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 and finale.
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 waitress …
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 sooner?
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 hours.
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.