Ilene Chaiken Has No Regrets -- Except Killing Dana

Ilene Chaiken talks about TheL Word's final season, the hush-hush Leisha Hailey spin-off, and a rumored L Word movie -- all without revealing a thing.

BY Caroline Ryder

January 16 2009 1:00 AM ET

Before January
18, 2004 -- when the first episode of The L Word
aired -- Ilene Chaiken was a resolutely
below-the-line, behind-the-scenes kind of lesbian. Today,
thanks to show’s success, she needs little
introduction -- and not just among the LGBT audience.
Chaiken is an integral component of TheL Word’s global brand, a mainstream
entertainment commodity that has been sold in dozens of
countries around the world, from Uruguay to Lithuania
to Iceland. Being thrust into the role of lesbian
storyteller in chief has occasionally proved jarring for
the cerebral, reserved writer-director.

“I was a
blithering mess in the beginning,” says Chaiken,
smiling. “It’s terrifying when
you’re someone who is not groomed to be in front of
an audience, and you don’t really feel
well-suited for it.”

For the first
year after the show launched, she took beta blockers.
“Then I didn’t need to worry anymore.
These days, I don’t shake nearly as much when
I’m making speeches.”

The sixth and
final season of the show is set to begin on Showtime
January 18, exactly five years after the series launched.
While it’s a bittersweet goodbye for Chaiken,
one gets the sense she’s a little relieved.

“I feel
that it is exactly the right time to be moving on,”
she says slowly and purposefully, grating lemon zest
for a mousse dessert as she talks to Advocate.com in her kitchen.
“I’ll miss the community of The L
Word,
but I was personally ready for it to end.
Jennifer Beals did joke that someday Bette and Tina would
have grandchildren -- but I think all of us agreed
that it was best to go while we were still relatively
young and sexy.”

We spoke a few
days before Christmas -- she’d recently returned to
Los Angeles from Vancouver, where she had wrapped the
20-minute pilot of her new, as yet unsold L
Word
spin-off starring Leisha Hailey. It's rumored
to be a prison drama, but Chaiken declined to go in to
any detail about it. Even so, one would be safe in assuming
that Chaiken has plenty more lesbian-themed
entertainment up her sleeve, right?

Tags: television

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