Here they are: Shane McCutcheon and Alice Pieszecki, right in front of this reporter—or, OK, their portrayers Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey—a few weeks after the celebrated musical episode of The L Word: Generation Q dared to posit the question—or tantalizing possibility—of the two best friends getting together after so many years of them absolutely, totally not. The looks on the characters’ faces in that scene said it all: No way, this cannot happen. Of all the criss-crossing bed-hopping of The L Word, Shane and Alice’s friendship has stayed platonic as (so many) women have come and gone.
“We would never let them [make Shane and Alice a thing],” Hailey told The Daily Beast.
“To the respect of the original writers, they always knew not to go there. And it just carried forward,” adds Moennig. “I find the friends-to-lovers trope is a bit tired.”
The two best friends and co-stars are their usual banter-filled selves on Zoom with The Daily Beast just a week before the Season 3 finale of The L Word: Generation Q, with the drama ramping up around Bette and Tina’s wedding. (It debuts across streaming and on demand tomorrow, Friday, and airs Sunday on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET/PT.) However, before diving into the gay wedding decades in the making, all these major characters returning and that unexpected and fun musical episode must be addressed. The fans demand it.
Besides giving The L Word fans an almost kiss between Shane and Alice, the aforementioned musical episode also included the return of Erin Daniels as legendary character Dana, the hot tennis pro who after her tragic death in Season 3 of the original show was last seen in ghostly outline in a waterfall.
“Who would ever think of a musical episode with The L Word,” said Moennig with a laugh. But both the cast and Daniels jumped on board with the idea.
“I called Erin right away and was like, ‘OK, there’s a crazy idea. They wanna bring you back, but it’s gonna be a musical episode,’” Hailey recalls with a laugh. “She was fully game, because we love to work together. She was like, ‘As long as I’m working with you, we’re gonna have a good time.’”
As Moennig and Hailey describe it, it was indeed a good time. They filmed the episode in a week and Moennig, Hailey and fellow castmate Rosanny Zayas, who plays Sophie, spent much of their time rehearsing. “I had been working so much I wasn’t able to get in to have rehearsal with the choreographers, so Leisha and Rosanny took it upon themselves to teach me one weekend so I could be caught up to the level they were at,” said Moennig.
Both Moennig and Hailey also had to take a moment to praise Rosanny’s superb singing voice. “I was like where have you been hiding that?” Hailey said.
Despite being quite a big change from anything the series had done before, Moennig and Hailey had an absolute blast with the musical episode. Moennig only has one regret about the episode and that is she wished she sang. “I think it would’ve landed differently had I done it, but, oh well, too late,” said Moennig.
Daniels isn’t the only character who’s made a return this season. Fans were also surprised to see now-firefighter Tasha (Rose Rollins), back and immediately arguing with ex Alice upon the rescue of her cat Mr. Piddles Jr. from up a tree.
“The hardest part of the entire night was the flare,” Moennig recalled. Moennig, who made her directorial debut in the penultimate episode of The L Word: Generation Q’s third season that aired on Jan.15, was determined to get Tasha’s reveal right.
To get the shock for Alice and the audience right it all came down to getting the timing right with a light flare—and Moennig nailed it. Then, the camera panned to a very unimpressed Alice.
“Tasha and Alice were always arguing, so just to have their very first scene like no time has passed [was perfect],” said Hailey.
The return of Tasha, who came into the series as Alice’s love interest in season four and stayed until the finale of the original, is something both Moennig and Hailey wanted for some time and not just because they wanted to reunite with old castmates—although that is a plus—but because as fans of The L Word themselves, they want to see her return. “We haven’t seen Tasha since 2009. Wasn’t everyone a little curious what happened to Tasha and Alice? I was, and to suddenly see her back, what a shot in the arm,” said Moennig.
Besides bringing Dana and Tasha, The L Word: Generation Q also brought back Max Sweeney (Daniel Sea) this season. Max made his debut in The L Word in Season 3 and the often transphobic treatment of his character in the show has been a sore spot for fans for many years. In his return episode, this treatment was blatantly addressed in an exchange between him and Shane (Moennig), where Shane apologized for the friend group’s old behavior. It was a moment fans had long been waiting for.
“We were just acknowledging with Max [that] yeah, time has changed and everyone has grown up since 2000 and what, eight or seven or whatever that year was. And just [we were] being accountable,” said Moennig. “Not making a meal out of it, but just being accountable.”
“[Transphobia] is an incredibly dangerous thing that’s happening and it’s why shows like [The L Word: Generation Q] need to exist because it all helps the change. Representation is so important and to do it properly is so important,” said Hailey. “My character didn’t get a chance to apologize to Max and I know Alice said some pretty abhorrent things back then.”
“I think it’s up to people in power to make those bold decisions and keep shows that have more than two gay characters alive”
— Leisha Hailey
Representation on television has been a hot-button issue of late, especially after a string of queer-led and especially female-centric television series were canceled.
“Sadly, I think we’re back to where we were before,” Hailey said. “Media thinks it’s OK to just serve up some gay crumbs with a couple of gay characters or trans characters, or maybe a straight person has a bisexual experience [in a show], and I think they think we’re supposed to be satisfied with that. And quite frankly, I don’t think it’s enough.”
“Nor is it reflective of where we are in 2023,” adds Moennig.
“I think it’s up to people in power to make those bold decisions and keep shows that have more than two gay characters alive,” Hailey adds.
