'Hollywood Remixed': 'The L Word: Generation Q' Showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan on the Evolution of Lesbians on TV

Marja-Lewis Ryan - Getty - H 2019
Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic

Welcome to the fifth episode of Hollywood Remixed, The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast about culture change and inclusion in entertainment.

Each week, hosts Rebecca Sun (senior reporter) and Rebecca Ford (awards editor) explore a type of character or story that traditionally has been underrepresented or misrepresented in pop culture, and interview a special guest whose work exemplifies a new breakthrough in representation. Each episode is dedicated to a single theme, revisiting groundbreaking classics and introducing listeners to hidden gems, in order to better understand how film and television in the past have shaped progress in the present.

In episode five, “Generation Q: Talking TV Lesbian Evolution With the Showrunner of the New L Word,” debuting Dec. 4, the Rebeccas explore television’s changing portrayal of same-sex attraction and intimacy between women.

Lesbian representation on television has come a long way since TV’s first same-sex kiss between two women, on a 1991 episode of NBC’s L.A. Law. Just look at Ellen DeGeneres in 1997, whose simultaneous sitcom and real-life coming-out made headlines around the globe (including the cover of Time magazine), and DeGeneres in 2019, TV’s ruling daytime queen and go-to host for feel-good, family friendly programming. In the intervening decades, depictions of female-female attraction and intimacy ranged from coy (Friends’ Carol and Susan have a wedding — but don’t kiss) to ratings stunts (“The One With Rachel’s Big Kiss” is an actual episode title).

In 2004, Showtime premiered the first television series centering on an ensemble of gay women. It was a landmark show but, like any trailblazer, an imperfect one that often cracked under the burden of authentically representing a diverse and marginalized community. Fifteen years later, The L Word is back, and the Rebeccas chat with its new showrunner, Marja-Lewis Ryan, on how the Generation Q revival builds upon (and, in some cases, rectifies) the legacy of its predecessor, namely through exploring the varied experiences of lesbians of color as well as trans people (as played by actual trans actors).

Hear it all now on Hollywood Remixed, and subscribe on your preferred podcasting platform. In the coming weeks, the Rebeccas will welcome the team behind A&E’s award-winning unscripted series Born This Way, about adults living with Down Syndrome, as well as Star Wars star John Boyega about race in outer space. And check out our first four episodes, featuring Last Christmas star Henry Golding on Asian leading men, This is Us and Waves star Sterling K. Brown on black fatherhood, The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper on black nerds and Hustlers writer-director Lorene Scafaria on the portrayal of female exotic dancers.