Micabel broke the internet.
The L Word is a show known for its sex scenes. For many queer women, it was the first time ever we saw lesbian sex on TV. But few sex scenes on the show have been as hot, or as revolutionary, as the one that took place this weekend between Micah (played by Leo Sheng) and Maribel (played by Jillian Mercado) in episode five of season two of Showtime's The L Word: Generation Q.
In season 2, Micah, an Asian-American trans man and therapist, and Maribel, a disabled Latina lawyer, got to have their screen time extended, and have been growing closer and flirting heavily all year. Then, with Micah opening up to Maribel about how he’s attracted to both men and women, we can’t stop ourselves from shipping the two.
Sheng and Mercado are fans, and close friends, in real life, so getting to portray this relationship wasn’t just easy, it was also a dream come true. The two actors didn’t get to see people like them on television growing up, or even as adults. The only way to get stories like theirs on screen was to portray them themselves.
For Sheng, Micah’s storyline rang true. Being on The L Word "kind of allowed me to really embrace my queerness even more and be more open to what that means for me," he tell Out. "The second season was like, I know this story. I'm currently living a version of this story, just kind of in the opposite way. My queerness is kind of leaning more towards men right now, but just that idea of you think you're living and are attracted to this one particular community, and then it's like, my attraction is broader than that."
Overall, Sheng and Mercado wanted to make sure they got the scene right. Sex scenes are so rare for both the trans and disabled communities, so they knew that this might be the only chance a lot of people get to see someone like them having a positive sexual experience in media.
"It was very important for our characters, and also us as human beings, to portray the story as humanized as possible and also kind of fill in the gap of that part of representation that people are very fearful of because you don't see it," Mercado says. "I mean, I never saw it growing up, to have someone like myself who's physically disabled have a sex scene, period."
Both Sheng and Mercado can barely imagine what it would’ve been like to see this scene as young people. "I know that if I saw that when I was 13 or 14, or an adult for that matter, I would have probably had less of an emo phase than I did, you know," Mercado says. "And that would’ve helped a lot as far as trying to figure out my sexuality growing up, or even just the basics of how to date someone having a physical disability like myself."
Mercado made sure that Maribel looked her best in the scene, and not just for selfish or vain reasons — she knows how big the scene is for people like her. She wants the scene to act as a "green light" to producers and people in power, letting them know that disabled and trans sex scenes can be sexy. She wants to see a billion more scenes like this.
"I knew the gravity of the impact of this scene in particular," Mercado says. "I mean, ask Leo. I wouldn't shut up about it. If it's not talking to the costume designer or meetings with Marja or meeting with Sandra and Moira, I was just like, 'I just need this look as hot as possible.' Which is obviously they're like, 'Yeah, we know how to do that. This is The L Word.'"
And HOT HOT HOT it was.
Maribel is in charge the whole time, first leaning in to kiss Micah, and then, when he picks her up to carry her upstairs, she tells him, "don’t act like you’re gonna break me, because you can’t." It’s one of the hottest lines in L Word history.
"So funny fact is that actually is a real-life quote that I got from my real-life experience..." Mercado laughs. "I threw in that line because I thought it was funny, but also it’s very true to a lot of people thinking that they can break a person who may not have the physical ability to walk. But you know, if you need to throw me, just throw me."
At first, Mercado was very reluctant for the camera to linger on her scars, as she didn’t want to fetishize them. But ultimately, she decided it was the right move. She didn’t want there to be any shame associated with her scars or her body in the scene. "It was important for me to have that really tight close-up where Micah is like embracing them and saying, 'You're safe with me. This is a safe situation. I love you for who you are, but damn, this fucking scar is hot too,'" she says.
"There’s nothing for Micah that is like, 'I’m out, this is too much,'" Sheng adds. "It’s like, 'I see you, this is a part of you. This is a part of your journey, your body, and I am really into you as a whole person.' And so how do we show that through the cinematography and the shots?"
In the end, they did a great job balancing the sexy and steamy with the loving and tender in the scene. It’s not just a hookup, it’s the culmination of Micah and Maribel’s growth throughout the season. It’s a story like The L Word has never had before.
"It’s a story about disability and trans people, and an interracial couple where no one is white, you know? There’s a lot in our relationship, and there’s a lot of factors into why this is such a different story," Sheng says.
"At the end of the day, it's a love story between two really close friends who just found each other in the best moment and grew with each other," Mercado says, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be drama.
"It’s not going to end with either character dying, which are tropes of both communities," Sheng adds. "But I’m actually really excited to see the maybe not-so-great choices, the choices that leave audience members asking, 'Why are you doing that?'"
Does that mean he’ll give us a clue as to what kinds of decisions those will be? "So, episode five is great, and I would just say the rest of the season is a good arc. It’s a great story, and it feels real," he says. "It feels honest, as honest as we can be on television."
New episodes of The L Word: Generation Q are available to stream Fridays on the Showtime app and Sundays on Showtime.