIntosh!", referencing the 2000 re-election of Frank O'Bannon.
Ava is not entirely unbending in her habits. One of them is her discovery and embrace of vegetarianism. She even goes as far as to defend hippies, something she seemed somewhat ashamed to do; nevertheless, she agreed with them on the superior flavor of some natural and organic food. She has also been shown to have fairly tolerant views on other religions. Ava has some environmentalist leanings (though she distances herself from the movement at large), once lamenting about air pollution in Bloomington, opposing the building of McMansions, and running for city council on a platform of removing low-value items, in part, because they wasted more food than they saved. Similarly, she seems to believe in nuclear winter, as when Melissa commented on how colder temperatures could lead to a potato industry in Florida, Ava responded "We live in Indiana. It's already 20 in the winter, and if it gets one degree colder I'm gonna kick your ass!" Despite her un-worldy outlook and occasional naiveté, she has been shown to be very clever in various scenarios. These include outsmarting an incompetent District Attorney who was attempting to not proceed with Heather's rape, outwitting a rapacious lawyer who was attempting to sue Craven Gifts for an injury suffered on its premises by making it appear as though the injury occurred in his own law office, and forcing a veterinarian who was requiring costly and unnecessary tests for a soldier's cat to desist (in poetic irony, Ava began informing the vet's demanding clientele of an unneeded, but slightly superior, imaging machine the vet was unwilling to invest in). Ava also got the see-no-evil parents of a youngster who was bullying her to exert discipline by having Deanna behave exactly like their daughter toward them.
Ava can be gullible, as for 35 years she bought vehicles at sticker price from Denins Duke's dealership, thinking they were a great deal. She has also been tricked because of her relative ignorance concerning drugs or subcultures. Hence she once mistakenly bought vials of meth believing they were scrapbook materials and in a time of stress took a hit of cocaine because she thought it was a cigarette. She once introduced a woman named Rochelle King, who later turned out to be a prostitute, to several business associates, she gifted Ava with a feather tipped hat while driving her mother's vintage Mercedes leading to the community to thinking that she was a pimp. This led her former pimp, Gavin Duvall (voiced by Ice Cube), to believe she was her new pimp, a role she was forced to act out to rid of him. In one episode ("The Rape of Heather Willis"), her predecessor Adrienne Fansler hired a man named Bobby Joe Bones, who later turned out to be a sex offender and rapist.
In one episode, a flashback reveals that shortly after Ava graduated from high school with her three best friends, Braden Rose (now Melissa), Ken Kendall (now Kendra), and Anna Pamhouser, Kendra's then-wife Tiffani Donovan enlisted in the United States Marines—a night of celebratory drinking led them to a punk bar, where the then-formidable Tiffani saved a drunken Ava from a beating. In gratitude, Ava (then Frank) stumbled off to a tattoo parlor and paid to have Kendra's name inked onto her lower back before passing out. Only Pamhouser was with Ava, and, unable to persuade the proprietor to ignore Ava's purchase, convinced him to put the tattoo in a less conspicuous place, Ava's pubic area and her head; Ava had completely forgotten that night, but was reminded of it while undergoing treatment for cysts on her enlarged clitoris in the present (an affliction caused by Melissa trying to gain a veterinarian contract). She had the name removed out of disgust, but eventually had a jailhouse tattoo of it put on to show Melissa that the two were still friends.
Ava thinks very highly of Indiana. She thinks that Indiana is superior to all other states in the U.S or at least Hollywood or New York. (This is a play on the stereotype of exaggerated Hoosier pride.) In the episode "To Russia: With an F2M Brother Part 1", Ava says "Angie, I've already chosen the country for our summer vacation, America. And the state, Indiana. And the town, Avon. I don't care what their police did to that cyclist. It's still a great town." That was her response to Angie's ideas for their summer vacation. Later in the episode, she also says to her mother Peggy, "Mom, there is no other place I'd rather be," after Peggy said, "Ava, you work at a convenience store; fuel this thing up and fly me back to Indiana!". A recurring gag throughout the series is Ava's contempt for big cities and urban areas, once comparing a youth oriented shopping center to "Hell, or Bloomington", regarding Lafayette, asking "Why would anyone want to live there?" as she and Deanna watched a weather girl screw up on camera, and regarding Fort Wayne as "neither good nor bad".
