At today’s Showtime TCA panels, Ilene Chaiken, co-creator of the 2004-2009 television series The L Word and one of the executive producers of that show’s new Showtime incarnation The L Word: Generation Q, refused to go back into the past when Deadline asked her to comment on Empire, where she formerly served as showrunner.
Nope, not going there, nothing to say about Empire, her thoughts on how the series should end, or the decision to eliminate controversial star Jussie Smollett’s role in the drama’s 6th and final season.
However, Chaiken, as well as co-executive producer/stars Jennifer Beals, Leisha Hailey and Katherine Moennig and EP/showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan, were more than happy to delve into the groundbreaking past of The L Word and how it will reflect the Q generation 10 years later. The producers were joined on the panel by cast members Arienne Mandi, Jacqueline Toboni, Rosanny Zayas and Leo Sheng.
“The world has changed a lot in these ten years, and lesbians still belong on television,” asserted Chaiken.
Beals agreed, She said the show would expand the discussion about sexuality and gender identification to reflect today’s conversation. “(In 2004) non-binary was a mathematical term” rather than part of the lexicon in today’s discussion of gender identification and sexuality,” Beals said. “I am very happy for the show to come back. We’ve been working for years to have it come back on the air. Nothing has taken its place.”
Chaiken and Beals said the election of Donald Trump definitely served as a catalyst to their efforts to reinvent the show. As the election returns rolled in, Beals said, “I was texting with Ilene: ‘We have to do something. We don’t know what it is exactly, (but) we can see the tsunami coming.”
Ryan, 34, said the idea of the new series is to explore “what has changed, and also what hasn’t.” She said some of the show’s new characters were inspired by her experiences as a gay woman in Los Angeles. She noted a disproportionate number of queer people among the homeless, and among suicides. Bullying remains rampant. “It’s ignorant to say we’re not marginalized anymore. Young adults need people to look up to.”
Ryan added she hopes story lines will provide “an aspirational queer narrative” rather than simply reflecting the negative experiences. She added that any suggestion of running out of queer narratives “suggests there’s a limit to what ought to be.”
The trans community will get a new focus with the character of Micah, portrayed by 23-year-old transman Leo Sheng. The new show will also be shooting on location in Silver Lake and other locations, giving more of a sense of the city.
After the panel, Ryan said the series would also strive for a broader canvas than that of the relationship-dominated original, with some focus on career and the characters’ larger roles in society. “I love shows like Six Feet Under and Big Love (that provide) intimate conversations against a story with big scope and scale,” she said.