The L Word might have been accused of dropping the ball when it came to trans and nonbinary representation in its original aughts-era inception, but “No show is perfect,” argues Carmen LoBue, who plays Dre on The L Word: Generation Q Season 3. The queer, nonbinary Afro-Pilipinx American actor and burgeoning filmmaker was pleasantly shocked to be asked to play a nonbinary character on the spin-off of the canonical lesbian series.
At that time, I was sort of like, ‘Y’all want me to be on the show?’” LoBue laughs. They had seen The L Word growing up.
“People kept telling me that I was a lesbian, even though I didn’t identify as a lesbian…. But [The L Word] was sort of the only thing that existed. I was totally obsessed with the show, despite its flaws.”
For fans, cast members, and creators alike, Generation Q was a chance to modernize for the 2020s, to represent our community more accurately, beyond affluent lesbians. People with marginalized identities don’t always have the privilege of being in the developmental process of the shows that attempt to portray them.
“I think that right now we’re in a period in this industry of it being a work in progress, because many of us who are of the trans, nonbinary, [and other marginalized] LGBTQIA community haven’t ascended to positions of privilege or representation in those rooms,” LoBue explains. “So, because we’re not the majority, we can’t always have the agency necessary to create a fully fleshed-out character.”
Luckily, LoBue was intricately involved in making Dre a more complex and authentic nonbinary character. Bringing Dre to life was an illuminating meta experience for them. “It was interesting to be on set and be behind the scenes with people who are not used to sharing space with someone who is nonbinary. … It’s like what I’m experiencing, bringing this character to life, but also being a nonbinary person. It was just kind of like, I don’t have to do this thing as an actor where I have to wrap my head around what it means to be straight or what it means to kind of live this heteronormative life that I don’t necessarily have the experience. It was just sort of like, Wow, is this the privilege that straight actors who play straight roles have?”
LoBue was able to channel a lot of themselves and their myriad experiences into their time on The L Word. Acting is only one part of their identity: they are also a filmmaker and director with a passion for social activism that is expressed through their work as a creator. LoBue says that “being on The L Word is very different from anything that I’ve done so far, in some ways simply because Dre is the first nonbinary character on the show. And as a director, I do make work about gender, and I do make queer stories. I do make trans stories. I’m always trying to make my transcestors proud. So, I think that’s part of the intersection there.”
Bringing a fully recognized, nuanced nonbinary character to our living room screens was also an act of gratitude for LoBue. “It’s just simply having a love for the community of people that made it possible for me to be out and to be open, and also an act of gratitude for simply being alive as long as I have lived and being able to meet and commune with so many incredible people in this life. There was a lot of joy and I’m grateful for that.”
Not only was Dre the first nonbinary character to appear in The L Word universe, but they are also one of the few queer characters on TV whose storyline does not revolve around trauma or coming out.
“I think that one thing that makes Dre so special is that Dre is someone that has a dream and is a lover of themselves and their community and their family, and also is one of the few trans nonbinary characters that actually has a good relationship with their family and with their community and is, in some ways, an exception to the TV rule,” LoBue explains.
Dre is indeed a dreamer: they are also a singer, a friend—and at the center of a love triangle. LoBue might’ve brought someone totally new and necessary to the The L Word universe but there’s one thing that’s as old as the beginning of time they brought as well: drama with a capital D. A watch of Season 3 will reveal a juicy and maddeningly accurate portrayal of some good old-fashioned queer relationship messiness. Here’s the sapphic SparkNotes version: Dani and Sophie are engaged. Sophie cheats on Dani with Finley. Finley interrupts Sophie and Dani’s wedding. Sophie and Finley date. Finley pees in a hallway. Sophie and Finley “take a break.” Finley goes to rehab. Sophie hooks up with a mystery person. Finley returns from rehab. Sophie and Finley get back together. Sophie gets a text asking, “u up?” from the mystery person while in bed with Finley. Dani falls into a hot stranger’s arms on the street. Dani and the hot stranger kiss. Dani, Sophie, and Finley are in a bar. Dani tells Sophie about the hot stranger. The hot stranger is the singer at the bar that night. Sophie is shook when she realizes the hot stranger is Dre, the same mystery person she hooked up with. Chaos ensues.