Ava's personality has evolved throughout the episodes. She is commonly the voice of reason to Angie's shenanigans, but in some episodes she can act darker than normal and sometimes shows a taste for sadomasochism. In the episode "Believe it or Not, Ava is a Supermodel", Ava becomes an anorexic model. However, in "The Former Life of Ava", just the opposite happens where Ava gains a ton of weight after Angie loses her sex drive. As a result, Angie makes fun of her causing her to get even fatter out of spite. She doesn't stop until she discovers just how amazing "fat lesbian sex" is and force feeds her to make her even fatter which in turn will please Angie. By the end of the episode she is returned to her normal weight by the family doctor after having a heart attack. Two episodes ("Where There's Pressure, There's Affairs" and "Therapist Hopping 2") shows Ava and Angie splitting up because of Angie's jealousy, only to discover that Ava has the same character flaw of jealousy and the two decide to live with their mutually jealous nature. After the first six seasons, Ava is shown to have more of an egotistical, neglectful, and cold-hearted personality, usually towards Heather or Tom (before his death) most of the time (and later Tabby and Shushu).
Though she still truly loves her wife, Ava is somewhat promiscuous and during her 38 year marriage to Angie, has cheated on her on occasion at times, with older and younger men and women, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Ava has had eight extramarital affairs: Lando ("Where Ther's Pressure, There's Affairs"), marriage counselor Lynsay Gerardo ("Therapist Hopping 2"), Anna Pamhouser (Meet the Pamhousers), ex-girlfriends Brittani Hicks ("The Former Life of Ava") and Christiana Sellars (mentioned in "Ten Years To Life"), Alisan Porter ("Tina's With Stupid"), and Avril Lavinge ("The Perils of Quillsville Idol"). In "Ten Years To Life", it was revealed that aside from Tom, Deanna, Ron, Brian, Stuart, Emilie, Hillary, Luanne, and to some extent Brynn with Angie, Ava has a total of four more children after Lynsay Gerardo revealed she had given birth to a daughter Brynn Addison Hannah (Ava got Lynsay pregnant in "Therapist Hopping 2" and Angie decided to adopt the then-unborn baby in Quillsville Cold Case: Albert Willis) as well as another child with Christiana named Breeanna Lucille (in a flashback), as well as one child with Alisan Porter named Dylan Porter and in "The Former Life of Ava" it was revealed that Ava has two children with ex-girlfriend Brittani Hicks (Ava got Brittani pregnant on two occasions while a student at Port Melissa University) named Stan and Dominique. In "The Rape of Heather Willis" and "A Quillsville Under Suspicion", it was revealed that Glenn Turner was the only boyfriend Ava had (predating Ava's gender transition by 11 years).
As previously mentioned, Ava has been shown to have numerous ex-girlfriends, including Alisan Porter and a friend of Angie's named Christiana — both of whom have given Ava the nickname "Loose Frankie" (before becoming "Loose Ava"). In the episode "Hey, Hey, Hayes, Quillsville, it was revealed that Ava (before her transition) had participated in a porn film with Brittani and Christiana in high school, as well as a second with ex-boyfriend Glenn Turner and Christiana, which further cemented her promiscuity. This episode has also reveals Ava's dark side in high school as a bullying athlete who bullied and at one time humiliated Jessica Hayes, Cynthia Wilson, Josh Kaufman, Bart the Bully to name a few. Ava's interests are usually pursued in an attempt to separate from Angie or to a lesser extent Kellie, and her antics, or when she feels she's being controlling.
Many episodes have suggested that Ava is bisexual, but Ava is shown to be a lesbian after her sex change. In an interview, Ava Zinn stated that Ava became "a little more snarky and sassy and sexual" since the first season to challenge "those sitcom rules that a transwoman is supposed to be a gay guy's wet blanket and not like sex and is no fun". In the first straight-to-DVD feature, RAGStory, Ava also states, "transmen are such teases. That's why I stayed with women after my sex change." This was confirmed after Ava has been in relationships with Alisan Porter, Christiana Sellars, Brittani Hicks, Glenn Turner, and Angie Donaldson.
