“L Word: Generation Q” Musical Episode’s Composers on Their Fight for an Emmy

The Emmys finally aired this week after being delayed by the incredibly necessary strikes this summer and fall. One of the nominees for Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics came from a little show we all know called The L Word: Generation Q.

During Gen Q’s third and final season, the series delivered a musical episode. Those are hard to pull off, and a musical episode using original music and lyrics is an even bigger challenge. But the show’s music team rose to the challenge, creating original songs that told stories and brought each character further into their journey. Showtime unceremoniously canceled the show, and despite that, the composers of the musical episode — Heather McIntosh, Taura Stinson, and Allyson Newman — fought for their song, “All About Me” to get an Emmy nomination, the second in the history of The L Word franchise.

Over the summer, I got to sit down and chat with these three awesome women via Zoom. Below is our talk about how the musical episode came to fruition and how they snagged an Emmy nomination with no studio support. Even though they didn’t win, they did something really admirable and hard.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sa’iyda: How did the musical episode come to be?

Allyson Newman: Marja, our showrunner, loves musical theatre, and has a background in theatre as well.

Heather McIntosh: Second season, we had a karaoke episode. And so Sophie, among other characters, got to show off their vocal chops. That was the first time we were like, oh gosh, we’ve got some real pipes on some of our actors here. We can really play with that idea.

AN: My recollection is that I got a text from Marja when I was on holiday in Australia at the beach, and she was like, wouldn’t it be fun if we did a musical episode? And I thought, yeah, that sounds so fun, thinking that’s never gonna happen. Cut to probably a couple months later, all of a sudden it was like, so about that musical. We were like, oh, it really is happening. I think it did ultimately come as a sort of surprise, but we probably shouldn’t have been that surprised by it.
But we were enthusiastically happy about it and excited.

HM: And then we had to think, how do we make said musical? How do we write said songs? How do we do this? And I’d known Taura for a while and always been such a huge fan of her work.

I thought, this is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to get together and sent a text to her. We started talking about it, and I was just so thrilled that you were up for it. And then we got to work kind of almost immediately, right?

Taura Stinson: Heather reached out to me — I think I even reached out to her like, Hey, how are you? Would love to work with you. And then she was like, you know what, this is just so serendipitous because I think I have something.

And then, within a couple of days, she called me and I was, to be honest, a little bit nervous. Ooh, a whole musical episode. And I don’t know much about the characters, and I have to do this deep dive. I fell in love with the characters. I fell in love with the show.

How did it work? Did you get a script and they were like, these are the characters we want to sing, go write a song for them? Or was it a more collaborative process with the episode’s writers?

HM: We had a general outline. We knew that actors were going to have certain touchstone moments in this arc. We knew the premise. We knew that there would be a trip, each person would be having this big turning point moment that would be revealed to them in the story.

TS: This is like a new relationship for me. I’m looking at all these people, following and falling in love. They’ve known them for a while. I just see all the good parts, so it was great to be able to introduce our perspectives.

AN: She was able to just see things in a very global kind of way. And that was very helpful for us, because she could really hone in on what those lyrics were doing, and she just had a way to bring those things straight away to the forefront, which was really important.

The nominated song, it’s an anthem for the character, it’s a space where Sophie is really stepping into herself, and it’s a huge catalyst for what happens in the second half of the season for her. How did you decide it was going to be a ballad?

TS: You just have to listen to what the song wants. And the moment was so perfect. I think we pushed the tempo just a little bit to give it a little bit more energy. I think there’s something to say about quiet strength where you don’t have to yell when you’re done. You just say, listen, don’t say anything else, because I’m going to say this and I’m going to go. I think we all agreed it would be the best approach. She also speaks, you know, having this rap in the middle of it where she has so much to say that we have to fit into this song.

I’m a big musical theater fan myself. So I get that when you have these kinds of things, it’s because the character just can’t speak anymore; singing is the only way. And I love the fact that it was original music, because you can also do a musical episode where it’s all covers. I think there’s more of a challenge when you have to come up with songs for these characters. Was it hard to get into Sophie’s headspace? Heather and Ally, since you had been living with the show for so long, was it easy to know where she was going and where she was coming from?

AN: I think we understood where the character was and where she was going, and this was a pivotal moment. I feel like Taura got fast tracked, but sometimes I think the way you think about it was actually helpful to kind of get us to where it needs to be.

TS: It’s always like, we want this and we want that and we want this. And then you kind of lose your voice in the process sometimes, but to be able to write a song, not only for the character, but for each of us who have felt that way. When we feel that we need to be able to use our voices and to say no sometimes, which is not a bad thing. I think we hit it on the mark, because it all resonated with each of us in different areas of our lives.

So now we’re in this wild time. The show gets canceled, which was a blessing and a curse and a bummer and a whole bunch of things depending on who you are and how you feel about it. Emmy nominations come. How do we decide, you know what, we’re going to go out and we’re going to campaign for this song and we’re going to try to make this happen? Because Showtime abandoned not just the show, but the franchise pretty quickly. So you have no support, you make this decision, what does that look like?

TS: I’m going to give this credit to Ally and Heather, because I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. I write a lot for film, and so I haven’t written for TV as much. And it was so heartbreaking for everyone, because we’ve come to love these people.

HM: When we got the call that we were actually being considered, we were all floored.

Ally: I know. I was like, I have to see this in print — I can’t believe this until I see it in black and white.

TS: You know, the show’s been canceled. But you know it’s an even bigger testament for what the song means to people because it’s our peers that are voting for it. Everyone that has come up to me to say, we voted for your song and we love it, because they’ve been listening to it. It stood on its own, on the back of the show, and all the work that these ladies have done all these years.

HM: We just really believed in it; we believed in the song, and we made a really crazy thing. It’s wild that we got to make this episode in particular, in this whole journey, and that we got to write these songs, and we’re just so proud. We produced these things together, all three of us. We orchestrated all this stuff.

We made something really powerful, and it just felt like a shame not to at least try to celebrate what we were able to do here, and this song seemed like the perfect version. It’s all in keeping with the message of this song, and to actually like stand in it and say, we made something really powerful and we want to share it with our community and hopefully it will resonate with them too.

AN: I also have to say something about Marja herself as a showrunner. Whether you like the stories or whatever, Marja is a person that has gone out of her way to hire women, to hire queer people in all these key positions.

A lot of us would never have had a chance to work on such a big budget television series. She opened a lot of doors for a lot of people, and I think she really needs to be acknowledged for that.

I will give you that. Did you all know this is only the second time The L Word has ever been nominated for an Emmy? The other nomination was for Ozzie Davis — he received a posthumous nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor for playing Kit and Bette’s father in the original. So there’s also something that you all should feel incredibly empowered by the fact that you managed to pull this off with, you know, very few resources.

AN: Now that we have been nominated, a lot of people have been asking, why can’t I see it? I’m like, Showtime, like, called everything. All our royalties get pulled off as well. It’s funny. We got a really nice gift from Showtime, which was nice to receive. It was a beautiful bottle of champagne with an inscription on it of The L Word and Emmy nomination. And I was like, this is awesome. I thought to myself, what would have been a better gift is if you put it back on.

It’s so difficult to get a show up at all, let alone a show about women, let alone a show about queer women. So to actually have that on the air at all is kind of a miracle. So it’s sad that it doesn’t exist anymore.

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 128 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Not to remind people that America isn’t the centre of the world or anything, but Gen Q is still up and streaming (all 3 seasons) on HBO Max here in Europe… So it definitely still exists!

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