[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Season 3 of The L Word: Generation Q.]
The third season of the Showtime series The L Word: Generation Q explores love, friendship and family, in all of their forms, but while some relationships are strengthened and others are reignited, some are also not faring so well. While Alice’s (Leisha Hailey) love life has been a bit chaotic recently, a connection with Taylor (Joey Lauren Adams), a barista she met on the set of her show, leads to exploring something deeper, but also makes them realize that they don’t really know each other at all.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Adams talked about how she came to be a part of Season 3 of The L Word: Generation Q, joining a show that has so much history, going into this project as a fan, shooting the dating game, and the immediate connection that her character has with Alice. She also talked about what gets her interested in a project, whether she’d want to direct again, and why COVID made her take a step back and reevaluate things.
Collider: How did you come to this show in Season 3? What sold you on joining the show and doing this role?
JOEY LAUREN ADAMS: I had a call with [Marja-Lewis Ryan], the creator. I guess Marja had asked Leisha [Hailey], “Is there anyone you’d really just love to work with?” And she said me. And then, Marja told me what the storyline would be, and I was sold. It was pretty easy. It’s always nice to be wanted. That’s just really nice. I had also just come off a dramatic horror film, so it was nice to do comedy. I was really excited when she was telling me about the episode on Halloween night, where we think someone is breaking in. So, it was an easy decision.
That episode is funny because it’s my worst nightmare with horror movies, where the person always goes outside to find out what the sound is? In real life, would you be that person who’s like, “I’m just gonna go see what it is,” or would you be the one that’s like, “Sorry, I’m not going anywhere near that”?
ADAMS: I think I would be the one to go see what it is, honestly, just because it’s always the movies where that happens. But I came home from doing that episode, and I live in Arkansas in a house that backs up against a national park forest, and my husband was out of town, so I was in the living room alone, and I saw this blur on the window outside. I saw something, and it terrified me. And then, I went to look closer, and there was a huge cobweb and a lizard, and bugs would fly into it and the lizard would eat them. It was terrifying, and it was at my window. And then, last night, my husband and I got into bed, and we heard this really loud banging, and he was like, “What was that?” I said, “I don’t know.” And we just went to bed.
That was just so relatable because we’ve all experienced that moment of wondering, “Is it a killer, or is it just the wind?”
ADAMS: I have nightmares, all the time, where I can’t open my eyes to see what’s going on. I don’t know if you ever have nightmares like that. And I did used to wear contacts and sleep in them, all the time, and had that feeling where you can’t really see. So, for me, it’s a nightmare to not have your vision be a hundred percent. With this show, a lot of the comedy comes from just those normal, everyday, human experiences that everybody can relate to.
What’s it like to join a show like this, that has such a history? It had a history in its first run, and then it came back because it had that history. Are you someone who always gets nervous when you start a new project, or is it reassuring to come into something that already has that established fan base there?
ADAMS: I was a little more nervous because they had asked for me and I didn’t wanna let them down. I had also just come off this movie, and my husband and I moved to Hot Springs and totally rethought our lives, like a lot of people did during COVID. We were like, “What do we want the last portion of our lives to be about?” We’re both in the industry, and it feels like there’s always a suitcase packed in the guest room. One of us is always leaving. I’m always throwing out lettuce when I get a job. We were locked down, and like so many other people, we were rethinking our lives. We were in L.A., and I’m from Arkansas, originally, so when I came across this old, gutted hotel, I was like, “What do you think? Would you wanna do this?”
We ended up buying it and the building next to it because we were gonna do a boutique hotel and restaurant. So, we moved in January, and we were both gonna take six months off and focus on that, and then I got this job offer and I just couldn’t say no. And then, work just kept coming. I had done a film right before this, that was just a couple of days. It was this white trashy character, so I decided to do a bad shag mullet hair cut. And then, I got this job and had this bad shag hair cut, so I was nervous about that. I was like, “I don’t know what you guys are gonna do with this.” But the hair people were amazing.