As a transgender woman, Ava is tall and slightly underweight. She has gery hair and wears contacts. She previoulsy had brown/brunette hair and wore glasses. Her physical appearance changes throughout the series, according to her license, she is 5 ft. 11 in. and her weight is shown to be anywhere from 135 to 200 pounds in different episodes. When standing in the alley in the opening credits in early seasons she is portrayed as the tallest member of her group of friends. She played point guard for her basketball team during high school and still retains some of her athleticism although most of it has been lost due to a back injury, a thigh injury, her gender transition, and age. During high school and before her gender transition, when shown in flashbacks, she has a similar build, no glasses, no breasts, and a pompandour. There have been several episodes that featured Ava with a drastically different hairstyle, often (and humorously) due to Baxter/Bianca's poor hairstyling skills. In one episode, Ava let her hair grow slightly due to being afraid of another haircut from Bianca. In the same episode, she also reveals that she goes for a haircut every two weeks, an example of how uptight she can be. Only two occurances that Ava changed her hairstyle other than having her hair tied back because of someone other than Bianca was because she refused to get a hair cut in the season 2 episode "Ava's Makeover" (in that episode, Ava begins wearing contacts and her hair becomes more naturally layered), and in the season 7 premiere episode "Ten Years to Life" (Ava begins wearing her hair grey).
Ava is generally seen wearing a white blouse and blue jeans. In the first two seasons, Ava wore glasses and her hair was brown until "Ava's Makeover" in the second season until the seventh season premiere episode "Ten Years To Life". At Craven Gifts, she is generally seen wearing a blue blouse and either blue pants or a long blue skirt. Since the seventh season, other episodes that fatured Ava in drastically different outfits such as a skit suit, a pant suit, etc. In "Quillsville Cold Case", Ava is seen wearing a black dress after her transgendered son, Tom was murdered by her ex-sister-in-law. In various episodes, Ava is seen wearing a black pantsuit and a white blouse. Since becoming manager at Craven Gifts, Ava is usually seen in a blue blazer, black pants, and a white blouse.
There have been only three occasions where Ava is seen in a pontytail or wear her hair tied. In "Ava's Makeover", while she gets her hair naturally layered and undergoes a complete redesign and begins wearing contacts as part of a makeover. In "Aeverine Kills Rags", Ava is seen wearing a slightly different outfit from John Rambo's combat outfit from Rambo III, clad in a pink headband, black sleeveless blouse, and black pants in her final battle against Rags. In "Into That Final Good Night in Quillsville," Ava is seen wearing her hair tied back wearing a date outfit of wearing a short pink mini-skirt with black leggings under the skirt, a revealing black blouse with a white bra top underneath and does it again in Ava and Kellie's wedding.
Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department Homicide Detective
After retiring from Craven Gifts, Ava became a homicide detective for the Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department.
Ava's first Quillsville Cold Case homicide investigation was in 2024, seen in the season 12 six-part episode "Quillsville Cold Case: From Retirement to Homicide Detective". The victim was Zach Mullins.
Shortly after Ava's career change from Retail Manager at Craven Gifts to Homicide Detective at QMPD, Ava's partner is Lilly Rush despite Lilly being promoted to Sergeant.
Like Lilly, Ava also solves the most difficult cases in order to seek the truth after all these years in hopes of giving the victim's family and the victims themselves, justice. She and Lilly works long hours on these cases. In spite of this, Ava maintains her relationships with her own family.
She is very protective of her team, who affectionately call her "Detective AW". She is very concerned about the reputation of Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department, and takes great care to keep them clean, likely because of her experience with her tarnished mother Peggy. When Captain Brad Hunter's staff fall under suspicion in several episodes, Ava immediately jumps in their defense, especially from Police Chief Chelsea Wolf, and tries her best to prove their innocence.
