Feature image of Rosanny Zayas by Amy Sussman/Getty Images
When Season One of The L Word: Generation Q ended with Sophie Suarez looking fine as hell, running through LAX airport, the audience left with no clues as to whom she’d pick between her fiancée Dani and her best friend-turned-lover Finley — I had such a gay panic I almost tossed my laptop across the kitchen table. And while I think if you ask five people who they hope Sophie ultimately picks, you’ll get no less than three different answers (I’m personally and unapologetically pro-Finley in this situation, but also pro-Sophie choosing herself), it is Rosanny Zaya’s performance as Sophie Suarez that’s become the beating heart of The L Word’s new generation.
Beating heart is often conflated with “fan favorite,” but in Sophie’s case nothing could further from the truth. Lots of L Word fans haven’t forgiven Sophie for cheating on her fiancée. But Rosanny Zayas has ground Sophie’s mistakes in overwhelm, confusion, pain, and clarity all at once — when it would have been easier to her choices off as self-destructive gay chaos. In a literal sense, beating hearts are messy. They are goeey and bloody and slip out of your hands if you aren’t careful. When I had the opportunity to interview Rosanny Zayas just ahead of Generation Q’s Season Two premiere (airing now on Showtime apps and for free on YouTube), I couldn’t wait.
Carmen: Well, I’m going to start off by doing a quick game… because Showtime gave me very clear “We cannot spoil anything” directions.
Carmen: But of course, you already know Autostraddle. So I assume, you know the deal. We can get very into The L Word. So I thought we would maybe play a fun game called “Rosanny Can’t Say That.” And I’m going to ask you some questions that you cannot answer so that our readers don’t yell at me for not asking it, but then also we’re not breaking any of the Showtime coverage rules. How does that sound?
Carmen: So, can you tell me who Sophie picked? And then you’re going to say —
Rosanny: I can’t answer that… but I do love chocolate ice cream.
Carmen: Okay, that was perfect. So just to double check, can you tell me who Sophie picked in the end?
Rosanny: I can’t tell you who Sophie picks, but I want to say that I… I’m looking at my shoe collection right now and I think that I need to get rid of some shoes because I don’t wear half of them and I don’t know why.
Carmen: I love that.
Rosanny: Really? Why?
Carmen: Because I was trying to learn more about you, just doing pre-interview research and there are not many interviews done with you! Which is why I was so excited to talk to you.
I still remember… I mean, literally to this day, not even the first episode of The L Word: Gen Q, but I remember when you got cast. I screamed.
I legit screamed at your casting announcement, because we were obviously following Gen Q very closely and I have to be honest with you, I did not expect for them to cast an Afro-Latina in a lead role. Sophie Suarez is the first Afro-Latina I’ve definitely ever seen in a queer role on television, certainly to the extent of being able to be a full character and I just became like a loyal fan from casting announcement. Day One, I was in. I looked up and I saw Sophie Suarez and then I matched the name to your photo, and I was like, “She’s Black.” And that was it for me… I was in the Autostraddle Slack screaming.
Rosanny: Oh, that’s so sweet. Thank you so much for saying that.
Carmen: And I think that ties to how you haven’t been able to get as many interviews as I would be really interested in, because I do think you kind of exist in this important moment.
One, and I recognize that this has already been gone through, but it’s a reboot of an iconic show. Everyone knows that part, but beyond that I really believe that there just are not many… who are, you know… there aren’t many who can speak to a diversity of Latinx experiences. That’s something that I was really interested in about Sophie right away. I was wondering if that’s part of what interested you in playing her or how you’ve developed her over the last two years?
Rosanny: Definitely. I mean, I think you’re right. It’s just such a rare moment when you get… I already feel lucky enough to play a lead role in anything.
Carmen: Period. Word.
Rosanny: Yeah. In anything, in anywhere, whether it be a lead character or if they’re playing the stereotypical characters that are just like, “Lord, when is this going to end?”
So it is really nice to have a moment, which I hope is a life mission of mine is to continue my career. Hopefully in my work, in acting, in television and movies or whatever it is that I’m doing, I’m giving voice to see a character that has an accent like mine or hair like mine or wears my kind of lipstick or will wear a shirt that maybe shows a little bit too much titty but just enough to make you keep watching because that’s the kind of shirts I wear!!
