| Gigi (Sepideh Moafi) and Bette (Jennifer Beals) in Season 2 of The L Word: Generation Q, airing weekly on Showtime.Photo: Everett Collection
I recently attended a screening of the first episode of The L Word: Generation Q’s second season at Henrietta Hudson, a venerable New York City lesbian establishment that tends to draw a low-key crowd (at least compared to Cubbyhole, 10 blocks north). Once the lights went off and the show started, a hush fell over the room—that is, until Gigi Ghorbani (Sepideh Moafi) popped up onscreen, surprising her ex-wife Nat and Nat’s new girlfriend, Alice, in the school drop-off line. Suddenly, everyone was shouting like this was the bar from Cheers and Norm had just arrived; I knew then that Generation Q had found its Shane. (Okay, okay, Gigi and Shane couldn’t be more different, but the reaction to their celesbian power feels similar.)
“I have such a crush on Gigi,” one Henrietta patron (who shall remain anonymous for fear of irritating her girlfriend) confided to me. Indeed, Gigi has been a frequent topic of discussion on Autostraddle, the queer online magazine and social networking site, and Moafi is taking her to some exciting new places this season. Vogue recently spoke to Moafi about the show, her unique path to acting, her complex feelings about the lack of TV representation for Middle Eastern and North African LGBTQ+ individuals, and her take on Gigi, Nat, and Alice’s “throuple.”
Vogue: I have to tell you, the reaction I’ve seen to Gigi has been off the charts. What’s it like playing such a popular new character?
Sepideh Moafi: [Laughs.] It’s great. I mean, it’s always nice to know that your work is well received, but it’s especially nice with a character like this. I feel like we’ve been really craving this representation for a long time, so it feels really good to validate people.
Have people been reaching out a lot since the show’s second season started airing in early August?
Yeah, definitely. I was kind of taken aback by the reception last year because I just had no idea. I mean, I was a huge fan of the first iteration of the show, but I just—I didn’t expect to get such a global response to the character of Gigi and to the diversity within the show. This time around, there’s a lot more gratitude for Gigi’s existence and her dynamism and the sort of...fire and grit that she brings.
Okay, no spoilers, but...I have to ask you about Gigi and Bette. What was it like working with Jennifer Beals?
She was amazing. She’s a true collaborator, and she’s extremely humble. We have a really great rapport both on- and off-screen, so it was very easy to work with her. We enjoy each other as people, and that always helps. I started out in opera and then theater, so process is huge to me; I love filming, of course, but also I love the work that goes on behind the scenes, and Jennifer is the same way. It just felt very fresh and playful and safe.
Wow, I didn’t know you started out doing opera! Do you still sing?
I do! I actually did a musical off-Broadway a couple of years ago, while I was shooting the second season of The Deuce, but that was the last thing I got to do professionally. You don’t get as many opportunities in that industry, but it’s definitely something that I miss and will forever be part of my artistic identity.
As you mentioned, the new iteration of The L Word is much more diverse than its predecessor. How does it feel to play one of the few explicitly queer women of color currently portrayed on TV?
Well, it’s an honor, and it’s very exciting. For a long time, people from this region—which is known as Middle East North Africa (MENA), but now we’re even kind of revising those terms—we feel disoriented around the truth of our gender and sexual identities because they’re not often validated and they clash with a lot of really oppressive and outdated standards that we’re held to. That leads to a lot of self-loathing and shame and feeling displaced and isolated. People all around the world are extremely sheltered from the gender and sexual diversity that exists within the sphere of Middle Eastern and North African communities because there’s no representation. I remember growing up and, for a range of reasons, not seeing myself represented, and it did make me feel very isolated. Even at the beginning of my career, I was told so often that I wasn’t the right race. That feels invalidating, so whenever you see someone who can show you that you deserve to exist and thrive and fly, it’s very exciting.
Just to go back to last season for a second, I don’t think I’d ever seen the kind of “throuple” that Gigi, Nat, and Alice have portrayed on TV before. What was it like to try to capture that experience?
I think love is pretty broad, and it’s pretty expansive. We make generalizations about what love should look like, and more often than not, that goes with identities and sexual orientations and all of that, but those generalizations can also be expanded. Personally, I’m not a polyamorous type, but I know many people who are, and that does not mean their relationship is right or wrong or that they know how to love better or less. I loved working the question out onscreen of, What do you do when you actually do love two people? I feel like a lot of people responded to that, maybe partly because they’ve been in that situation or because they want to be in that situation but have never admitted it because it’s stigmatized.
Did you identify with any particular character from the original L Word when you first watched it?
I think I identified most with Bette, not really because of her personality—although I do identify with her go-get-’em attitude—but I think, again, [because of] the representation of a woman of color, who is so fully herself in every way. It’s inspiring. I’ve been asked this question before, and it’s kind of like, you identify with aspects of every character, right? I think that’s what makes the show so successful. There’s a little bit of all these characters in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not.