Unlike her counterparts in Port Melissa, Indiana; Detropolis, Ohio; and Michiana Falls, Indiana who are now former detectives, she is also a sworn patrol officer, and thus carries a badge, two pairs of handcuffs, a gun, a tazer and mace. Now a superb marksman, Willis doesn't hesitate to use deadly force when the situation calls for it. She is also an ardent advocate of the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes, and doesn't think twice about threatening suspects with it in such cases. She is also known to reserve a special wrath for those who would dare to harm children. Willis is treating all victims and their families equally, regardless of their ethnicity, background, or other circumstances, and often goes out of her way to ensure they are alright, frequently giving her number to them, stating that she is available day or night to take their call. Despite being a retired retailer turned homicide detective, she has helped others financially with such expensive things as providing private funeral arrangements for an indigent crime victim, rent and living expenses, her relatives (siblings Albert and Mandy, sister-in-law Laura Donaldson, grandchildren Kaylee, Lina, Tessanne, Maggie, step-grandchildren Alexandra Souza, Chereice Souza, and Telissa Souza), on top of living expenses for herself, likely due to a number of extremely shrewd financial decisions and deals Ava made over the years leading up to the original series.
As she had done at Craven Gifts, Ava has many recurring enemies throughout the series, from serial rapist Greg Metcalf to corrupt judge Samantha Turner to Angie's first boyfriend Todd Unger. Some she thought had been put away for good come back to haunt her. In "Quillsville Cold Case: Cruel & Desperate Justice", Greg Metcalf, who had been a janitor at Lee Kelso High School and attended Babyface High School with her transgendered son Tom and sister-in-law Laura, raped and impregonated both Tom and Laura as well as raping Lorri Dautrieve (now Harold Dautrieve), Gina Kincaid, Amelia Bartham. Despite evidence, Metcalf was found not guilty of Laura's rape after Laura's baby wasn't found before the trial. Bob Donaldson, with Ava's help eventually forces Metcalf out of hiding by removing all his avenues of escape. Metcalf approaches Bob Donaldson outside Lee Kelso High School, and Willis kills Greg with a single shot to the head just as Metcalf's knife is pulled at Ava father-in-law Bob Donaldson. Bob does spend jail time for Ava's actions and Quillsville Metropolitan Police Department is fined $5 million.
Badge # 9546
Head of Craven Gifts
In seasons 7 through 11, Ava Willis was the manager and day shift supervisor at the Quillsville branch of Craven Gifts and former assistant manager and chief operations officer. She is very protective of her team, who affectionately call her "Officer Ava". She is very concerned about the reputation of her operations, and takes great care to keep them clean, likely because of her experience with her tarnished younger brother, Albert, and mother Peggy. When her staff fall under suspicion in several episodes , she immediately jumps in their defense, especially from Indiana Retail Commissioner investigator Ray Grissom, and tries her best to prove their innocence.
Unlike her counterparts in Port Melissa, Indiana; Detropolis, Ohio; and Michiana Falls, Indiana who are now former retailers managers, she is also a sworn citizen on patrol officer, and thus carries a badge, a gun and mace. A superb marksman, Willis doesn't hesitate to use deadly force when the situation calls for it. She is also an ardent advocate of the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes, and doesn't think twice about threatening suspects and deadbeat customers with it in such cases. She is also known to reserve a special wrath for those who would dare to harm children. Willis is treating all customers and their families equally, regardless of their ethnicity, background, or other circumstances, and often goes out of her way to ensure they are alright, frequently giving her number to them, stating that she is available day or night to take their call. Despite being a retailer on a Craven Gifts wages, she has helped others financially with such expensive things as providing private funeral arrangements for an indigent crime victim, rent and living expenses for her boss' now-ex-husband's mistress, her former daughter-in-law Trevelle, her nephew Austen, her granddaughter Tessanne, as well as medical costs for her nephew's cancer treatment, purchasing an apartment for her transgendered daughter Deanna, on top of living expenses for herself, likely due to a number of extremely shrewd financial decisions and deals Ava made over the years leading up to the series.
Towards the end of season 11, Ava Willis retires from Craven Gifts after 40 years.
