How The L Word's Jennifer Beals got back into the Bette Porter mindset
The L Word: Generation Q, the revival of Showtime's queer/formerly-referred-to-as-lesbian drama is back (to US viewers, at least) and it is every bit what we, the fans, imagined. Our favourite original cast members have returned, including Jennifer Beals as Bette Porter, and Katherine Moennig as Shane McCutcheon aka the OG rocker of the shag haircut.
Despite thinking I was straight at the time, I watched it religiously back in 2009. And looking back, it was this show - and seeing queer and same-sex relationships normalised - that made coming out later that little bit easier. Like me, many LGBTQ+ people owe a lot to the original six series of The L Word. Sure, it was (rightly) criticised for its lack of decent trans representation, the way it dealt with bisexuality, and its choice to centre mostly white, privileged, femme-presenting characters. And that's why the we're all losing our shit over Generation Q - the show has been given a chance to right those wrongs.
Now renewed for a second season and due to air in the UK shortly, I caught up with Jennifer Beals to chat about what it was like to step back into Bette Porter's power suits after more than a decade, how she welcomed the new cast members and how she, a straight woman, feels about being a queer icon.
*FYI we mention events that unfold in the first six episodes of Generation Q*
Q: What has it been like to play Bette Porter again after 15 years?
"It's really interesting because it's a slightly different version. There's the fact that she's 10 years older, and there's the fact that there's a new showrunner. It's a character that I love so much, and every day I get to play her it is a pleasure. But it's really interesting to see how she's changed, and to try to investigate that a little bit.
"She still doesn't take any nonsense, for sure. But [the biggest change is that] she's going through such a crisis. She's in the middle of divorce and her sister has died. And you're watching how she deals with profound grief."
Q: Do you have any rituals to get you back in the Bette Porter mindset?
"Really the most important thing - and I didn't even know this, but - costume is so important. We were in the beginning of the show and trying all these different things, and the costumer was saying, 'Okay, how would she have changed in 10 years, in terms of the things that she wore?' And then I realised, I just needed a power suit and some cufflinks. I just need that to get back on track."
At the #TCAs. Spreading the ❤️❤️❤️ #thelword #tca19
A post shared by Jennifer Beals (@thejenniferbeals) on Aug 2, 2019 at 11:33am PDT
Q: What was it like welcoming the new cast members?
"Tt was so much fun and such a pleasure. You have this group of young actors, some of for whom this is their literally their first job. And to welcome them into this family was really a pleasure. You know that they're going to go on this amazing ride, that of which they're completely unaware at this moment. It was exciting and I wanted them to know that this was their show too. It's not that they're just coming on and they’re the newbies quote unquote. It's also their show."
Q: What's it like being queer icon when you're straight?
"It feels like a great honour. You know, it puts a big smile on my face. Before I got The L Word, I was on a hike. I often hike by myself and and I think about the things that I would like to bring into my life. I literally asked the universe and [I said], 'I would love to be part of an epic love story'.
I handed it over to the universe, which handed me back my wish, with so much more complexity and and profundity that I dared to ask for. To be handed this epic lesbian love story was such a gift. And to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community is a gift. It's a responsibility that I take very seriously."
Q: What can we expect to see in the second season of The l Word: Generation Q?
"I haven't really sat down yet with Marja [Lewis-Ryan, the showrunner] and Ilene [Chaiken, the creator] to talk about the second season, and I'll probably do that later this month. But I would really like to see more of the co-parenting story with Bette and Tina. I think that's something to really mine. It's interesting and [it’s rare] to see the aftermath of a divorce of a same-sex couple, and what the co-parenting looks like.
A little somethin’ to hold you over until Sunday. ☺️❤️ #thelword #thelwordgenq #family #bts
A post shared by Jennifer Beals (@thejenniferbeals) on Jan 17, 2020 at 12:25pm PST
"[I'd like to see] how it's tricky. There's all this stuff going on underneath the surface. You know they love each other, but there's a lot of things that have happened, and so sometimes there are triggers. There's a lot of love but there's a history, and sometimes that history isn't always present."
Q: People often focus on the romantic relationships in The L Word, but do you see the friendships as just as key?
"It's a hugely important aspect of it. At the end of the day, the romantic relationships often come and go, but those friendships endure. I think that's what allowed the original L Word to expand in terms of the base of the audience. I would have the straight, cis women come up to me and talk about how much they love the show because it reminded them of their relationships with their friends. They'd say they love the empowerment of female friendships."
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