EXCLUSIVE: Mia Kirshner on playing a brothel owner on “Defiance,” and her enduring love for Jenny Schecter


AE: Now you’ve also gotten to do some action stuff on this show, which I don’t think I’ve seen you do before. You had a laser gun, even, in the pilot. Are we going to see more of Kenya’s badassery?
Yes, you do! Maybe not necessarily with a gun, but she’s a bold person, and I wouldn’t want to be an enemy of hers. She comes across as pretty sweet, but she’s decisive and she’s got a rock solid set of morals, which I respect about her very much. I think Kenya always wants to do the right thing.

AE: You know, I think that’s one of the most fascinating things, when a character is sort of going against society’s ideas of ethical behavior, but living within their own very strict moral code.
I really like that too. I mean, first of all, where does society get off telling you who you can and cannot sleep with? I think it’s such an individual, personal decision, and I’m with Kenya, in that it’s no one’s business but her own and the person she sleeps with. And you’ll get to see more of that complexity explored later this season.

AE: My favorite scene of Kenya’s so far is when she tries to give away her St. Christopher medal — or, well, her “St. Finnigan medal” — even though it’s so dear to her, because she wants to share her strength with another woman.
I’m glad you liked that scene. I thought it was incredibly moving. I don’t love this phrase, because the phrase isn’t as nice as the action, but I think Kenya really believes in paying it forward. She really understands what it is to be lost, to be an outsider, and to live without an anchor — and I think that she thinks she’s one step away from being in that position again, so she understands that everyone needs a little help in their lives sometimes.

Photo courtesy of Syfy

AE: You make me love her even more. Speaking of which, I’m going to steer this thing toward your most famous complicated character, Ms. Jenny Schecter. But before I do, I just want you to know I love Jenny. I’ve read a lot of interviews of people being real assholes to you about Jenny, but I’m not going to do that.
[Laughs] Thank you for saying that. I know, at the time, people were really upset by that character. People said a lot of very, very naughty things. But, again, I think she’s a very complicated person, and pretty unapologetic about that, which I kind of loved about her. But she was definitely vilified for all the years I was on The L Word.

AE: When you think about it, Jenny was kind of the forerunner to all these antiheroes we celebrate now. The Dexters and the Walter Whites and the Omar Littles and the Don Drapers of the world. Of course, we see those guys and go, “Oh, they’re so interesting.” But with Jenny, we’re like, “What a bitch!”
You think Jenny’s like Don Draper? That makes me really happy. I love Don Draper.

AE: Yeah, big time. She has no impulse control whatsoever. There’s a part of her that wants to be better, to be good to the people she loves, but she makes terribly selfish decisions that are most often motivated by these enormous existential crises. Both of them, at their worst, are just trying to grab for purpose and meaning in the world, and finding it more and more difficult as they get older. And their internal bleakness is what makes them so good at their art.
Whoa, I think you’re absolutely right. [Laughs] Of course, Jenny lacks Don Draper’s smoothness. She’s not exactly the most charming person in the room.

Photo courtesy of Showtime

AE: I also think Jenny is probably bipolar, which, you know, is a real thing that causes real turmoil in people’s lives.
I agree. Oh, I so agree. It always bothered me that no one really took the time to talk about that. It’s a very serious thing, and it’s easy to say she’s a crazy bitch, but I think she also needed a lot of help.

AE: She needed someone, anyone really, to show her some compassion.
I think Shane was very compassionate with Jenny. Shane was a great friend to her — but I also think Jenny put herself in some terrible situations. I’m definitely not going to defend some of the stuff she did. She made that bed for herself.

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