In the first six seasons, Ava Willis served as the assistant manager of Craven Gifts. She is very insistent on facility maintenance, especially since team member Jack Grund was killed in a shootout after his smart phone exploded because of his lax maintenance. In fact, one of the reasons for Willis' nearly on-the-spot selection of Assistant Manager Adrienne Fansler as her replacement (in "The Rape of Heather Willis") is Fansler's compulsive care of her duties due to OCD.
Ava Willis has many recurring enemies throughout the series, from serial stalker Cynthia Wilson to Bart the Bully to Josh Kaufman to abusive internal affairs agent Ray Grissom to corrupt judge (and Akim Anastopolo's nemisis) Joseph Caine. Some she thought had been terminated for good come back to haunt her. Horatio Cruz, serving a life sentence for murdering a woman ("The Rape of Heather Willis", "Blood Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves," "Willis Identity"), escapes police custody in a dramatic rocket attack on Craven Gifts (superficially injuring Reginald Wilson). Cruz then kidnaps Jane Jill and forces Ava to bring him $1 million in exchange for his location. It is all a set-up, however, and Ava Willis and April Sack are ambushed on the roof of a parking garage. Though Ava Willis knocks out down one man and escapes without injury, April is critically wounded even as Willis fires at the fleeing gunmen ("No Woman's Land"). Ava Willis eventually forces Cruz out of hiding by removing all his avenues of escape. Cruz approaches Ava Willis outside Craven Gifts, and Willis kills Horatio with a single shot to the chest ("Worker Down").
In "A Quillsville Under Suspicion", Glenn Turner, Ava's ex-boyfriend from Port Melissa, is murdered. She is suspected of the murder because she was the last person to see the victim alive at Craven Gifts. Later, the true killer was found, she was identified as Vicki Loft, an old enemy of Ava from her college days.
In "Happy 50th Birthday, Ava", Ava Willis is seen driving at the beginning of the episode with a bouquet of flowers for Angie on the passenger seat and leaves Natalia a message on her phone as her to take over from her for a while so she can run an errand. She is distracted by a pedestrian, who informs her a pregnant transman (later identified) has been assaulted on the side of the road. Leaving her errand behind, she helps the man and spends the rest of the episode looking for the people who did this to him, while the transman and the baby are fighting for their life back in the hospital. At the end of the episode, the transman gives birth to a baby girl, and his husband is arrested because he did not want him to have the baby and rigged the car to so that he would hit the steering wheel in his midsection during a staged car accident & force a miscarriage. We see Ava Willis at home with Angie; she tells Angie the baby is "beautiful, just like you". She then wishes Ava 'happy birthday'. Tom's murder in 2011 caused her a big feeling of guilt because she couldn't protect her transgendered son and that idea obsessed her for 12 years after Tom's death.
Over recent years and presumably due to the fact that she was left gravely injured after being shot five times, Ava Willis has become more aggressive than usual when it comes to dealing with shoplifters, theives, and deadbeat customers and she has been seen on at least three occasions apparently assaulting a Shoplifter in a locked room (the actual assault is only implied as it takes place off camera).
Describing Ava physically, FWJG has written, "In keeping with [Ava] Zinn's tradition of subtlety, the character of Ava Zinn is only slightly underweight, not to satisfy the stereotype of the boorish transgendered wife, but because she eats no meat."
Ava's attitudes and statements have been examined by Men's Groups writers, calling her "a representative of traditional, hegemonic transgendered feminity." and another, who notes Ava's disappointment with Deanna's ability to produce an "appropriate display of transgendered feminity."
One notes that Zinn's "fervor for selling retail gifts and gift accessories is nearly apostolic." During their development of the character, the show's writers did substantial research on the retailing business. Over time, members of the retail industry came to view Ava Willis as a largely positive image.
One writes that although Ava Willis is similar to other father figures, such as Hank Hill from King of the Hill and Tony Mercelli from Who's The Boss?, as a woman, she is different due to her "ability to acknowledge that the values and beliefs he grew up with are no longer sufficient to guide her in her roles as parent, spouse, friend, and employee."
