If there is one thing fans of The L Word, both the original and the “Generation Q” reboot, can agree on, it’s that the friendship between Shane McCutcheon and Alice Pieszecki has always been the backbone of the series.
Whether they are rocking crazy hairdos (you know the ones) or just bantering, there is not a time when these two are on screen that doesn’t bring a smile to a fan’s face.
For a show that has its fair share of drama, the comic relief of Shane and Alice—usually observing a juicy or excruciating moment of chaos in their or their friends’ lives—has always been welcome. And never more so than the new season, which begins this Sunday night on Showtime. Stand by for slaps, heartbreak, gambling, confrontations, Bette (Jennifer Beals) as ever in amazing coats, and romantic entanglements that get more complex and fraught as the season continues. If you like your L Word soapy and dramatic, you will be in clover.
Fans also looking forward to seeing some classic Shane and Alice moments will not be disappointed. The last scene in the very first episode of the new season features a quintessential Shane/Alice moment—that, of course, has an even more hilarious behind-the-scenes story.
“Leisha appears to be weeping out of joy, but actually what’s happening is that Kate and Stephanie [Allynne, who plays Nat, Alice’s partner] made her laugh so hard that she’s actually crying from laughing so hard,” “Generation Q” showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan told The Daily Beast. “That happens all the time.”
The most interesting part about the friendship between Shane and Alice on screen is that it mirrors the friendship between the people who portray them—Katherine Moennig and Leisha Hailey.
The two first met at the final network test for the role of Shane. Yes, Alice almost played Shane. And even though it was a very stressful day in 2002, Moennig and Hailey both remember it vividly.
“I thought that Kate was so cool. I basically was grabbing my keys to just get back to my car, because I knew the outcome of the situation,” Hailey recalled with a laugh to The Daily Beast on a Zoom with Moennig.
“And on my end, I was like ‘Oh, that’s the girl from the yogurt commercials. That’s who’s going to play Shane?’” Moennig quipped.
Yes, Hailey, who hails from Nebraska, appeared in several Yoplait commercials early on in her career. Outside of The L Word and acting, she has also had a successful music career with The Murmurs and then later with Uh Huh Her.
Eventually, Moennig, a Philadelphia native, was cast as resident Lothario and heartthrob Shane. But, before she was breaking hearts over on Showtime she made her big break into TV with the role of Jake Pratt on The CW’s teen drama Young Americans.
Upon finding out she got the role, Moennig says she didn't know who any of the other cast members were going to be other than Beals (Bette) and Pam Grier (Kit), but she secretly hoped Hailey would still be involved.
“In the back of my brain I thought, ‘I wonder if the Yoplait girl is going to be on the show,’ because I liked her,” Moennig recalled. “I get to the production office and the first person I see is her and I had this sense of quiet relief being like, ‘Yes, she is a part of it.’”
As fate would have it, Hailey was cast as bisexual journalist Alice. And that, as they say, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship—one that many viewers got to watch grow on screen just as it grew off screen.
“We brought so much of what was really happening in real life onto the screen,” Hailey said. “We were all constantly hanging out with each other from the second we wrapped. A lot of us lived together or we’d leave set and go to dinner right away. There was sort of like a continuum of the show, it never really stopped in real life.”
Moennig also noted that in the first season of the original series especially, she and Hailey had a lot of free time to spend with each other while others filmed. “While everyone else [was] on set working, [Leisha] and I and maybe Erin (Daniels) or somebody, we would find weird activities to keep ourselves busy,” she said.
This close friendship was something that writers of the original show caught onto quickly as well. “I think they started catching wind of what was happening and writing towards it,” Hailey said.
And, even though there was a 10-year gap from the end of the original to release of the reboot, Moennig and Hailey’s friendship did not waiver, which as Moennig says is “a real rarity” in the business. “Normally you make such tight friendships on a project and you think, ‘Oh, well, when we get back to real life, they'll carry on,’ and a lot of times they don't,” Moennig said. “And for whatever reason, this stuck.”
This bond didn’t go unnoticed by Ryan.
“You can tell when people are actually best friends,” Ryan told The Daily Beast. “When I first met them I didn’t know that they were friends in real life and they were talking about going to Home Depot and building a fence. I was like, ‘What? Is this real or is this a script?’”
Now, Ryan, who often witnesses their famous banter on set, has found herself tailoring scenes around their close friendship.
“Anything they say I pretty much write down,” Ryan said. “There’s one episode where Alice is wearing this ridiculous suit and I was like, ‘Shouldn’t Shane be making fun of her for this?’ And Kate’s like, ‘Yes.’ Their chemistry is undeniable because it’s real.”
