Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"
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character in her socio-economic class. The costuming is integral to the story. Lesbian stereotypes are reinterpreted. For example, the career dyke on The L Word is not wearing a man’s suit. She is wearing a tailored, couture woman’s suit. The set is quiet today. Laurel Holloman, Pam Grier, and Katherine Moenning have the day off. Mia Kirshner is supposed to fly home to Los Angeles today, but sticks around to participate in our photo shoot. The Canadian native, who studied Russian Literature at McGill University, has spoken with Chaiken extensively about her character, Jenny Schecter. Actors on the show talk freely and openly with Chaiken about themselves and their characters.
Chaiken says, “I’ve spoken extensively with all the actresses about their families.” This season, Jenny will explore her identity as a Jew and as a writer, as well as her place in the lesbian community. The 29-year-old Kirshner has grandparents who are Holocaust survivors. How do they feel about her being on the show? “They don’t approve of it,” she says. Lunchtime arrives. Chaiken emerges from wardrobe in a form-fitting, black, button-down shirt and a tight black skirt with black chunky boots, now resembling a stereotypical Hollywood producer. She is winding her way through the set, finally reaching the abundant craft service accommodations that suggests one reason why cast and crew are happy working on The L-Word: they’re well fed. And this crew seems to actually love coming to work. Chaiken boasts about her staff, “I am just continually moved by the extent to which people seem to give us their all and really care deeply about the work they’re doing.”
So what are the challenges now that The L Word is a cultural success? “The biggest challenge for me,” says Chaiken, “is always to continue to do better work. The second season has to be better than the first season, and I think that I will stop doing it when I no longer feel that we can get better.” Sitting outside of her trailer smoking a cigarette, Mia Kirshner agrees, “I think the second season will be better than the first season.” In an era of reality-based television when you can watch husbands swap their wives, their children, and their jobs, when bachelors and bachelorettes rely on the savvy of a manipulating producer to determine their future spouses, and when couples eat maggots and cow entrails