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Marja Lewis-Ryan Wants Queer People to See Themselves in The L Word

Marja Lewis-Ryan Wants Queer People to See Themselves in The L Word

Marja Lewis-Ryan

The Generation Q showrunner talks to Out about what she hopes to accomplish with season two.

Now that the second season of Showtime's The L Word reboot, Generation Q, has officially premiered, showrunner Marja Lewis-Ryan is excited to see the reaction from queer fans, especially ones that haven't gotten to see themselves represented on TV before. Above all, she wants the show to be "an opportunity for all of us to see ourselves on television."

"A bunch of us went and saw the premiere of season one in a bar," she remembers. "When Gigi (Sepideh Moafi) came on screen in the pilot, she spoke in Farsi for a second and I was in a bar in LA and those Persian lesbians lost their minds! They screamed!"

"And I guess that's what the show is to me," she continues. "It's still about people who are desperate to see themselves on television and inside of this community. And it's up to me to hire people and to pay attention to what's going on in the world to figure out who those people are and get them on the show."

Because of that ethos, this second season really dives deep into characters like Sophie, an Afro-Latina Dominican woman, Gigi, who is Persian, Dani, who is Latina and Middle Eastern, Micah, played by Leo Sheng, who is Asian-American and trans, and Maribel, played by Jillian Mercado in a breakout role, who is disabled.

And because of quarantine restrictions, she directed all three of the first episodes, giving her even more opportunities to highlight the stories she wanted to.

"The disabled community inside of our community is huge," Lewis-Ryan says. "They're loud and they don't have a television show. So now I hope they do. The Farsi-speaking community and the Persian community out here in LA are bananas and the shows about Los Angeles have never had that before. So now they have."

She also made sure to include trans women and trans men in the show. While trans women would of course be on a woman-centric show like The L Word, Lewis-Ryan also wanted to make sure trans men had their space too. "Trans men are so integral in my world," she says. "II just wanted it to feel organic in that way."

She wants the show to be an escape for trans viewers. "I want trans people to watch the show and hit delete on the threat of the TERF lesbian," she says. If she did have to make a direct comment on TERFs, she offers, "F*ck those people, how about that? They don't deserve my time." Well said.

Another way Lewis-Ryan is expanding The L Word's representation this season is by casting Rosie O'Donnell in the role of Tina's new fiance, Carrie, in what already looks like an Emmy-worthy performance. Like the iconic comedian does in real life, O'Donnell's character represents a more "average" person than the typical L Word character.

"I am Rosie O'Donnell," Lewis-Ryan says. "I am not Bette Porter. I don't look right, I don't function in the world that way. If you think about Rosie O'Donnell, that's my tone, that's who I am. And she really helped ground the show in a different way this season."

"She's awesome. And she's so willing to put herself out there and she's so willing to be the butt of a joke," Lewis-Ryan says of O'Donnell. "She's so willing to be a character that has these really deep flaws, these really deep insecurities that are just so fun to write and so fun to watch. And they're so satisfying because it feels real, because that's how humans are."

Originally, Lewis-Ryan had the idea for O'Donnell to play the mayoral candidate Bette Porter runs against in season one, but she decided to save her for something more fitting. "Even in season one, when we started to say Tina's getting engaged, I was like, 'I know she's engaged to,'" she says.

It turned out O'Donnell was already a big fan. "Rosie had slipped into Finley (Jacqueline Toboni)'s DMs, and said, 'I'm a big fan, love the show, love you,'" Lewis-Ryan reveals. "And so we knew she was watching."

From there, Lewis-Ryan reached out to O'Donnell's agent about the role, and Lewis-Ryan says the comedian couldn't have been more excited. "She was like, 'Hell yeah, I'll get on a plane, I'll come. Yes, Yes, This is what I want to do.' And she was awesome."

New episodes of The L Word: Generation Q premiere Sunday nights on Showtime.

RELATED | The L Word: Generation Q's Young, Diverse Cast Brings the Show to Life

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.