Things that are unique to me, but also speak to the neighborhood I come from and the people that I love and the people that I cook food for and cook food for me. And those are the things that are really exciting that hopefully we get to show more and more on television, not just in The L Word.
Carmen: I was just going to say, it’s interesting you even brought up “people I cooked food for” because that’s a really famous, or at least to me famous, line that Sophie says in Season One.
She’s having this fight with Dani about the wedding, right? And she says, “I just want to have a wedding where people are eating food that my mom made and I can breathe.” And it floored me.
Because The L Word can be silly and it can be sexy and it can be all those things, but to have that moment, first of all, to have that moment between two Latinas… One of my favorite parts of Season One is the ability to kind of explore how race and class affect Dani and Sophie’s relationship. That was this really specific, nuanced thing that’s happening in the middle of the soap opera that we all love.
Rosanny: No, I love it. That’s Marja[-Lewis Ryan, Generation Q showrunner] and the writing team and them also asking questions. That’s something that is just so unique to talk about — just because you are Latina, that doesn’t mean you’re going to come from this, or have the same perspective in the world. We all have our own unique perspective in what we do and how we’re brought up or how we feel about things.
And it’s interesting to see these two Latinas love each other, right?
And then to also have these moments where it’s like, “Actually, I come from a different place.” And Dani’s like, “Well, I come from this place.”
It’s like, “Okay. Yeah, we do. We love each other.” But at the same time, do we get each other?
Carmen: I want to explore that more! But I’m afraid any other question I might ask as follow up goes back to the very scary bold faced font that Showtime gave me about No Spoilers. But yeah, I feel that.
Just to bring it to Season Two in a very vague way, I was curious, what was it like for you to add more layers to Sophie this year? I had the opportunity to see the first three episodes of this season as a part of press screeners, and one of the things that really struck me was how much Sophie’s grappling with herself — and that has nothing to do with any plot, but it was just internal to her. I was like, “Wow, there’s this messy growing up moment that’s happening here.”
What was that was like for you to start pulling back these layers and find what’s underneath — to find a little messiness and dig in.
Rosanny: It was a challenge for sure. I can speak now from the actor’s standpoint. It’s difficult because there are times… going back to being Afro-Latina, being from New York and where I from, it’s like, you could just [be loud] and show it off. You could just be like, “This is fucking crazy and this is the world I’m living in and it’s insane.”
Rosanny: But at the same time, it’s a funny little dance that you have with the camera and yourself and then literally either it feels like… Whenever we were shooting, it felt like the camera was looking deep inside. And so it was a negotiation between me and Marja, whoever directed, and the people behind the camera. I was like, “How much do I let you in? And how much do I keep to myself?”
That’s hard to do because it’s an Open and Close, Open and Close. Who do I open up to or who do I not open up to right now? Who can I trust? Who trusts me? All those different perspectives in the world, and it’s funny because the camera can see all of that.
And so, it was really hard to negotiate all of that, but it was definitely fun and I learned so much.
Carmen: OKAY I see you flexing your Juilliard training! I see it.
Rosanny: [laughs] I mean, Juilliard did some stuff. They did a lil somethin somethin.
Carmen: Yeah they did a lil somethin somethin [laughs]
So our classic kind of goodbye question is: What is your L Word origin story? In the research I did for this interview, one of those aggregate websites that collects information from other websites said you saw The L Word for the first time in high school. And I —
Rosanny: I did. Yes.
Carmen: Okay. So I was wondering if you could tell me what do you remember? What that was like?
Rosanny: Yeah, definitely. It was mainly me hiding from my mom in like 11 o’clock at night. So she wouldn’t watch me watch women have sex on television.
Carmen: Word to THAT.
Rosanny: And then, just a Dominican mom being like, “¿Qué está haciendo?? Why do you watch this porn?” And I’m like, “No ma, look she’s Black. —”
Rosanny: “It’s okay.”
Carmen: I used to delete them! Because I watched it on DVR back when families had DVRs on cable. And then I would delete the watch history because I was so terrified that my mother would find it.
Rosanny: Oh we had the illegal cable box! So there was no history of nothing.
Carmen: See, that’s actually the benefit of an illegal cable box. Shout out to the bootleg man for the hook up!
Rosanny: Yep. That’s my origin story.