EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Marja-Lewis Ryan, Showrunner of “The L Word: Generation Q”

Getty Images Showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan attends the red carpet premiere for Showtime's "The L Word: Generation Q"

Marja-Lewis Ryan reminisced about her nights in Los Angeles as a twenty one-year-old going to “The L Word” watch parties at gay bars and seeing Kate Moennig, Leisha Hailey, and Ilene Chaiken. Fifteen years later, she is the showrunner for the reboot, “The L Word: Generation Q.”

She let out a burst of laughter, “If you could go back in time, like my best friend and I were renting “L Word” DVDs from Blockbuster and she would be like, ‘You get it I don’t want her to know I’m gay.’ If you could go to that dorm room “Angels in the Outfield” style have someone tap me on the shoulder and say, “In 15 years you’re going to run this show.’ Like what?”

When Ilene Chaiken created “The L Word” she, “always imagined when she made it there would be all of these other shows that would follow. She would kind of break through and then there would be tons of content. Lesbians in space, lesbians in the oil fields, she thought all these other shows would come up, and they didn’t really.” says Lewis Ryan.

The original “L Word” season one came out in 2004, and ended in 2009, according to IMDB. “Leisha, Jennifer, Kate, and Ilene are actually the ones who went to Showtime and said, “We want to reboot this show. I came in after Showtime said, “Okay, find me somebody.” says Lewis Ryan.  Cinemaholic reported that the first season of “The L Word: Generation Q” began filming around July 2019, and premiered December 2019.

According to StudioBinder, a showrunner is defined as, “the individual who has primary creative control and management of a TV show. They aren’t always necessarily the creator of the show, but they’re almost always a writer. Showrunners are responsible for keeping the writers’ room moving forward, keeping the actors happy, and sticking to the budget for each episode. Most importantly, showrunners must adhere to the central creative vision of the series.”

From Fan to Creator

“I was 18 when the show came out. It changed me. It changed me in two ways. One is in a more shared experience. I got to see myself on television and got to have this really fun group watch experience. First in New York, that’s where I was living when I was 18. When I was 21, I moved out to LA and I would go to the gay bars in West Hollywood and see Kate and Leisha and Ilene at these viewing parties. It changed me on a professional level because I got to see Ilene and I got to sort of put together pieces that had really had not been true before that. Which was I could work in the commercial field and tell stories about my friends. Before this show, there was queer stuff, of course, but it was relegated to a space that I quite frankly was not interested in staying in. I always wanted to work in a more commercialized space and she made that possible,” says Lewis Ryan, “I did not think that I would literally have her job, that part was the funny part. But it did make me aware that I could be her or be like her.”

“When I met Ilene, we hit it off. I was gushy and kind of weird but probably a very typical experience for her. I can only imagine- she probably sees a 30-something lesbian approaching her and she’s like “I know what you’re going to say.” And I was no exception.” she says with a laugh.

Why A Reboot Was So Important

“I think that the thing I hope people can see is that my singular mission is to elevate queer content and I think that for me as a creative on this journey, a lot of what I think is still problematic is that we are all living in a misogynistic culture. Whenever I’m approaching this show, I’m trying to raise my own consciousness of how bad misogyny drips into the words on the page and the camera. I feel like this season I really found something. I want people to watch the show that critically. I want people to see how I’m filming these sex scenes this year and why its better,” says Lewis Ryan, “And I don’t mean better as in artistically, but I mean better for our world.”

“[Joey] Soloway was the first person to elevate the conversation about the female gaze, but what does that mean? Its not just that a woman or a non-binary person is shooting it. It’s not that simple. Because we are also living in this world, and there’s so much that we have to un-learn. And that’s what I wanted to do in this season- pull so far away from objectification and really stand firmly in these characters shoes. I don’t think its enough to put queer people on television anymore. I think that cannot be the bar anymore, thats not where I’m working.” she says.

Which Character Do Relate To Most?

“The fun thing about writing people younger than me is that they kind of are all me. They’re all sort of my past mistakes. The show for me was always focused around Sophie (Rosanny Zayas). She’s kind of my book ends, my anchor, the point of view that I’m most chasing. I relate to her in a million ways. Rosanny and I are both loud people from Brooklyn so I think that I relate to her voice,” Lewis Ryan says, “I see myself in Finley- just a nightmare person in my 20s, just really ripping through some choices. I can relate to Dani, early success, and what that feels like, and how it distorts your sense of maturity. She grew up in this family where she missed all these big things, and I relate to that imbalance. And I totally relate to Micah because he’s such a deep feeler of feelings, such a deep thinker.”

Watch the world Lewis Ryan has helped build on “The L Word: Generation Q” on Showtime every Sunday night.

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