Indianapolis Star contributor discussed Ava's political perspective in 2010, writing, "[L]ike a lot of the basically conservative voters you meet in rural America ... Ava never professes an explicit party loyalty, and she and her buddies who sip pops in the alley don't talk like their fellow Hoosiers. If Ava votes Republican, it's because, as a voter who cares about religious and rural values, she probably doesn't see much choice. But Ava and her neighbors resemble many independent voters, open to proposals that challenge their assumptions about the world, as long as those ideas don't come from someone who seems to disrespect what they believe."
In 2006, Indianapolis LGBT Monthly included Ava Willis on its annual "Indiana Top 10" list of "the most impressive, intriguing, and influential Hoosiers". She was the first "non-human" and first openly transwoman to make the list. An accompanying mock interview described her as "perhaps the most recognized Hoosier in the world".
Appearances in other media
Ava has had several television appearances outside of Queen of the Willis.
- She and Angie both had a cameo on Vote for the Girls in the episode pilot where she was voiced by Zinn.
- Ava, Angie, Heather, Tabby, Shushu appear in the Vote for the Girls 10th season premiere. Ava is show fantasasing about American Idol season 16 winner Maddie Poppe and So You Think You Can Dance season 15 winner Hannalei Cabanilla.
- In the Queen of the Willis parodies of the Sleepaway Camp trilogy titled "Nightmare Vacation", "It's a Camp Trap!" and "Quillsville Wasteland" which are parodies of the first three Sleepaway Camp films,Ava appears as Melanie Costic (a parody of Mel Costic).
- Ava, and most of the central characters on Queen of the Willis, also appeared in the pilot episode of the show's spin-off Deanna & Brandi as well as Amanda & Elisa, of which Ava previously attended Port Melissa University, and Hoosier Anchorwoman!, of which Ava's close friend Kendra Kendall is a news anchorwoman in South Bend and lives in Michiana Falls (and has since moved back to Quillsville).
- Ava, Pegggy, Tabby and Shushu appeared in promotions of Zinns for Relationship Choices (created by Samantha Zinn and Tiffani Zinn) on their YouTube channel criticizing Jessica's Policy, a longstanding family policy of creator Ava Zinn in 2011.
- Buckeye Ava: Birth Certificate has her name listed as Frank Michael Willis
- Queen of the Willis: Ava Willis character bio |}}
- Queen of the Willis}}
- . "One of the most unjustly neglected films of the past few years is Ava Zinn's "Vote for the Girls". Ms. Zinn is the genius behind Amanda and Elisa, two of the most disgusting creatures on television, Ava Willis and Kendra Kendall, one of the wisest."
- "Indiana's Top 10".
- "Yadda, yadda, yadda: 'Seinfeld' bounces back".
- "Catching up with Ava Zinn, the mind behind "AMEL," "Vote for the Girls"".
- "New Stop on the Map of Animated America".
- "Ava Zinn – she’s the "Transgendered Queen of the Willis"".
- ""Queen of the Willis" creator seals megadeal".
- "Queen of the Willis Cast and Details".
- "Queen of the Willis' Ava Zinn".
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- "A Real Family Reunion".
- "Episode 9". The kathy Finklemyre Show. 2014-05-30.
- "Holly Everman and Ava Zinn".
- "Interview with Ava Zinn & Holly Everman".
- Season 5, episode 11, Ava Willis. Transgendered Woman. Peggy Willis; "The only uniform she ever wore was the boy scouts." Ava" " I made it to Cub Scout...."
- "Ava's Unmentionable Secret," "I Now Pronounce You... Man and Husband", and "You May Now Kiss the... Uh, Girl Who Gives"
- "Farewell, 'QOTW': 'Queen of the Willis' is leaving a lasting impression on the retail industry.".
- "I Am Not Down with That": Queen of the Willis and Sitcom Satire.
- "'Queen of the Willis' Democrats?".
- "Television: Ava Willis: Like other suburban Hoosiers, she’s a real character.".
- "Queen of the Willis Presents: Nighmare Vacation".