Jess: You actually wrote two popular fan favorites – the basketball episode and the Turkish oil wrestling episode. Do you have a favorite episode from the series?
E.Ziff: I think the basketball episode was my favorite, only because it went through the least amount of changes. That episode really enabled me to have fun with characters and show their different aspects. Like, the competitiveness of Bette – that was fun for me. And the whole scene where Kit’s trying on shoes and she doesn’t want to go to double digits, I just had a really good time writing that script. I like writing sad stuff too, and political stuff… I liked writing for Rose Rollins [Tasha] a lot. Her character was actually my idea – I wanted to bring in somebody from the military so we could write about the war. She is a great actress, she was fantastic. She wasn’t my original choice actually, she was Ilene’s and Angela Robinson’s but then she turned out to be great! I also liked writing for Alice and Bette… I liked writing for all of them.
Jess: Was there a particular character that you identified with?
E.Ziff: I think I identified with all different aspects of all the characters, and that’s why I could write for them all. I really understood them all on one level or another, with the exception of Max, but I still understood Max because I’ve been involved with the transgender community. That’s one of the reasons Daniela [Sea] got the gig, she was actually part of that community. She’s not transgender, but she’s definitely part of it. She’s an old friend of mine – I knew her for years from the underground community where I’m from, which is interesting, because now I’m part of this major television show.
Jess:The character of Max was very heavily criticized as was the show’s portrayal of a transgender character. Some people even thought it was downright transphobic.
E.Ziff: I didn’t know about any of that. I never read about it – I didn’t go online and do any of that stuff.
Jess: A lot of people felt the pregnancy storyline was exploitative and the way Alice’s character was so hurtful to Max at times. He was mostly treated as an outsider.
E.Ziff: Well, I think that’s a reality. You gotta remember we were trying to do drama. What happens in all TV shows? I think the fact that we even had a transgender person on there was something, I think we were able to get some really good stuff in. We were able to talk about what it means to be butch, what it means to be transgender. I think people were looking for The L Word to be everything, and it’s not. It was about these really beautiful, fake women in LA, who happen to be lesbians. I mean, my friends aren’t like that! We’re not mean to each other like that! My friends are really nice and we like each other!
Jess: It’s pretty well known that the cast lobbied Ilene Chaiken not to do the “Who Killed Jenny” storyline. What was your stance on that storyline?
E.Ziff: Well, you have to remember that I was going through breast cancer when that was all happening, so, a lot of times when I would have fought things, in the Sixth season I didn’t.
Jess:Did you like it?
E.Ziff: [Pause]. I don’t know. I just remember that we had a lot of fun laughing about it and stuff like that. It’s interesting because so many people wanted Jenny to be killed. Like, so many people! And, I think there was more lobbying [by cast] in the third season having to do with Dana’s death than there was about Jenny. I was much more aware of that rather than the final season.
Jess: Were you aware of the reaction to the final season?
E.Ziff: I was really sick then. I was still working cause I did all the scoring mixes and I was flying to Vancouver until I couldn’t do it anymore. I mean, I’m surprised that I even finished doing the music for the season because I was so fucking sick, but I did. So, I have to tell you I wasn’t really that aware doing the Sixth season.
Jess:The main criticism was that people wanted it to go out on a more positive, celebratory note. Do you wish it had ended differently?
E.Ziff: Yea, I could see people wanting that. It wasn’t my show, that’s the reality. I mean, if it had been my show it would have been different. First of all, it would’ve been in New York. I think it was a groundbreaking show, it did a lot for the community. I certainly utilized a lot of the community for the music. We got to tell some stories and hopefully there will be other ones. The problem with being the first show was that you had the responsibility for so many things. I think in America people are really looking for the politicized version of it, where when you go to other countries, they’re like “so and so is fucking so and so!” because they have the freedom and they have the rights. They’re not ostracized and illegal like we are. They can get married. They stay together for much, much longer. They don’t have the break-ups like we do, they don’t have the heartache that we do as much, like when we can’t go to visit somebody in the hospital and they’ve been our lover for 20 years or whatever. So, that criticism is specific to America which is looking for… In America we’re constantly being barraged by images of how unimportant and irrelevant we are as citizens, especially now with the wedding thing.
"I don't give a shit if anyone ever gets married. I really disagree with that whole thing, I don’t think there’s separation of church and state and I think it’s bullshit."
