An interview with Ilene Chaiken

AE: Who would you say is the ideal audience for this show? A lot of the LGBT community didn’t really feel like it was a show for them.

I don’t know about the community. I don’t know who the community is who we’re talking about. There are a lot of people who react online. There are people who come to your site and they’re probably a whole different group of people who go to other sites. Women are engaged and they have objections. Yes, the community you’re talking about will probably find the show, this year, to be a more representative show, at least more to their taste. That’s my hope. I don’t make television for any particular audience. I just go out and try and tell stories that, hopefully, will engage people.

AE: You mentioned Season 2 would be more representative. The cast seems to be much more diverse this year. Was that one of your goals in looking at casting?

I always want to make a show that’s diverse and representative. Obviously it depends on what story we’re covering. But it’s much more exciting to me to find people who have something to say about different aspects of our community and represent it. We wanted an ethnically and sociologically diverse cast. At the end of the day we had to look for people who have good stories to tell us who feel that they’re going to share with us something of interest. It was exciting to me that some of those people turned out to be African-American, or Asian, or younger, or from a different socio-economic category.

AE: Considering your disappointment with Season 1, were you surprised the show was renewed?

I wasn’t surprised. I wanted very much to have a chance to do it again. I was thrilled when [new Showtime Entertainment president] David Nevins was open to doing it. We sat down together and, obviously, at the moment when the show was ending there was also a regime change at Showtime [after Robert Greenblatt departed for NBC]. I was talking to a new group of people and we sat down and talked about what the opportunities were here and what I felt we hadn’t quite accomplished but was still available to us.

AE: When Season 2 was announced, some people were surprised it would be returning to L.A. instead of New York, as you’d mentioned an interest in doing a show set there. Why return to L.A.?

I wanted to continue a little bit of what we started so we decided to keep Whitney and build around her to an extent. I’d still love to do versions of this show [elsewhere]. You know there are cities, I still feel, that also say what we all want to say, which is we’re everywhere.

AE: Looking back, how do you think The L Word impacted lesbian representation on TV?

If you want to just talk about representation on TV, that’s a long conversation and I feel it’s a different conversation to talk about the culture at large. There isn’t as much lesbian representation on TV as I had hoped there would be post L Word. I feel like in some small way the story line on Grey’s Anatomy was partially born out of The L Word and [casting] Jessica Capshaw.

AE: If you could go back and do The L Word again, would you do anything differently?

I can’t even begin to answer that question. I can’t go back and do it all again. I’d like to just go on and keep doing it in different ways. We did the best show we could and I had a wonderful time and I love the people I worked with.

AE: In terms of the spinoff, is The Farm totally dead?

I moved on.

AE: When Season 2 of The Real L Word ends, what do you hope viewers walk away with?

I hope that some viewers walk away feeling represented and feeling as if we’ve told stories about their lives or that, in some way, reflect their lives in ways they don’t see them reflected richly and with complexity interchanged, but also seen. And, I hope that another part of the audience comes away enlightened by an experience of an encounter that they wouldn’t have gotten to have any place else.

AE: Any other projects that you’re working on?

I’m working on other things that I love and am excited about. I do all kinds of things as a writer and as a producer. And they’re not all LGBT projects. I am working on a couple of new LGBT-themed projects I’m really excited about.

Season 2 of The Real L Word premieres Sunday on Showtime.

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