For six seasons of The L Word, Mia Kirshner played one of the most polarizing lesbian characters of all time. At the end of her run on the show, queer women might have been divided on Jenny Schecter’s likability, but one thing we could all agree on was that Kirshner was a remarkable actress. She embraced every incarnation of Jenny, from the manatee-conversing depressed artist to the gum-spitting, manic movie-maker, and infused her own affection for the character into her portrayal. After The L Word, Kirshner wrote a book called I Live Here, a four-volume anthology about vanishing communities around the world. Her travels even inspired her to raise funds for a juvenile boys’ prison Malawi. These days, Kirshner can be seen on Syfy’s new post-apocalyptic drama, Defiance, where she plays Kenya, the owner of the town’s brothel, as well as the mayor’s sister.
Recently I chatted with Mia about her new show, her fondness for deeply complicated characters, and her lasting love for The L Word.
Photo: Michael Stewart/Getty
AfterEllen: So, Defiance is spectacular. I just finished watching this week’s episode where we start learning some of Kenya’s backstory. What a fascinating character she has turned out to be. What drew you to the role?
AE: I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about how science fiction and fantasy television often affords women more complex, layered roles than other, more traditional genres.
But I also have to say — and maybe this is politically incorrect — that I see nothing wrong with playing a weak character, or a character who views herself as a victim, because there are people like that in the world. Just playing archetypes doesn’t really interest me. I’m much more interested in playing someone real, someone I relate to or have known in the past.
AE: Do you see Kenya as weak? I mean, she definitely could have been a victim, she could have been a tragic character, but I don’t think she is.
Photo courtesy of Syfy
AE: Right, and one of the best revelations about Kenya in this week’s episode is when Stahma Tarr tells Amanda that none of Kenya’s girls will look at her, but that Kenya holds her head high and meets Stahma’s eyes and even goes as far as genuinely thanking her for sharing her husband. Kenya doesn’t let herself be slut-shamed.