Mad for Moennig
A chat with ‘Shane,’ one of the sexy stars of ‘The L Word’ - 1.16.04

By Mary Damiano of The Washington Blade

With her androgynous good looks, it’s not surprising that Katherine Moennig auditioned for the lead role in “Boys Don’t Cry” and portrayed a gender-bending role on television’s short-lived “Young Americans.” But in her new series, “The L Word,” Moennig is all woman, a sexual being who seems bent on sleeping with every woman in Los Angeles, and then some.

As part of the ensemble cast of “The L Word,” the new Showtime drama about the lives and loves of a group of lesbians in Los Angeles, Moennig seems poised to become the series’ break-out star. Her character, Shane, is a sultry wild child who has a reputation for loving women and then leaving them (though not in an obnoxious way). The word “relationship” is not in Shane’s vocabulary, and in the first few episodes she inspires an interesting reaction from a jilted one-night stand.

While comparisons have already been made between “The L Word” and Showtime’s other gay series, “Queer as Folk,” the new series is not simply a female version of “Queer as Folk,” although the character of Shane is a lot like QAF’s Brian Kinney, albeit with softer edges.

Moennig grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of a dancer and a violinmaker. She performed as a child and has ties to the entertainment business — her cousin is Gwyneth Paltrow — but didn’t think seriously about becoming an actress until it was time to pick a college.

“I realized that I didn’t want to have a 9-5 job because I knew that’s not something that I would benefit from,” Moennig says. Instead, she opted to study acting at a conservatory.

In addition to her role on “Young Americans,” Moennig has appeared in “The Shipping News” and as a guest star on “Law and Order.”
The Blade recently chatted with Moennig about her character on “The L Word,” her preference in choosing acting roles, and the possibility of becoming a lesbian icon.

Washington Blade: You attended the Los Angeles premiere of “The L Word” recently. What was that like?
Katherine Moennig: My senses were very sensitive after it ended. It went very well and was actually a really positive outcome. People laughed in the right places, and that’s the response we wanted.

Blade: What has shooting been like, with such an estrogen-driven set?
Moennig: I know people think of catfights, but actually we have the greatest time. I look at those women as my family. It’s a real collaborative effort.

Blade: How does it feel to be a part of a show with such a potential for breaking new ground?
Moennig: It’s quite overwhelming, but I mean that in the best way. I want to break new ground. It’s overwhelming, but that’s what I want. A lot of work and a lot of love went into this project to make it honest, true and real.

Blade: You seem to seek out projects that are edgy and a little less safe — you played a girl masquerading as a boy in “Young Americans” and you also auditioned for “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Moennig: That’s the stuff that I like. I don’t enjoy romantic comedies — they’re not for me. I like stories that are not normal, everyday lives. I don’t personally seek them out, but they find me.

Blade: How did you research the role of Shane?
Moennig: I just kind of related to her, and the research I did was to look at people who reminded me of her, whether they were friends or other people I’d seen in films, and use that as a reference point. Then I added that to my instincts and did my best to create the character.

Blade: Shane is such a sexual player. Where would you like to see the character go?
Moennig: Instead of her sleeping around, I’d like to see her in a relationship that grows and see what happens.

Blade: What do you think of comparisons between “The L Word” and “Queer as Folk” — that “The L Word” is a female version of “Queer as Folk”?
Moennig: It’s such an easy comparison to make because we are on the same network. But people are watching it and saying that there is a difference. They’re approaching this in an entirely different way. I think that’s the directing and the writing and everything that goes into it.

Blade: How do you feel about becoming a new lesbian icon?
Moenning: Well, look at Gina Gershon. That wouldn’t be a terrible thing. I think it’s a matter of what you do with it. You never know how people will respond. That’s why I want to do this, to have people respond to it, to be affected by it. That makes me feel like I’ve done my job.