I had not seen the show, so I watched the first two seasons of the new version and was like, “Oh, this is amazing. I can’t wait.” And then, when I went to do the show and met Kate [Moennig] and Leisha [Hailey], they were like, “You’ve gotta watch the original,” which I had never seen. So, I went back and started watching the original, and it was so good. It captured L.A., and that time in L.A., gay or not. They’ve had so much time to create their characters, so it’s easy because they’re not trying to figure that out. They know who they are. They don’t have to think much about it, which makes doing scenes with her just really honest and nice.
One of the interesting things about the introduction of your character is that we don’t really know anything about her or what her backstory is, when we meet her. Were you given that information, or is that something you formed for yourself, as far as what her backstory would be?
ADAMS: When I first talked to Marja, she told me what they were thinking of, with Leisha and I. And then, after the very first episode, they start to tailor it for you, as the character emerges. It became much more real. It evolved, as we were going. Very quickly, she became this self-deprecating, very relaxed person.
The whole dating game situation was so fun to watch. What was it like to shoot that, and to have Margaret Cho hosting it? Were you guys all on stage together, with an audience there?
ADAMS: Yeah, it was shot like you would a real show, except when you would go in for close-ups. There were cameras in the audience that were filming. It was a lot of fun. They really let me have fun with it.
As an actor, is it weird to shoot something like that, where you have to sound spontaneous in your answers, no matter how many times you have to shoot those scenes?
ADAMS: It was slightly challenging, but the writers want to mix it up a little just to give it some freshness, so they allowed me to do that. Sometimes with television, people are against that.
There’s something really sweet about how your character and Alice meet, at this office coffee cart. It’s a small moment of normalcy, in the craziness of Alice’s life. How was it to shoot that first meeting? Is there extra pressure or responsibility involved, when you have that first meeting of characters, or was it fun to have a moment like that that?
ADAMS: It was just fun. To Leisha’s credit, she’s just so talented and, as an actress, very solid with who her character is that she’s easy to act off of. You also obviously want there to be some chemistry in that first meeting, so you’re playing on that. The first thing we shot was me waking up the next morning, so you’re just playing off the chemistry that was there.
It feels like their relationship moves pretty quickly. They meet in Episode 3, and by Episode 4 things have accelerated. Would you say your character is normally the type of person who prefers to stay in and stay at home, as opposed to going out?
ADAMS: In my own life, I’ve had experiences like that, where you meet someone and the rest of the world falls away. A lot of that has to do with timing, like when neither one of you has something scheduled for the next three days. Had it not been in Halloween, things might have been different. It’s like a staycation, when you meet someone in L.A. and go to some bar that you’ve both never been to, and you just get lost in this world, or you go to someone’s house and end up not leaving for a few days, which has happened. And then, when you have those moments, if you’re in that situation, what do you do to brush your teeth? I would joke because I’m in the same clothes the whole time. She never gets offered a clean sweatshirt.
At this point in your life and career, what gets you interested in a project? Is it the script itself? Is it about who you’ll be working with? Is it finding genres or characters that you feel you haven’t done before?
ADAMS: It can be one of many things. At this point, if I get a call from someone that I’ve worked with before and that I like, I’ll pretty much go do it, no matter what it is because I like working with them. I just did a film with a filmmaker from Arkansas. I like supporting Arkansas filmmakers. It was a second film, and there was a five-page scene that I got to do, which is so rare. That made me wanna go do it because there was so much nuance in that scene, and it felt like a slight challenge to me. And it’s about working with people who are functioning on a very high level of their craft. I was pretty confident the set would be a nice place to be. As I get older, I just don’t wanna deal with the drama. I’m probably attracted more to real characters. I don’t have a lot of desire to sit in hair and make up for five hours. I just wanna go and be with good people.
As an actor, you’ve also had a pretty unique experience when it comes to the projects that you’ve done with Kevin Smith because you’ve gotten to return to characters across different projects and sometimes over a number of years. What’s it like to get to revisit characters in that way and to keep them alive in that universe, even if a number of years pass in between the times that you play them?
