There’s a familiar but entirely fresh scene in The L Word: Generation Q’s second season premiere. Bette, Alice, and Shane, the characters from the original Showtime series that premiered in 2004, who anchor the reboot, are gathered at a restaurant/café regaling one another with tales of their work and love lives, or lack thereof. The old discussions included treatises on gaydar, “nipple confidence,” and preparing to become a parent. Now the characters (all comfortable in their careers), consider what’s next personally as they mature.
At the close of Generation Q’s first season, which ended about 18 months ago, Alice (Leisha Hailey) was working on her relationship with her partner Nat (Stephanie Allynne) after they’d opened it up to a throuple — and reclosed it — with Nat’s ex Gigi (Sepideh Moafi). Meanwhile, Shane (Kate Moennig), who’d returned from to Los Angeles after a decade-long absence during which she’d gotten married (only to have it fall apart over their opposing views on becoming parents), opened a good old-fashioned queer bar and named it for their long-gone friend Dana. The scene between Bette (Jennifer Beals), Shane, and Alice at the restaurant is breezy and will feel like home to fans of the original and the first season of the reboot. But there’s a resonance, a gravity, to Bette’s current concerns.
Now in her 50s, she’s a single mom co-parenting Angie (Jordan Hull), the daughter she and Tina (Laurel Holloman) had together in the original series. A driven titan of the art world, Bette is single with no prospects for romance on the horizon. There’s a real fear that comes through — that she may never find love again. Of course, it’s The L Word, and she’s Bette, the original TV power lesbian extraordinaire. Love is likely around the corner. Still, when the reboot was in the works, Beals made clear her desire to touch on particular subjects including searching for love later in life.
Sepideh Moafi as Gigi and Jennifer Beals as Bette
“When we first brought the show back, when I met with the writers, the things that I told them that were important to me to address were racism and aging,” Beals tells The Advocate. “I'm talking to a room of predominantly writers who are under 40 and 30. And trying to talk to them about what might be some of the issues if you're a woman who's 50 or north of 50 who doesn't have a true love in her life other than her daughter who will be leaving the house soon.”
“There is the idea that am I going to die alone? Is the legacy that I've created completely going to be around academics and art and humanities? Is there not going to be something for me personally?” Beals says she pondered about her character’s future. “It was important to me to kind of investigate that and to explore how that might feel and what that looks like.”
The L Word and the reboot, under showrunner Marja Lewis Ryan, have always elements of wish-fulfillment. Once Bette puts it out in the world that she’s open to love, Alice hatches a plan to set her up with Gigi. It’s not clear if Bette and Gigi will work out, but Beals does tease a romance.
“Fortunately, Bette finds somebody this season. I'm really excited about that story,” she says.
Watch The Advocate's full interview with Beals, Hailey, and Moennig above.
It’s not just Bette who’s in a bit of flux or rediscovery this season. An unapologetic lothario from way back, Shane is buoyed by her work at Dana’s and the community she builds there, even if she does wade into the world of backroom poker games this season. At the heart of her story, though, is her evolving relationship with Jamie Clayton’s Tess, Dana’s bar manager and the friend Shane betrayed by sleeping with Tess’s then-girlfriend. As Tess begins to crack Shane’s enigmatic veneer, a new part of Shane emerges, and there is a slow burn to what will undoubtedly become a romance.
“Shane's gone through it as she normally does. And for the first time, maybe in her life, she's actually taking a moment and slowing everything down. She's taking your time for once,” Moenneig says. “That's what I enjoyed playing because it allowed myself and Jamie to be able to track what was going and where it was leading and why it would go there. I mean, you can read between the lines. It’s The L Word. You can figure out what happens.”
Leisha Hailey as Alice
Moennig, an executive producer of Generation Q along with Beals and Hailey, credits Clayton (Sense8) for helping to form that bond between their characters.
“I didn't have to create any relationship with Jamie because it was there immediately. And I felt like the luckiest actor on the show because I worked primarily with her every single day,” Moennig says. “We had the greatest time, and you never know when you're going to be in sync with someone.”
Meanwhile, Alice has long been the cutup of The L Word, always on hand with a solid quip and a juicy piece of gossip. As Generation Q’s second season opens, she’s riding high in her relationship and with her successful talk show. The season continues to explore the story it began last season around polyamory as a fixed identity for many and how Alice bumps up against it.
“What’s interesting about a polyamorous relationship is that you're not the only one deciding what you want to do with it. There are three people involved. So it's even more important to take care of yourself in the situation,” Hailey says.
Whereas a heartbroken 20-something Alice once hoarded a cardboard cutout of her ex Dana in the original series, Alice now channels her energy into writing a memoir. Hailey views the writing process as a kind of emotional reckoning for her character.
Kate Moennig as Shane and Jamie Clayton as Tess
“That story [of self-care] is definitely told, and I think it launches Alice into not only what she decides to do [with Nat] but into writing her book,” Hailey says. “It’s a lot about Alice owning things that she's never dealt with or actually taking care of herself for the first time and saying, Oh, I need to deal with this. I haven't dealt with this for 10-plus years. She's very experimental and just keeps going forward and kind of eats up life quickly. Alice is uncovering a lot of things about herself that maybe she hasn't stopped to think about in a while.”
The three original L Word characters are on their own trajectories — something else Bette copes with is the arrival of Tina’s fiancée, Carrie, played with infuriating (to Bette) kindness and sincerity by Rosie O’Donnell — but Beals, Moennig, and Hailey concur that the experience of shooting the second season during the pandemic was a gift. They hope that audiences will feel comforted by seeing them all together again along with the crackerjack new cast members.
“It's really gratifying to be part of something that gives representation to people who need to see more of themselves in mainstream media. That's the first thing,” Beals stresses about returning to the world of The L Word. “It's also, in this particular time in history with COVID, and people having been at home for so long — I know that people will feel like they'll be reunited with their friends, in a way. I know that they think of these characters as their friends. It's like an extension of their friendship group, and they get to see them again, which makes me really happy to have them reunited with their friends in a way.”