Frankly, personally, I don’t give a shit if anybody ever gets married. I don’t believe in it. I think the separation of church and state is really important. I understand that it needs to be there for our rights, that historically it’s a rights issue and I’m all behind it. BETTY’s done a lot of stuff for gay marriage. But me, personally, I don’t think that marriage should be condoned by the government. I don’t think that you should be rewarded for being married, I don’t think anybody should. I don’t think marriage should be something that you get tax deductions for, that you can get spousal benefits for. I really disagree with that whole thing, I don’t think there’s separation of church and state and I think it’s bullshit. Honestly, I’m queer more than I am gay. I’m peripheral. I’ve never been conformist, I’ve never been status quo, it’s never even entered my brain. I’ve been in a band for 25 years, that’s what I’ve done. Traveled the world, fucked, got wasted, been political, and created. I’ve never been in the closet and I’ve had the luxury of not having to deal with losing my job because I’m gay. I understand that a lot of people do, and we play for those people, those are the heroes.
Jess: Having now survived cancer yourself, would you have wanted the cancer storyline with Dana to have gone differently?
E.Ziff: Yes, absolutely. I thought it was done well at the time, but now that I’ve been through it I would’ve wanted to tell a longer story about it. I would’ve wanted to tell the mastectomy story because it’s so prevalent, and I would’ve wanted to tell the chemo story because it’s so brutal. And we didn’t show the brutality of chemo, at all. In one episode that I wrote I showed her actually sitting there and getting it, but I didn’t know about the “port,” I didn’t know about any of that stuff. I would’ve liked to have imparted a lot more information; I think it would’ve been helpful, I think it’s what I’m trying to do now.
Jess: Would have wanted Dana to survive if you could do it again?
E.Ziff: No, I still would have wanted her to die. Mainly because there is so much breast cancer now and so many people are visibly surviving it, that many people forget that A LOT of people die from breast cancer. A lot of women die, and I think to show somebody who died – it’s powerful. Remember, in the show she didn’t die from actual breast cancer, she died from infection, which is what a lot of people die from when they go into the hospital. I would’ve liked to show the stages of it more and I think that will happen now that so many people have had it. We’ll see the reality as opposed to what you think it is. As a writer who’s had cancer, and pretty brutal -it was a 3 year battle – I think I’m supposed to write about it, but I don’t know if I can just yet.
Jess: Will you be involved in an L Word movie, if there is one?
E.Ziff: I don’t know. It’s hard to ask me if I’d wanna work my ass off right now. I’d probably do the music… I don’t even know if Ilene is working on one… I’m not that in touch cause she lives in LA and I’m here and I’ve been pretty sick. I’m actually really out of that whole thing. I don’t know what’s going on with that at all.
Jess: What’s your relationship with Ilene Chaiken now?
E.Ziff: We’re friends… it’s just, we never see each other since she lives in L.A. but we’ve seen each other a bit here and there. She works – she’s very into working, and I’ve been very sick.
Jess: Is it true that Marlee Matlin’s character, Jodi, was based on you?
E.Ziff: No, she was my idea but she wasn’t based on me. I’m not deaf [laughs].
Jess: Well, the whole “fiery artist”aspect of her character.
E.Ziff: Ha! Oh no, not at all, that’s funny! I wanted there to be a deaf character because BETTY has always performed at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and other festivals and there’s this whole subculture, which is pretty big, of gay deaf people that the world in general doesn’t really know about. And I thought the world should know about it cause it’s a phenomenon, I think – it’s like, gay Jews! There’s a lot of us! But no, she’s not based on me at all… I’m not that fiery anymore… the fire’s been put out!
Jess: Was there anything you wanted to do on the show that never happened?
"Those aren't the kind of friends that I have. It's a different world - it's definitely L.A., not New York."
E.Ziff: I wanted them to like each other more. I wanted them to be more representative of friends that I have and that I know. I think that’s why I liked the basketball episode so much, because they were friends. They really seemed like friends… At the end I wanted them to all be cheers-ing over Dana. I mean yea, you have to have drama and have people upset with each other, but those aren’t the kind of friends that I have. It’s a different world – it’s definitely L.A., not New York.
Jess: How far out do you think we are from the next gay centric show?
E.Ziff: I know that we’re not in the gayest of times in America. I think that if people can find a hook where enough people are gonna watch it and they’re gonna make money off it, then we’ll get a lesbian centric show. I have to say that I’m much more interested in doing something feminist, if it happens to be lesbian, right on. But, I don’t care unless it’s feminist. To me, that’s the crux of the matter… humanist, really. That’s always been my main focus, pro choice activism and working with V-Day and Eve Ensler and working with Gloria Steinem, that’s really what’s interesting to me. I’ll always fight for lesbian rights and it’s important to me that the community is strong, but my focus in my life, ever since I was little, is feminism. It came from my mom and that’s sort of how I’m hard-wired. I think it’s very possible to be a lesbian and not be feminist. But, I think if you’re feminist you’ll understand being a lesbian and fight for gay rights, whether you’re gay or not.
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