ADAMS: That’s a little stranger to me and what I find the most difficult because Kevin has such a following of hardcore fans. There are people that come up to me and ask me things, or they’ve noticed something that I’m not even aware of with my character. Someone came up to me and asked me why, in Chasing Amy, I’m always wearing these certain necklaces, and then in one scene, I’m not wearing one of them. I probably just couldn’t find it. It’s a little weird to go on of those sets because Kevin and Jason Mewes are so in that world. That’s their world, and you’re just stepping in and out of it. It might just be in insecurity, but I feel a little behind the eight-ball when I step onto set because they’re so entrenched, and I haven’t seen Chasing Amy in 15 years.
You’ve done some directing. Is that something you want to do more of? Are are you looking to do that again?
ADAMS: I would love to. It’s just tough out there. I have a script that we’ve sent out. I’ve directed some television. I don’t know that I’m gonna get offered something to direct that I didn’t write. I think I’m gonna have to write it. You almost have to start an abusive relationship with it, in order to get it made. It’s just so hard to get a film made. With my first film, my family stopped asking me about it because it’s just heartbreaking. You think you have the money, and then you don’t. The money falls out, and then you’re starting all over. You become obsessive, and it honestly is like an abusive relationship. My family would ask me, and it’d be like, “Oh, this happened, and it was awful, but there’s hope here,” and then they would just stop asking me about it. You have to be in a certain place in your life to wanna subject yourself to that, and I’m just not there right now.
That’s why some people move into directing episodic television, because they can keep doing it.
ADAMS: Yeah. I shadowed Mike White. I shadowed on Parenthood. When I had my film at Sundance, and then did all that shadowing, it just wasn’t quite the right time for female directors in television yet. It was much harder. But I love directing. I truly love it, more than anything, and probably more than acting. With acting, I have a really hard time with the downtime on set. I find that my screen time goes up. With directing, you’re there first, you leave last, you’re busy all day long, and you’re involved in every aspect of it, which I like. And I love working with actors. I like developing a trust with them. There are surprisingly few directors that are actually great with actors, that I’ve personally had the chance to work with. Most of them are terrified of actors, or just don’t how to communicate with them, or how to just be honest with them, so that they have your full trust. I love creating that with actors because I know how much they appreciate it. When you’re able to get to something honest, it’s a really amazing feeling for both you and the actor.
But with COVID, I did take a step back. The industry was starting to change even before COVID. Years ago, I was in New Orleans visiting a friend and went into this bar happy hour. It was still daylight out, and there was this older woman in there, who was probably in her late eighties. She had a martini in her hand, and a pillbox hat on, and a pink Chanel mini-skirt and blazer. My friend introduced us and said, “Joey’s an actress.” And she was like, “What studio are you with, honey?” I thought, “Do I tell her that’s not the way things are anymore?” And I just decided not to because that would take too much time. I feel like that now. Younger actors will reach out to me and ask if I have any advice, and when I was coming up in Hollywood, you met casting directors, and they had offices. You would go and read for the director. There was a civility to it that I feel like is gone now. You just put yourself on tape. I got an audition to put myself on tape and the direction was, “Horny Muppet energy.” I don’t even know what that means. It’s just changed. Of course, it’s gonna change, and it will change again, but I came up at a different time.
So, during COVID, I just had to take a step back and reevaluate how I wanted to interact with the entertainment industry. And with the #MeToo movement and with everything coming to the surface, I’m sure I’m not the only one, but it allowed those feelings to come up. I think it was (filmmaker/actress) Sarah Polley wrote an amazing piece for the New Yorker. Yes, there were the horrible casting couch calls and rape, and all of that, but there was also the million slight indignities that you went through with male producers not liking the wardrobe and wanting me to stuff my bra, or a 1st AD saying, “Come sit in my lap.” Sarah Polley wrote a really amazing article about it, and it allowed all of that to snowball. And then, COVID hit and things were changing, and I took a step back, took a little time off, and had to reevaluate how I wanted to interact with the entertainment industry. I feel like, this year, I’ve started coming out of that and have figured out what works for me, what’s comfortable for me, and what still makes me feel good about myself.
The L Word: Generation Q airs on Sunday nights on Showtime, and is available on-demand and streaming.