There are women who want to be noticed, and women who prefer do the noticing.
That’s something I couldn’t help but observe while interviewing
Michele Abbott and Kathy Greenberg in the bar at the Chateau Marmont recently.
Abbott and Greenberg, who along with Ilene
Chaiken created The
L Word, are in many ways atypical of the image that setting likely
evokes in your mind. They live, work and play in Hollywood, but unlike some
of their peers, being noticed isn’t high on their list of priorities.
But you already know that if you’ve been aware of their silence over
the six-season run of their show.
I met Abbott, a hilarious and talented producer, and Greenberg, a cautious
yet equally funny and extremely successful screenwriter (who played a large
role in bringing us Ratatouille), two years ago.
It took me that long to convince them to talk to me on the record about their
significant contributions to the hit show; how they came to collaborate with
Chaiken, who developed the stories around the characters they gave birth to
in ways that were sometimes favorable and other times undesirable; the insider,
lesbian-only party that helped to seal the deal with Showtime; and the retrospective
Michelle Abbott, left, and Kathy Greenberg
Friends for twenty years, Abbott and Greenberg spoke with genuine appreciation
for one another and what they helped to create, and were surprisingly candid
about the show they’ve been so reluctant to discuss until now.
AfterEllen.com: Let’s begin with the most obvious question:
After you created The L Word and helped to produce the pilot and the second
episode, your involvement with the show ended. Why?
Kathy Greenberg: I was then a film executive, the VP of the
American Office at Working Title Films. Michele was a producer of TV commercials.
She had worked on Superbowl and Nike spots with directors such as Ridley Scott
[G.I. Jane, Thelma & Louise] and Bryan Singer [X-MEN, Valkyrie].
But, at the time, it was thought that we didn’t have the specific TV experience
necessary to continue.
Michelle Abbott: Ilene [Chaiken] had the experience; she had
written Dirty Pictures for Showtime.
AE: But there are stories of waitresses selling scripts and going on
to be involved in their shows. You both know more about TV than the average
KG: Ultimately, the decision wasn’t ours.
MA: It was made by Showtime and the show runner, who was Ilene. So, we can’t
really answer that.
AE: Media attention isn’t a priority for you but, given the
value of "buzz" in L.A., why didn’t we have this conversation
MA: Our names are on the show. To go any further would have been some sort of
self-promotion, and that wasn’t our agenda.
KG: It wasn’t about us. It was about a movement and raising consciousness.
We felt like we were just bringing something that was in the collective consciousness
to light. It was enough to see our show — the first of its kind —
become a reality.
AE: Before I dig deeper into the collective consciousness, tell me
how and when you first came up with your ideas for the show.
MA: It was in 2000. We weren’t in as classy a joint as this! (Laughter)
In the old days Kathy and I used to have to go to Trader Vic’s for happy
KG: We were rehashing, talking about how insane our lives and our friends’
lives were, and the incest of it all …
MA: Our subculture was really specific in the ways we interacted and carried
on, and we thought, ‘No one would believe this.’
KG: We eventually started bemoaning the fact that there isn’t a show
about us to watch … but every lesbian has had this thought.
MA: Right. No one can claim ownership for the idea of a lesbian ensemble show.
It’s not brain surgery. Any lesbian that’s ever watched TV felt
the void. It was the most obvious accident waiting to happen; it was just a
matter of who and when. And after a couple of big, flaming, tropical, hoo-ha
drinks out of buckets we decided we were just the ones to tell that story!
KG: So we started jotting things down on napkins, and the
characters were born, based on our friends or composites of our friends.