Legendary lesbian filmmaker, Rose Troche was honored with the Outfest Fusion Achievement award on Saturday at the Egyptian Theater. We caught up with the writer/director/producer on the red carpet to chat about the legacy of The L Word, her current projects and the advice she would give other aspiring filmmakers.
AfterEllen: At AfterEllen, even six years after the finale, we often talk about The L Word as something we would give to a newly out woman as a sort of welcome kit or introduction to the community. When the show first aired in 2004, did you have any idea that it would become such a cultural phenomenon?
Rose Troche: I would say yes. I know that for my own self, and I believe that for Ilene as well, there was a sense of like, “This is something we need to take care of,” and we felt the weight of representing a community and the particular nature of friendships that occur in the lesbian community. So yeah, we were very aware of that and keep it as something very special in the show.
AE: One of the things that there has been some criticism about in regards to the show is diversity. Yet, as the series went on, we were introduced to Carmen (Sarah Shahi), Papi (Janina Gavankar) and Tasha (Rose Rollins). Was that something else that you were intentional about?
RT: I know that was something that was always on my mind. That was something that we really, that’s important in whatever thing you do. And I know that I’ve made work that has majority of white characters but I think it’s very important to try to get people of color in front of the camera and create compelling characters.
AE: Besides the L Word, you also directed a lot of other television shows including Six Feet Under, South of Nowhere, Ugly Betty, Law and Order. Are there any television shows that you are watching a lot right now?
RT: That I’ve been watching a lot? Broad city. But I haven’t been watching a lot of television right now because I’ve been working a lot.
AE: What have you been working on?
RT: I’m working on a limited series called Sugar for ITVS and we just wrapped last Sunday. Which is full of people of color, both in front of and behind the camera. It’s not a gay series, though. Well, actually, it does have a little content.
AE: Three years ago, you gave an interview for AfterEllen at the Berlin Film Festival and mentioned that you and Guinevere Turner were thinking about making a sequel to the groundbreaking, Go Fish. What ever happened to that idea? Are you still interested in doing that or has the moment passed?
RT: [laughs] I think the moment has passed. We got to work together on Sugar, so we’ve had that “reunited and it feels so good” moment. We’re old now. Nobody wants to see that.
AE: Oh, yes we do! I’m going to keep pushing for that, just so you know. Last question. I know you have to get inside. What would you say to any other queer woman of color who is interested in working in film and television. As I’m sure know, Hollywood can be kind of a white boys club. Do you have any advice for women, queer women or specifically queer women of color who are trying to break into the business?
RT: I think the advice that I would give would be the advice I would give to anybody— to be true to the stories you tell. Don’t get manipulated into telling stories that are, that are—I think that particularly for people of color, that are a lot of stories that involve a cultural narrative that’s been tacked down, you know, and that we keep on retelling—like the Morgan Freeman character; the wise person of color. I would say that if that’s what you want to do, fine. But I would also say, look at those conventions and try to break out of them. There are other stories that people want to tell. A woman of color might want tell a ninja story that, I don’t know, that takes place of Mars. You are filmmakers, storytellers, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be autobiographical. It could be whatever you want. Filmmaking is aspirational. It’s truthful. You just need to find your own truth in it. Just because it’s fiction, doesn’t mean there isn’t something about you in it.
Rose Troche was presented with the Outfest Fusion Achievement award by Leisha Hailey and Kate Moennig. In her acceptance speech she notes that to be making films and telling stories is a very privileged thing to do. She believes that, whoever you are, if you are privileged to do the work she does, you have a certain responsibility. Speak truth in whatever you do, “ she says. “Because I think that’s the way you touch people the most.”