When AfterEllen.com recently visited the set of The L Word in Los Angeles to interview Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig, it was a typically scorching October day. The cast and crew (many of them women, unlike on many film and television sets) observed as Moennig, Hailey, Laurel Holloman and Mia Kirshner rehearsed a short exterior scene in the tony neighborhood of West Hollywood before shooting.
I had met Kirshner earlier, on my ride to the set. And by "met" I mean that I tripped as I stepped into the van, nearly tumbling into her lap, prompting her to sweetly ask, "Are you OK?" Kirshner is even more distractingly beautiful in real life than on the show, so I even fumbled my "Yes, thank you" in response. My glamorous on-location interview was off to a great start.
Also joining us in the van were Daniela Sea and Holloman, whose friendly chitchat was a bit disconcerting to observe. It was as if I were in a parallel universe in which Max and Tina had gotten over themselves and just talked about the weather. Holloman was taller than I expected, lanky and casually elegant in her jeans and boots, and I remembered why I was an instant Tina fan the first season of the show.
After a quick jaunt to the suburbs to watch the shooting of the scene, I was hustled to a nearby backyard to interview Hailey and Moennig. Hailey patiently jotted some notes in a journal and Moennig enjoyed a popsicle while I struggled with a recalcitrant voice recorder. But once all systems were go, we sat near a leaf-strewn swimming pool as the real-life pals talked about the journey from Season 1 to Season 5, their favorite on-screen love affairs, the loss of Dana (Erin Daniels), and even dropped a few hints about what we can expect in the upcoming season. Along the way, we also discussed gray hairs, horror films and Sarah Shahi‘s assets.
Warning: Some spoilers
AfterEllen.com: Both of your characters have changed so much over the course of the show. How do you feel about the way they’ve developed?
Leisha Hailey: You get on other shows and I feel like you get trapped. You play a cop or you play something really one-note. People’s arcs aren’t really that huge unless you get on an amazing show like Six Feet Under. But our show allows us to explore all of these different parts of ourselves, which is rare.
I feel like Alice has been through so many different things that as an actor I’ve felt like I’ve been challenged, and it’s been amazing for me to play different ideas.
Kate Moennig: And it’s also nice because you’re also allowed to give out ideas as well, and they’re trusted, and I think that’s nice. It’s a collaboration of personalities and ideas that makes a character get stronger throughout the season.
AE: Can you give me an example of an idea you’ve contributed that’s been incorporated into the show?
KM: In the third season, Ilene [Chaiken] had that whole breakup at the wedding and whatnot, and it just seemed like such a horrible, detrimental thing to do to someone and yourself —
LH: I thought it was really sweet what you did to Carmen [laughs].
KM: Did you? So I didn’t really know what else she had in mind, and one day I thought maybe she should take care of something, to put something before herself for at least once in her life. And then the whole little kid brother thing comes into play. And she was really open to that. Ilene rolled with it. So yeah, it’s nice to see huge changes in who you’re playing because it’s kind of boring to play the same thing.
AE: Are you surprised by the directions in which your characters have been taken?
LH: I’ve been surprised at times.
LH: You haven’t?
KM: A few things I’ve been surprised by, but not many. I was a little surprised that there was a full-on relationship with Carmen. I thought it would take a little longer to establish, and I was shocked that it all of the sudden happened.
LH: But that’s TV.
KM: But you have to look at it for what it is, and yeah, that is television. The timeline of The L Word goes pretty quick.
LH: Yeah, we always want to stretch the stories out.
KM: When our character meets someone —
LH: We really want to milk it. And they never do. It’s like "OK, you guys are moving in together. Now you guys are breaking up."
KM: In three episodes you either sleep with a person, break up or get married.
LH: They have a lot of stories they want to tell, so get ‘em in, get ‘em out.
KM: There was also a huge revolving door of characters for awhile too, and there’s only so much you can throw into a space.
LH: When Dana and Alice broke up and I went crazy, I was surprised by that. I didn’t know that was coming —
KM: Oh, I knew it was happening. Ilene told me, "I really want to f— over Leisha, how can I do that?"