Rosanna Arquette has been up all night.
Just hours before hopping on the phone with The Daily Beast to discuss her shocking and fun return to the world of The L Word in season 2 of Showtime’s The L Word: Generation Q, Texas’ restrictive six-week abortion ban law went into effect.
“I’m too afraid to drink coffee right now, even though I need it for my brain just to wake up,” she tells The Daily Beast. “I feel like it will just add to the anxiety of what’s happening right now. I better not touch it.”
Arquette, who was one of the first women in Hollywood to come forward with sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, is a known activist for women’s rights and the LGBTQ community. Therefore it comes as little surprise that she was on the phone all night with other activists around the world following the implementation of the law.
“I literally did not sleep last night, and I’ve been on the phone across the country, even with people in Europe who are expatriates. And they’re just like, ‘What is happening?’” she says. “We march on, [but] it’s enough marching. It’s time for a restructuring and getting women in power.”
Despite the new setback with this restrictive law, Arquette is not ready to give up the fight for rights of all human beings.
“We’re all in this together and we’re doing this for our children and it shouldn’t be a fight every day, but it certainly seems like it is,” Arquette says with a sigh. “I do believe in the power of women and what is going to ultimately happen is that these guys are going to be voted out. It’s going to happen and more women will be in place. And once that happens, it’ll be a much better country.”
Despite all the uncertainty in the country—and the world—Arquette is thrilled to be talking about reprising her role of the extremely dangerous and mischievous-seeming Cherie Jaffe on Generation Q, the second season of which has majored on soapy plot twists, which makes Cherie’s re-entry perfect sense.
“The bottom line is, love is love and it can come in any form with any kind of person—however anybody wants to identify themselves,” Arquette said. “The most powerful force in the world is love. And God knows, we certainly need a lot more of it today in this country and around the world.”
For those of who need a quick refresher, Cherie was the married (to a man) actress Shane McCutcheon (Katherine Moennig) had an intense affair with during season 1 of The L Word—and encounters in later seasons. Now, she’s back again with her signature perfect timing, of course.
In the first several episodes of season 2 of Generation Q, romantic tension has started to bud between Shane and friend/Dana’s bartender Tess Van De Berg (Jamie Clayton). In the episode before Cherie’s return, Shane kisses Tess at an adorable outdoor screening she set up. However, things take a turn when Tess quickly informs Shane that she is seeing someone new.
And yes, you guessed it, that someone new is Cherie. “Here she is, Cherie’s here to fuck things up again,” Arquette says with a giant laugh.
Bringing Cherie back was a no-brainer for showrunner Marja-Lewis Ryan, who is a giant fan of the original show herself. “I always say that I’m a fan first, and I have always wanted to bring back these quintessential characters from the original as well as adding to the world itself,” Ryan told The Daily Beast.
Ryan remembers consulting with Moennig about whether or not Arquette would be game to return, which she soon found out was a resounding yes. “I got to call her and I got to pitch her this idea. And she was awesome,” Ryan recalls. “She’s a real legend. She is. I was bummed I didn’t get to direct her. That was my only sadness.”
For Arquette stepping back into the shoes of Cherie, which she notes got her quite the lesbian fanbase, was a thrill. “I was so excited to wake up and go on a set and go to work,” Arquette says. “It was fun to come back and play her for a minute.”
As for the truly impeccable timing of her appearance, Ryan says this moment of Shane’s past coming back to haunt her was supposed to showcase the very real realities of dating in the LGBTQ community. “Just the idea that Shane has slept with everyone is really ripe territory to pull from,” Ryan said with a laugh. “That horrible lesbian moment where you walk in with your new girlfriend and she is somebody else’s ex-girlfriend is so real.”
Arquette’s Cherie really does not disappoint in throwing a wrench in the progress of Shane and Tess’ newfound friendship and possible-budding relationship. But, Cherie, who states she is now out and proud, still holds a flame for Shane. If there is something all L Word fans know, it’s that Cherie has always been infatuated with Shane – something Arquette can identify with.
“I’m a straight woman and I’m infatuated with Kate,” Arquette says with a laugh. “When you meet her [or] just even [see her] on screen, [she has] this super-power confidence. She really is comfortable in her skin.”
When the original L Word began in 2004, Shane’s androgynous style was a breath of fresh air for TV, but as culture and society progressed, the new iteration was able to spotlight gender expression in a whole new way. This is something that Arquette is so happy to see in the world and on screen, especially coming up on the five-year anniversary of her sister Alexis Arquette’s death.
“Alexis would probably identify as a they at this point,” Arqutte says. “We didn’t have the pronouns five years ago. Just right after she died, it became they/them and we understood that there are different ways and words to identify who somebody wants to be.”
“At the very end we had that conversation, like, ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m just me,’” Arquette recalls. “I think there would have been so much freedom for them to choose at this point because you know, Alexis really did embrace it all.”
Arquette continues to support and help LGBTQ youth with The Alexis Project, where LGBTQ people can go for medical and mental health support programs. “It’s been really something and more needed than ever because [a percentage] of the kids on the streets identify in some way in the LGBTQ community and are thrown out on the streets because they’re not accepted in their homes.”
Although there have been many strides within the LGBTQ community since the first iteration of The L Word concluded, harmful actions and laws directed towards the community still persist. Just this year, Florida banned transgender girls from playing school sports, Arkansas banned gender-affirming treatments and surgery for transgender youth and Texas currently has 47 anti-LGBTQ bills in the legislature.
As The Daily Beast has reported, there were countless other anti-LGBTQ bills, many focused on trans teens’ access to health care and playing sports, in Republican-controlled legislatures. Activists are preparing for another intense legislative session of anti-LGBTQ bill-making.
“We still have so far to go, as you can see [with] what [just] happened with Texas in terms of rights,” Arquette says. “What we’re seeing is pretty frightening and it will affect the LGBTQ community, because that’s the next thing.”
Arquette is grateful that a show like Generation Q is on the air to address these issues. “It’s absolutely horrible [what’s happening],” Arquette says. “When you have a show like The L Word, they literally can address the things that are happening in society with all these characters, and weave the stories that are happening in real life, in our country and around the world, within the show and community where you can actually see people dealing with these issues.”
Being on The L Word, even helped Arquette learn more about sexuality and the LGBTQ community. She distinctly recalls working with director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) on the season 3 episode “Lifeline” in 2007 which features a particularly steamy scene between Cherie and Shane by the pool.
The L Word throughout its run was never shy about spotlighting the use of sex toys—especially strap-ons—within LGBTQ relationships. However, for Arquette this was a new aspect of the community she was unfamiliar with as a straight woman. “I really came from [the perspective] of a straight women having sex with a man,” Arquette says.
However, Peirce, who is queer, helped Arquette through the sex scene and answered all of her questions. Arquette recalls the filming process of the scene with a laugh and also points out that her reactions on camera were genuine to what was happening in real life. “You see me crack up for a minute, because it was like, ‘Oh my God, I get it,’” she says with a laugh.
“I said, ‘I feel kind of embarrassed, I probably should have come to the set more prepared in that way,’ but I needed it to click,” Arquette says. “It was great to actually discover it organically on film.”
Arquette also got to have quite the steamy scene in this new episode too—this time with Clayton’s Tess. “Jamie Clayton is fantastic,” she says. “She’s so gorgeous. [And] she’s really just gorgeous on the inside too.”
Will Cherie continue to disrupt the possible Shane/Tess relationship in future episodes? Ryan is being tight-lipped about any future appearances, but as fans know, when it comes to Cherie Jaffe anything is possible.