“L Word” Co-Creators Michele Abbott and Kathy Greenberg Break Their Silence

AE: What characters were born that night?

KG: There was Jenny. She was to provide access into the lesbian subculture,
an innocent point of view-narrative way into the story.

MA: She was a relatable character. We all know the feeling of walking into
a gay bar for the first time, leaving one world for another and the entire cultural
shift it implies.

AE: Sure. Who was she based on?

KG: Me, because I had the experience of coming to L.A. from Wisconsin …
and it was overwhelming. The first time I went to Girl Bar and saw 300 beautiful
women, I couldn’t believe it.

MA: Jenny was described in the pitch as “Fresh Meat Farm Girl.”
(Laughter) How she ended up being a Nazi stripper and a cutter is anyone’s
guess.

(Laughter)

AE: Who else?

KG: Shane. She didn’t have a name, but she was called “The Cad.”

AE: Classic. There’s a Shane in every group.

MA: Bette and Tina. They were the power struggle couple.

KG: Through them we wanted to explore the heterosexual paradigm in a lesbian
couple. … Originally, they were both named Bettina, because we noticed
that a lot of women who get together have the same names. So we were making
fun of that because, you know, what couple would include two Bettinas?

AE: That’s so random.

MA: You could tell we were at the bottom of the tiki punch bowl at that point!

(Laughter)

KG: So we thought, how would they distinguish themselves? And we said, well,
one would be called Bette and the other would be called Tina.

AE: I didn’t know that.

MA: It never came out.

AE: Was Alice on a napkin?

KG. Yes, but I don’t think her name was Alice.

MA: And she wasn’t as kooky and funny as Leisha [Hailey] brought to the
character.

KG: But she was always going to be a magazine writer or editor … the
one to call people on their bullshit.

AE: Dana?

MA: For sure, Dana was there.

KF (to MA): And she’s based on you.

MA: She was the least composited character. …We wanted a person who grew
up in a conservative environment and has to deal with a lot of social pressures
that keep her in the closet. So we thought, let’s make her an athlete,
a public figure. … I wasn’t a public figure … but I played
some pro [tennis] tours. I was also really closeted and in a sorority. And you
can’t be a lesbian in a sorority.

AE: Oh, yeah, you can!

MA (making fun of herself): Unless you’re me!

(Laughter)

MA: The goofiness of her, you know, being the transparent person [to whom everyone
says], “Oh, honey, you’re so gay! Why do you keep toting around
this beard?” was right out of my experience. … I had some ridiculous
beards! … And when I started meeting gay women they called me out.

AE: Like Alice and Tina did to Dana.

MA: Right. And then I came out like a bat out of hell and started running lesbian
parties in San Francisco. So there was that element [on the napkins], too —
the club scene, the DJ …

AE: Carmen?

MA: Yes, but she wasn’t called Carmen. [The clubs were] the first portals,
the places to go to find girls…

AE: What about Kit?

KG: We started with a character we called “The Old Sea Captain,”
who was like a historian, a woman [who’d] been through decades of change.

MA: She was an activist, a touchstone for the historical aspects of the movement.
And there was a person in town like that.

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