bout a decade ago, Jennifer Beals was approached in the street by two women in their sixties. They were a couple, and had been for decades, but had never come out to their families. That was, until they watched The L Word. Inspired by the game-changing lesbian drama series, they had finally gained the courage to live and love openly.
“I have to tell you,” says the show’s star, breaking into a grin, “as a straight, cisgender woman, to be able to give to a community that has taught me so much is really a tremendous pleasure. It’s always been incredibly moving for me. Meeting those women just drove home for me the power of storytelling, and how stories can change us and can lead us to action.”
Beals’ queer appeal began more than 30 years ago. In the first few minutes of Flashdance, amid the sparks, boiler suits and melodrama, the then 18-year-old emerges from beneath a welder’s helmet, shaking loose her curly hair and disrupting the harsh masculinity of the steel mill in which her character works. Her tenure as a lesbian icon has now stretched into its fourth decade, with The L Word rebooted in the form of Generation Q. Eleven years after the show’s original run ended, Beals reprises her role as high-powered gallerist Bette Porter, alongside fellow alumnae Leisha Hailey and Katherine Moennig and a new ensemble cast of lesbian, queer and trans characters.
As the new series begins, Bette is immersed in Los Angeles politics and bruised from a series of personal calamities. The show itself, meanwhile, is just as brilliantly erratic as its predecessor – deeply moving and funny, with a tendency to fly off the rails here and there. Nothing in the episodes provided for press has been quite as deranged as the original show’s 2009 final season, in which a notoriously loathed character ended up dead in a swimming pool – but it’s early days.
“Even within its imperfection, it was creating so much good,” Beals says of The L Word’s less refined elements. “Yes, it was entertaining, sometimes it was soapy and sometimes it was a bit of a romp, but there was always an element of truth to it. It had the ability to reflect back to a whole group of