House Of Lies isn’t just frantic wit, relative morality, and the oddly palpable chemistry between Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell. Showtime’s popular dark comedy is also a surprising hub of gender fluid, pansexual characters. HOL’s third season just started, and by episode two we meet my new favorite character: Lex, played by Bex Taylor-Klaus, is a genderqueer basketball player who gets involved with Marty’s son, Roscoe (Donis Leonard Jr.)
Bex Taylor-Klaus played gay before in The Killing as Bullet. Roscoe is a fascinating character in his own right: a young black man who bravely blurs gender lines and shows equal interest in women and men. Neither Roscoe or House of Lies are eager to label sexuality. Roscoe’s mother Monica Talbot (played by the striking Dawn Olivieri) spent much of season two experimenting with lesbian domesticity. Since Monica is basically Dionysis with caramel colored highlights, wifey didn’t work out too swell, and Monica went back to sex, drugs, and business.
Jeannie van der Hooven (Kristen Bell) is Marty’s counterpart and love interest, but still dabbles in the occasional same-sex escapade.
House of Lies invited AfterEllen to a cast read through of the Season 3 premiere, followed by Q&A with cast and creator Matthew Carnahan (Dirt, Trinity). Before ambling into an intimate conference room in a hulking warehouse, I tuck into a plentiful snack spread. Always a pleasure, Showtime.
Actors and journalists take their seats. Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle sit front and center, leaning against one another companionably while doling out blinding smiles. Matthew Carnahan begins with a quick season break down. “The theme of the season is wreckage of the past, and Marty beginning to make amends. Marty starts his own company to spackle over the horrible damage he’s done.” I won’t ruin episode 1 for you [watch it free online] but even most stoic journalist laughed aloud at least once. Unfortunately Bex Taylor-Klaus wasn’t present, but I did get the chance to chat with Donis Leonard Jr. and Matthew Carnahan about gender, sexuality, and inspiration.
Donis Leonard Jr. and Don Cheadle
AfterEllen.com: What is Lex’s relationship to your character? Donis Leonard Jr.: We know my character as being a male who you don’t really know what his sexuality. Sometimes he’ll be a little more feminine, but this season he’ll be a little bit more masculine. Bex, who plays Lex, is an incredible actress. When she comes in, she’s the opposite: a female who acts a little more masculine, and she’s a puzzle piece who fits great.
AE: Is Lex a gay character?
DLJ: No, we would assume it’s a boy/girl relationship, so it’s not gay. It’s not that she’s gay or anything like that.
AE: She’s just a basketball player?
DLJ: Yeah, she’s a basketball player.
AE: So what makes Lex genderqueer?
DLJ: The fact that she dresses really masculine and she’s a female, and the fact that my character is a more feminine.
AE: Has your character’s sexuality been clarified yet?
DLJ: Roscoe is Roscoe. He’s too young to put a pushpin in him.
AE: It’s interesting how House of Lies so many on a sexuality spectrum rather than straight or gay.
DLJ: That’s what I love about my character, Roscoe, because he’s so comfortable with himself and I feel so honored to play that role. I mean hopefully a lot of kids aren’t watching House of Lies because it is adult, but especially for the parents my relationship with Marty might be inspirational for them. Marty lets Roscoe be exactly who he is without assigning labels.
AE: Is Roscoe and Lex’s relationship romantic?
DLJ: They’re too young to be super super serious, but they’re a great match for each other. Watch the season and you’ll understand!
Matthew Carnahan: I have friends with a genderqueer son, who I’ve watched grow from a child into a remarkable person who had the incredible good fortune of never being pushed in any one direction, so he gets to be uniquely himself. That was my goal for Roscoe: to let Roscoe be uniquely himself. In meeting Lex, I wanted to take Roscoe from a child with gender issues into sexuality issues– because gender and sex are very different– and wanted to show the importance of what’s in your heart rather than what’s between your legs…
AE: Did any one person inspire the character of Lex?
MC: The new character of Lex really evolved from the niece of one of our writers. She was our inspiration. The human being, the actual real life person, was very interested in collaborating with us getting it right. And so we had her help. Ultimately the character of Lex has a much more difficult time in her life, and makes some really bad choices. Whereas the real person Lex is an amazing person and making great choices in her life. That’s the difference.
AE: Did you or your writers study up on “being genderqueer”?
MC: We wanted to get it right. We wanted to get the romance for someone who is genderqueer. What does that mean in the environment of high school? What does that mean on the basketball court?
House of Lies airs on Showtime on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Thoughts? Tweet me. #HouseOfLies