That is why shows like The L Word: Generation Q remain so important to the queer community as it is an unapologetic look into the lives of many queer characters who aren’t defined by their sexuality or gender identity. And this season, the most beloved couple within the series finally reunited. Yes, of course, the reunion of Tina (Laurel Holloman) and Bette (Jennifer Beals) in episode two was a huge fan moment. And just when audiences weren’t sure when they’d see the happy couple again, the two pop back up the penultimate episode of the season and do something we all hoped would happen: get engaged.
“My objective with those two was that I didn’t want it schmaltzy and I know it could teeter in that territory very easily,” said Moennig, who directed the significant moment. “Sometimes simple is the answer to things like that. I was happy that I could be in the driver’s seat with that.”
In the end, the proposal scene turned out just like Moennig, Beals and Holloman wanted it. It was a very Bette and Tina proposal. It wasn’t overly cheesy or over the top, it was a simple declaration of love.
While Moennig got to direct the episode of Tasha’s return and Bette and Tina’s engagement, Hailey, in her directorial debut, was tasked with directing Tina and Bette’s wedding episode—the Season 3 finale. “The Bette and Tina wedding means a lot to a lot of people, so the pressure was on in that sense,” said Hailey. “There was a lot going on in one place that had to be done in a very short amount of time. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge.”
When Moennig and Hailey expressed their interest in directing back when The L Word: Generation Q was just beginning they had no idea that they would eventually direct two of the most pivotal episodes of the series. “They just said, ‘OK, you’re doing 9, you’re doing 10,’” adds Hailey. “And we didn’t know what they were gonna be at the time.”
Moennig and Hailey have been executive producers on The L Word: Generation Q since it began in 2019 and have taken on quite a role behind the scenes, but directing was a new challenge for them both and one that seemed like a natural progression.
“It’s a very vulnerable position to be in on a set because everything has to go through you, but at the same time, there is a comfort in knowing, ‘Oh, I understand this world very well.’”
— Katherine Moennig
“I think the environment was perfect to get your feet wet in this department, because we’ve been on the show now for how many years—we understand the world this takes place in and we know these characters,” said Moennig. “It’s a very vulnerable position to be in on a set because everything has to go through you, but at the same time, there is a comfort in knowing, ‘Oh, I understand this world very well.’”
Hailey and Moennig both shadowed directors during season two and three as they geared up to make their debuts.
“Working with the actors was really fun and trying to bring out the best in everyone’s performance is a fun challenge or to try to take them into places maybe that are outside of their comfort zones,” said Hailey. “Arienne Mandi [who plays Dani] got to do a lot of that, which was really fun for her and me.”
The finale episode gives fans the Bette and Tina wedding everyone has been waiting for, but like always expect a plethora of drama—the soapiness of the show that Moennig and Hailey have always enjoyed.
“You have to have a reason to come back,” said Hailey.
“Ridiculous circumstances are fun to watch,” Hailey said. “But on the flip side, I think it’s very important to dig more deeply into the real structure behind these friendships and the emotional quality of these relationships and to stay longer and to get to know the people better and to give fans a chance to dive into the storylines and get invested.”
“You can’t have one without the other,” Moennig agreed and added that she always liked how in the original series you not only saw the character’s dating drama but their work drama, living arrangement drama, etc. “You started to get a pretty clear scope of who everyone was, especially as the season went on,” said Moennig. “Which made the show, I’m not saying it was perfect, but it enriched the drama. So you were like, ‘Okay, I can dive in and believe this outlandish circumstance.’”
One of Hailey and Moennig’s favorite things about The L Word was how much it really depicted the found family aspect of queer culture. “That was the glue from day one,” said Moennig. “We chose each other,” added Hailey.
Chosen family was highlighted in a big way this season of The L Word: Generation Q with Carrie (Rosie O’Donnell) and Finley’s (Jacqueline Toboni) storyline. “In this season, that’s my favorite storyline,” said Hailey. “That’s my takeaway from the season.”
Of course no conversation about Rosie O’Donnell’s involvement in The L Word could go without praise for her incredible performance. “She’s outstanding,” said Moennig. “She’s the MVP of the season.”
“I don’t miss the song. I do miss our opening credits, I thought they were always fun.”
— Leisha Hailey
There is one thing though that Hailey and Moennig do not miss from the original and it is the iconic theme song. “I don’t miss the song,” said Hailey. “I do miss our opening credits, I thought they were always fun.”
And they were a production. “They used to have teams of people fly up to Vancouver,” Hailey said. “[They’d] make a really high concept look and shoot it in four days and [there] was a stage with all these different costumes and lighting and camera tricks,” Moennig added.
The theme song and longer opening credits is something of a lost art. Except for the occasional HBO show opening, it has since become a thing of the past in television. “There is something about a theme song that locks in the vibe of a series, for instance, Succession. The moment you hear that instrumental, you think, ‘OK, here we go. I’m in the world of Succession’ and it gets you. Not that I’m at all comparing the theme song to the original of The L Word to Succession,” Moennig says with a laugh. “I’m not at all putting those two in the same category.”
When the credits roll on the season three finale, in true L Word fashion, there are some juicy cliffhangers and unanswered questions. Will there be a fourth season? We all are wondering the same question. “That is above our pay grade,” quips Moennig. (Showtime would not comment to The Daily Beast on whether a fourth season was confirmed.)
As for Shane and Alice, Hailey and Moennig say they have a wishlist of shenanigans they would like to see the two friends be caught up in (they decline to say what precisely), but mainly, as Hailey tells The Daily Beast, “I think we’ll just carry our real friendship into the sunset.”
We shall be watching—and cheering.