Although the series has a lot of characters to focus on, Hailey and Moennig are very interested in exploring more of the Alice and Shane friendship. “I would like [the characters] to go to a music festival, like Burning Man or Coachella, and take a bunch of drugs over the weekend. I’d like to see that friendship there,” Hailey says.
To which, Moennig wholeheartedly agrees, “I’d like to see these two on acid or ecstasy.” She also suggests a few survival adventures for the duo. “We should do ‘Naked and Afraid,’” she said with a laugh.
Ryan is also interested in showcasing the friendship more on the series. “I would love to do bottle episodes with very specific characters. I think having them would be fun,” she said. “If we get a season three, I hope to be able to stick the landing a little bit more and spend some more time with individuals and smaller groups.”
The friendship between Shane and Alice has always been a huge part of the series, despite the character’s many differences. While Shane has always been the heartbreaker, Alice has always tried to maintain stable relationships. But each has gone through their fair share of drama, the biggest of all being Dana’s (Erin Daniels) death in season 3 of the original series. Also, never forget that Alice is the creator of the famous Chart that really hammered home the point that the lesbian romantic and sexual sphere is a lot more connected than one might think.
In “Generation Q,” fans really get to see how much these two characters have grown and while still retaining that best friendship. Alice, who now hosts a queer talk show, has found a (somewhat) stable relationship with Nat. Shane, who now owns and operates the lesbian bar Dana’s, is still very much up to her heartbreaker ways after going through a divorce in the last season.
One thing both Moennig and Hailey have really liked about their onscreen relationship is that the writers never tried to get the two characters together. “Nobody needs to see that,” Hailey said.
“I think that’s what makes the friendship really strong,” said Moennig. “It’s a kind of a gay stereotype, right? Like you wind up hooking up with your friends, whereas we managed to avoid that.”
This aspect of queer friendship in the community is something that Ryan was really interested in portraying in “Generation Q,” especially exes maintaining friendships. “[It] is paramount to our community because there just aren’t enough of us,” said Ryan.
One big change with “Generation Q” is that Moennig and Hailey now both serve as executive producers on the show. “We had been talking about bringing the show back for years and then when it was finally going to happen and (original L Word co-creator and executive producer) Ilene Chaiken was not going to be showrunning it any longer and a new voice was coming in, it seemed like the appropriate position maybe to be in,” said Moennig. “Because then we could have an allowance to take control of the roles that we know so well.”
Hailey echoes this sentiment. “The vision is Marja’s, so we never want to step on her toes, but we do feel very protective of our characters. So I think that’s when we mostly weigh in on things.”
Due to the nature of “Generation Q” being a large ensemble show, Moennig and Hailey haven’t had as much on screen time together as they’d like. But, being the best friends they are, they found another way to share their friendship with fans through their podcast “Pants.” The podcast debuted on June 17, 2020 and is named after the nickname co-star Mia Kirshner had for the duo on The L Word.
“We had talked about doing it for a while. And then the pandemic kind of kicked it in,” said Moennig. “At that point we were like, ‘Well now is the time to do it if ever. So if it fails, who cares?’”
What started out as something to pass the time in quarantine, turned into a major element in both their lives. “We thought we’d stop once production started and we managed to find a way to do both,” said Moennig. “We won’t miss a week. Something really dire has to happen for us not to do a week.”
Throughout the podcast’s run, which just recently hit a year milestone, Moennig and Hailey played with the formatting of the show. At first, they tried interviews with friends and co-stars but quickly realized that wasn’t for them. Then, they moved on to answering fan questions, a format they truly enjoyed and will be incorporating into their live shows (more on that later). However, the duo have now really found their stride with weekly recaps of every episode of The L Word, up to and including “Generation Q.”
“We’re so lucky that people stick around and have become loyal listeners,” said Moennig. “It’s the nicest compliment.”
With all the podcast’s success, Moennig and Hailey decided to expand it into live stage shows. They already have three on the schedule and are hoping to book more. And the shows are quite popular—the Los Angeles live show sold out within 30 minutes. “It was our Beyonce moment,” Moennig said with a laugh.
Those who attend the live shows can expect plenty of best friend banter, a chance to ask that burning L Word question, and an environment that is a safe space for the LGBTQ community.
“It’s really about community and feeling less alone and understanding that problems are universal. Nobody’s different from one another really,” said Moennig—a sentiment that also speaks to what The L Word means to the LGBTQ community.