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“The world has changed.”
On July 11, Showtime announced that it was searching for a new writer — with ties to the lesbian community — to team with Chaiken and original series stars Jennifer Beals, Kate Moennig and Leisha Hailey as it hoped to relaunch the series for a new generation.
Sources say that Showtime has narrowed the field to a few new and established showrunners who have pitched new takes on the initial concept of a group of lesbian friends in West Hollywood. (A formal announcement is expected to come soon.)
But to hear Chaiken tell it, the idea to revive The L Word was born out of need and a desire to tell evolved stories from what the soap originally explored during its six-season run in the early 2000s.
“Nobody else is doing it,” Chaiken tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s been a lot of interest. Showtime and I are in lockstep on this; we came up with it together. The world has changed; it’s 10 years on and we wanted to talk about where we are now, especially given where we are now politically.”
To hear Showtime executives tell it, all of the potential showrunners have come in with fresh takes that include discussions about the politics surrounding the LGBTQ community — like President Donald Trump’s recent transgender military ban.
“The new L Word will definitely deal with the new fluidity of sexuality; the gender differences in question. That’s not coming from me but everyone who comes in has a complete new canvas that absolutely speaks to the state of the world today and the younger generation. I have no doubt it will be incredibly relevant,” Showtime programming president Gary Levine tells THR. “We’re going to redefine The L Word with a new cast of characters but several of the originals will definitely be integral parts of it. It’s a generational thing and we’ll have both generations represented.”
The current plan for the revival, which remains in development, is to see Chaiken serve as an exec producer alongside original series stars Beals (Bette), Moennig (Shane) and Hailey (Alice). Should the sequel move ahead, the trio would appear on the reboot with their respective characters helping to connect to what is said to be a new ensemble of women, with viewers following their lives, loves and tribulations. Other characters from the original series — which included fan favorite Erin Daniels (Dana), Laurel Holloman (Tina), Mia Kirshner (Jenny), Sarah Shahi (Carmen) and Pam Grier (Kit) — may appear in a potential new version.
“We’ve all learned a lot since then,” says Chaiken. “We’ve been enlightened and the new version of the show will reflect how much more enlightened we are.”
Chaiken, who recently renewed her overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television and continues to serve as showrunner on Fox’s Empire, said it was “essential” that Showtime hire a member of the lesbian community for the new take — though the writers’ room will not be limited to LGBTQ individuals. She also hoped that a new take would be more inclusive — with the door open to former co-stars Sarah Shahi (Carmen) and Rose Rollins (Tasha).
As for the creative, Chaiken hinted that the revival may, like ABC’s upcoming Roseanne and NBC’s Will and Grace, ignore the final season that centered around a search for who killed Jenny. “We might forget that last year ever happened,” she said with a smirk. (She would also ignore the death of fan favorite Dana if she could, though she insists, “I don’t think we can.”)
Meanwhile, Showtime’s Levine notes that there are no current plans to revive Queer as Folk — despite what he called “occasional chatter and conversations” about doing so. “I feel like it really has been a giant gap in terms of lesbian series since The L Word went off the air. I don’t think there’s been quite as big a gap in terms of gay male characters and series in television,” he said. “The L Word was a seminal series and there’s been nothing like it so maybe it’s time to try it anew. That’s why we’re pursuing it.”
Adds Showtime CEO David Nevins: “The L Word seems like a broader umbrella brand. It feels like that story of being young, lesbian in Los Angeles has changed over time and it felt ripe for somebody else to do their version today. When we had conversations with Ilene, she felt like she wanted somebody who was living what she was living back when she was doing the show to do it today.”
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