'We've got to go back on because we are needed,' says Beals in an exclusive interview with EW
Tuesday was a massive one for fans of the Showtime series The L Word. News broke that the network is working on a sequel to the original series with co-creator Ilene Chaiken and original stars Jennifer Beals, Katherine Moenig, and Leisha Hailey all involved.
Back in early May, EW reunited Chaiken and the cast, who all expressed interest in returning to the beloved series about a group of lesbian friends in Los Angeles. Now, that sequel is even closer to a reality.
EW talked to Beals exclusively about why the moment is right for The L Word to return to television.
EW: So how did the idea of a sequel come about?
JENNIFER BEALS: Years ago, Kate and Leisha and I approached Ilene because we were shocked that nothing had taken its place. There was this renaissance, in a way, going on with marriage equality coming to the forefront. It was a different terrain and we thought you can start telling stories in a different way and there’s a whole new generation coming up that views sexuality in a different way. Ilene was in the middle of doing Empire [Chaiken is the Fox series’ showrunner] and she was very excited about the idea but there are only so many hours in the day.
Then, the election happened. I remember I was in South Dakota watching the returns come in and I texted Ilene and I said, “We need to do something.” She said, “Let’s get together and talk about it.” So we were spitballing about what to do and I said our skillset is storytelling and I think we need to tell stories and certainly in an atmosphere of increasing hatred towards the LGBT community and frankly anyone who’s categorized as “other,” stories exploring the complexities of friendship and love are all that more crucial. Representation of everything. You can’t go backward. I would love to see the show continue to mine its original themes of friendship and love and community and additionally I’d like it to go a little further and challenge heteronormalcy.
Did the EW reunion help at all?
Showtime had agreed to [develop] it prior to the shoot and it probably solidified their decision-making and I think it just makes the fans excited. For Leisha and Kate and I, we’re always getting messages on Twitter of “Bring it back! Bring it back! Bring it back!” But I think that article just pushed it even further and put the possibility in people’s minds to continue to push it forward.
What made you, Kate and, Leisha want to be producers this time around?
Well, I think Ilene graciously offered because she knew that she’ll also be busy with other projects, not to say she won’t be shepherding this very very closely. Ilene has always created a culture where you can come to her with ideas. So in a way, it’s just codifying what we’ve sort of always been doing. Of course, there will be more responsibilities that come with it. It’s more exciting to have more responsibility.
Are you auditioning showrunners now?
We are. I love it. I love developing. I really enjoy that process. I love hearing the different takes that people come in with even this early in the process.
And the hope is that other original L Word people will return?
Yes. I would love that. That would be great.
At the reunion, Kate was adamant that season 6 be forgotten — which would make Jenny alive. Is that something you all have discussed?
You really got to hear the pitches of what they want to do. That person is taking on a huge load. They have the history of the show, the legacy of the show, and yet they have to make it better and they have to make it theirs. So to dictate too much at this point in time I think would be problematic. I want to hear what’s coming from them and what excites them and what stories they want to tell because that’s when it’s going to be good when you let somebody fully have their voice.
Where do you hope Bette is now? I would love for her to be in a political position.
I don’t want to even say what I would like to see at this point because I think it’s more important for me to be open and listen to people’s ideas and not get stuck in my own desires. If somebody says I think she should be a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys. I’m gonna say, “Well I don’t think that’s such a great idea.” Can you imagine? That would be funny [Laughs].
RELATED: Where we left off on The L Word
Do you know what the timetable is for the series?
No, not at all. I think once we get somebody it will be a bullet train.
You’ve done so many things in your career but does The L Word feel more significant. How do you qualify it?
There are others shows I’ve felt that are really personal. Ilene and I were talking and we feel completely the same way that we were all really spoiled by The L Word in that it changed what we wanted to be attached to. Any kind of storytelling that doesn’t aim to change the world is not as energizing. We got really really lucky to be part of something that was both entertaining and meaningful and we want to continue more of that.For me, it was the first time I was really exposed to an extraordinary community of activists. I learned what activism is through The L Word and that was life-changing.
Well the show was very impactful for me and I’m happy its back. It feels right for you all to return.
I have to come up with a different word than reboot. For other shows, I kinda get the word reboot. This is like, “We’ve got to go back on because we are needed.” It’s needed, which is a different calling.