Last week saw the end of the first season of The L Word, the first television drama made by and for lesbians and bisexual women. This ground-breaking and thoroughly entertaining show would not have been possible had it not been for the success of it's older sibling, Showtime's first original series, Queer As Folk. Based on a six episode British mini-series of the same name, the American version came into its own when it continued the story of a group of gay men and lesbians beyond the timeline of the original.
Set in Pittsburgh, PA, QAF's ensemble cast is nearly all gay men except for the token lesbian couple, Melanie (Michelle Clunie) and Lindsay (Thea Gill), who gave birth to a son fathered by one of the men. This show broke all the rules when it proved that a gay-themed show could capture a wide enough audience to not only be profitable for the network, but become a critical and popular success beyond the gay and lesbian community.
One of the reasons it became such a hit was because it made the audience privy to the everyday lives of gay men and lesbians together, along with their families, co-workers, and the rest of their community, and because it tackled the politics and issues that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people struggle with in their daily lives.
Actress Michelle Clunie plays Melanie, the feisty and often abrasive half of the couple, a refreshing and very human character whose very unladylike behavior and attitudes have endeared her to the show's fans. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Michelle for a few short minutes last week at Showtime's big party at the Castro Theatre celebrating the success of the first season of the The L Word and the introduction of Season Four of QAF.
Michelle, it’s really nice to see you here. I am so glad that Queer As Folk made it to four years. Who’d a thunk?
Ever since Gus came into her life in the first season, it has really softened her. I think that children just have her heart. And I think it’s a really interesting side to see of Melanie (laughter) because here’s this really tough woman, that when she’s with the baby, she’s just so enraptured, just in love with this little boy. And now that she’s pregnant I think it’s even more so. It's very hard for her actually, I think she struggles to maintain her independence and her point of view and her tough outer shell. But I think these things in her life that bring love to her, just chip away. I think it's really interesting – the conflict.
It is….because I think it was the brashness that originally attracted many people to Melanie.
Do you think the motherhood story line is going to limit her in anyway?
So maybe you bring that to every situation you deal with, so when she does go to work or when she does deal with the other lawyers, or deal with social or political issues she always has that other side to deal with. Not only how does this affect me, how does this affect my partner, how will this affect our future children. So I actually think that it will add…I’ll make sure that it will add another dimension to her, instead of blanding her out. If that’s a word, blanding.
That would be really nice to see, because it seems like what has happened to all of the lesbians on TV is that the writers have thrown children at them as a way of desexualizing the lesbians. It’s happened to Dr. Weaver on ER, to Bianca Montgomery on All My Children, and now, it’s happened to Melanie. I know a lot of people are worried, since we just got our feisty women out there… Finally see ourselves reflected in a realistic way…
What is your favorite aspect of playing Melanie?
Or worried that they’re going to upset somebody…
You’re always going to upset somebody.
Change usually starts with civil disobedience – you look at the Boston Tea Party, you look at Rosa Parks, you look at gay marriages right now! Gay marriage isn’t going to be given to people we will have to fight for it, so I think that people should continue to have acts of civil disobedience because that’s the only way we create change and hang on to our constitution. It’s twisted, but that’s the only way we actually hang on to it, we gotta fight for it.
One of the things most notable about you is that you’re one of those actors who uses your fame to fight for change. Do you have fundraisers or anything that’s coming up?
Once again we (the country) want people that can tell a great joke and be a shit-kicking Texan. We don’t want somebody that’s really passionate, right? We want someone that looks good in a suit and Howard is just right out there, he’s just kind of like you know….this one girl went up to him and said, “why don’t you smile?” and he replied, “because lady there’s not a lot to smile about right now.” So, I was very happy doing that, it’s sad to see that he’s not going to be the one going up against Bush, but that’s OK, I’ll support Kerry.
But I think that you have to use your power to do something, right?