The popular drama offers new tales for a whole different generation

The L Word: Generation QCraveWhen The L Word premiered in 2004, the series depicting the lives of non-heterosexual women in Los Angeles was considered groundbreaking. These days, a show about a broad range of sexual and gender expressions is no longer the envelope-pusher it once was, but that doesn’t mean the creator of this L Word reboot hasn’t found ways to expand our views of the world. “I think I’m still trying to find what the residue of a male gaze is that I’m trying to let go of. How do I really firmly step into my own perspective?” muses showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan. “How do I not accidentally objectify any one character but maintain the sex appeal of the show? What is sexy, and how do I shoot sexy?”

In the second season of The L Word: Generation Q, Ryan goes even further in exploring the intimate bond between viewers and characters. “The major things that I wanted to change were the aesthetics of the show,” she says. “Every time I watched the first season, I felt like there was still a gap between what the characters were feeling and what the audience was experiencing. I really wanted a more perspective-driven show, so that you’re on this ride with them emotionally. To do that, we ditched the glossy studio mode and went all handheld and lamplit. It’s a couple of clicks into reality that I was really happy to make.”

The L Word: Generation QCraveAnd indeed, it’s not a bad time to punch in a little bit closer on these characters. Left dangling on a season-finale cliffhanger, the choice that Sophie (Rosanny Zayas) had to make between fiancée Dani (Arienne Mandi) and Finley (Jacqueline Toboni) and its consequences played out almost instantly in the second-season premiere. Meanwhile, Alice (Leisha Hailey) has been forced to confront some buried emotions that have been unearthed through the writing of her book. Shane (Katherine Moennig) is picking up the pieces after her breakup with estranged wife Quiara (Lex Scott Davis) and Bette (Jennifer Beals) is dealing with issues of identity after her teenage daughter expressed a desire to know her father. “One of the things that was really important to me was to investigate and explore Bette as a parent of a teenager and really go down that storyline, because that’s really the most important love story that she has,” says Beals. “What’s great about that is that you get to start to talk about racism and colourism and abandonment.”

For the original cast, having a front-row seat to the evolution of representation in pop culture and the changes rapidly taking place in society has been a privilege. Original stars Moennig, Hailey and Beals still get approached by new generations of fans who’ve discovered the series years after it aired on TV. “I get so excited by that,” says Beals. “It also makes me realize that more and more people are coming out at a younger age. You see these young kids that are so confident and assured about who they are, and at being able to self-identify. It’s exciting to be part of their journey.”

The L Word: Generation QCraveSome of the more touching feedback has actually involved family members of the LGBTQ+ community, as these characters have helped them to better understand their own children. “I know that this show is used as a tool to show a lot of parents what gay people look like and how they move in the world,” says Hailey. “People are like, ‘I sat my mother down and she watched an episode and then started to understand who I am.’ ” Ryan has no doubt that the show, even in 2021, is making an enormous impact. “Oh my God. This show saves people’s lives,” she says. “I know that sounds huge, but it does. Just having Leo Sheng [who plays Micah] on this show, and having kids be able to look at him and be like, ‘Oh, that’s how it turns out. That’s pretty cool’—having some kind of North Star in that way is not lost on me.”

The characters of the new generation are all facets of Ryan in her 20s, according to the showrunner, which has allowed her to deeply relate to their onscreen journeys. These characters have also had experiences that Ryan can’t attest to firsthand. But part of bold storytelling is taking big swings, even when there is a possibility that you get something wrong. “Sometimes taking big swings, you miss, and I do think that part of moving forward is being willing and able to f*** up and right your own wrongs,” says Ryan. “The beauty of television, though, is that I get to actually have a writers’ room full of people that have experiences that are unlike mine. I don’t have to guess and I don’t have to wonder—that’s the way to right those wrongs: Have people tell their own stories.”

The L Word: Generation Q airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Crave1