You’ve read their bios, seen their palm tree-covered bodies on billboards and have slowly gotten to know them via teasers galore on Showtime. As the clock winds down to Sunday’s The Real L Word premiere, five of the six cast members celebrated the upcoming reality show this week at West Hollywood’s East/West Lounge with a Showtime/Human Rights Campaign invitation-only party.
AfterEllen.com caught up with Mikey, Jill, Nikki, Rose and Whitney (Tracy was not in attendance) to talk about what the show means for lesbian visibility, marriage equality and sex scenes that come complete with strap-ons.
AfterEllen.com: What do you think the show is going to do for lesbian visibility?
Jill: I hope it continues to shed light on the community. I know it’s one fraction of a myriad of stories and we’re one city and one little group, but I hope it brings a lot of visibility to these types of relationships.
Nikki: I think the more exposure there is, the more it takes the fear out of what it means to be gay. I’m so upset that I cannot marry the person I’m in love with and yet we have game shows on television to give someone a rose? Here we have such a sacred union and someone has a game show about it? It makes me infuriated and I hope that when you’re watching these stories and you see a beautiful woman dating a woman with children [cast member Tracy], you don’t think that that’s going to harm the children. And you see our relationship and you forget that we’re a gay couple and you only see that we’re in love. It incenses me every day and I hope that this takes the fear out of it for the people that are so afraid of it.
Rose: A lesbian reality show on premium cable? It’s a first. There are billboards all over the world. I’m even shocked when I drive by one. It’s crazy. The fact that Showtime believes in it so much, whether it succeeds or it doesn’t, we’re making a big splash for our community and I’m really proud of that.
Mikey: I think it’s going to mean more dates for Whitney! [Laughs]
AE: Was your intention in joining the cast to shed light on the fight for marriage equality?
Nikki: Absolutely. There’s a film coming out this Friday — 8: The Mormon Proposition — that I can’t wait to see.
Jill: I went through a personal experience with my family when I came home and introduced Nikki and told them that we were going to spend our lives together. Once they got to know us as just two individuals who loved one another, all of the fears, concerns and worries slipped away very quickly. It was very inspirational for me. If we can do that on a grander scale and show people that love is love and that there really is nothing fear — what a great opportunity.
AE: Was there any part of your lives that was off limits for the show?
Nikki and Jill: Our bedroom. That’s sacred to us.
Rose: No. When I signed up for this, it was the good, the bad and the ugly. Seeing me back then — even though it wasn’t that long ago — I grew up a little bit along the process of the show.
AE: That wasn’t the case for other cast members.
Nikki: They’re consenting adults and if that’s the way that Whitney and her partner want to express themselves, then more power to them.
Jill: They’re all beautiful stories. For us, we’re not comfortable opening that door but I can’t wait to see their stories. We’re human, we’re sexual beings and there’s nothing wrong with it.
Nikki: Just because we didn’t have sex on camera doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with it.
Jill and Nikki
AE: What was your first reaction to seeing the show? Especially to Whitney’s sex scenes?
Rose: Whitney is my girl. We go out a lot, I’m used to that. I’m like her big sister, and it’s the passing of the torch to Whitney. But she takes it to a whole other level than I ever would.
AE: She’s, um, pretty ballsy.
AE: OK, I’ll say it: She breaks out a strap-on.
Rose: There’s a few of those.
AE: A few? Are you among them?
Rose: I can’t say, but you’re going to see. Here’s the thing: It’s open. You’re being filmed and you’re part of this project and we all signed on to show what ever we’re going to show you for this time we’re available. Whitney happened to have a few accessories.
Mikey: You’re not going to see that from me!
AE: Do you have any regrets about anything we’ll see this season?
Whitney: No regrets. You can never live with regrets because it just weighs you down. I’m trying to move forward. Anything I’ve done on camera, I’ve done because I’ve either cared about someone, loved them or it was just a natural part of life. It happens.
AE: Is there any part that was edited out that you’re relived about?
Whitney: Nope! I don’t think anything that I would even be hesitant about saying they cut out; I’m sure it’s all out there for you to see.
AE: How have you changed since the show ended?
Whitney: I don’t know if I’ve changed so much as I’ve learned about myself. You’re putting yourself out there and you’re really just exposing yourself, so watching it back it really forces you to look at things you like, and to look at things you don’t like about yourself and go from there. It’s been a good experience.
AE: What did you think of the West Hollywood Pride reception? The tagline on the promo stickers was “We’ve got your housewives licked.”
Nikki: I didn’t love that, I have to be honest. I don’t think you needed to dumb it down. I think people are smarter than that. It was a little objectifying.
Jill: We sit here and we want equality and now I’m licking housewives! [Laughs]
Rose: I was pleasantly shocked, to be honest. I wasn’t prepared for the whole fan thing, wanting pictures and autographs. It was surreal.
Mikey: I think Showtime is doing a really good job marketing to every demographic, and that’s really important. We need to reach the masses and tell our stories to the masses: the gay community, the straight community. We’ve been really well received; it’s not about a woman being with a woman or a man being with a man, but more the message. We need more people to hear that.
AE: A lot of the early talk about the show has been about the cast’s lack of diversity.
Nikki: We all come from different places in life and we are all so different. I don’t think that you can look at a picture and decide if we are diverse or not.
Jill: I understand where the feedback comes from — we’ve discussed this a lot — and the lack of diversity at this moment is based on nothing but aesthetics because when you do get to meet us and learn about our backgrounds and stories, you will see a wide range of diversity. It is diverse. I’m sorry that it’s not representative of all ethnicities, it would be nice. I hope in future seasons they can bring other stories in.
Nikki: We are here to represent ourselves and that’s really all we can do.
Rose: I’ve heard that people have a problem with [the show’s] diversity. I’m Puerto Rican, born and raised in L.A. and New York, family from Puerto Rico; Tracy is from back east, half Puerto Rican and half Jewish; you’ve got a couple of Jewish girls; Mikey is straight-up L.A. from Culver City. So there’s diversity for me in that regard.Women of color? I’m Puerto Rican. My nephew is African-American and so is my niece. So there’s a lot, you just have to see the show.
Mikey: You know what’s really interesting? People criticizing a show that hasn’t even come out yet. I just feel like everyone’s criticizing because there’s no African-American cast member and I don’t think that’s really fair. Once you watch the show you’ll see how all of our lives really spider web out and how many interesting, intricate lesbians and straight people are supportive of the gay lifestyle.
AE: Rose, judging from the first two episodes, your family is very involved. What does it mean to you that they were willing to go on camera?
Rose: They are part of my life. They’ve always been supportive since I came out at 19. We’re very tight, so when this project came along, they jumped in, they didn’t care. After the first couple of weeks, they forgot that (the cameras) were there, too. They stopped bringing out the gold utensils. [Laughs] That’s a true story.
The Real L Word premieres this Sunday, June 20 on Showtime.