In a particularly sexy scene, Dani and Dre are getting close in a pool when Dre mentions they have a “complicated queer-ass thing” with their ex-girlfriend back home. (Because why not add yet another person to the mix!) Dre explains to Dani that they are stuck in the never-ending break-up-make-up loop with their ex, which LoBue acknowledges that viewers can relate to. “I do think that there’s definitely a queer phase of your life where you have that first love or that one that sort of got away. I’m sure that my college self or my grad school self could absolutely relate to Dre,” LoBue says. “Do you know what a situationship is?”
Their advice to others in a situationship? “Maybe don’t spend so much time with someone that you’re not in a relationship with.”
LoBue says life imitates art, and The L Word: Generation Q and its actors’ lives are no exception. When it comes to being a part of a love triangle, LoBue says that “I’m sure I have willingly or unwillingly [been in one]. And I think that’s part of the nature of being in queer friendships and relationships, especially when you’re still discovering who you are. I think it’s very easy to sort of not know, Could this be my person or is this just platonic? And I think that that’s indicative of a younger, newer [part] of queer identity, especially now in this time. I’m sure that there’s still time in my life or in Dre’s life for more love triangles to happen because that seems like a community norm.”
Unfortunately, we won’t find out if Dre will untangle their muddled love life, as The L Word: Generation Q was officially canceled after the conclusion of its third season. Many fans reached out to LoBue saying they wanted to get to know Dre more. “I’m like, ‘Totally. Me too.’ And there was a plan for that,” LoBue says. They cherished the opportunity to play the role. “I think that being able to have the opportunity to be a part of shaping that, but also being curious about what someone else is curious about nonbinary people was appealing to me.”
LoBue also loved seeing the OG cast members like Jennifer Beals and Leisha Hailey come together with the newcomers. “I love that for the first time we’re seeing different generations of queer characters and how they sort of intersect,” they say.
LoBue had been a massive fan of Beals prior to being cast on The L Word: Generation Q. “Jennifer doesn’t know this because I was too nervous to say, but I actually, as a director, I had been studying directing and then started to look at the types of actors I wanted to work with and did a deep dive on Jennifer Beals and was like, This is the type of actor that I want to work with, and did all this research,” LoBue reveals. “She studied Meisner, so I went and studied Meisner. And I’m like, Okay, I think she went to Yale. And I’m like, Okay, I don’t think I can go to Hogwarts, but this is kind of where I shoot for the stars. I want to work with someone like her. So I had tried to get a meeting to direct on The L Word. I so badly just wanted to be able to share space with someone who is so specific in their choices and so undeniable in every scene. So sharing physical space with her was like, Okay, also, but she’s kind of like my boss, so I had to play it cool.”
Similar to the way that LoBue had to play it cool in front of Beals is how new fans have to play it cool in front of LoBue, who can be spotted around Brooklyn queer hotspots like Misster at The Woods or The Bush while young queers excitedly whisper around them. Fans aren’t as shy on the internet. “People are just really happy that a Black nonbinary character existed. And then sometimes people reach out online and they’ll be like, ‘It’s so exciting to have a Filipino on the show,’” LoBue shares. “I think in all areas, either virtually or in person, it’s always a surprise and it’s always validating to hear that people are interested in and hopeful to be able to see that representation.”
Fans also slide into Lobue’s DMs looking for advice. “I have had people online in my DMs talk about, ‘Oh, I’m in love with this person,’ or, ‘Can you give me advice on this and that?’ I think my advice to anyone of any age is to take your time getting to know people. I think sometimes we feel like we are the only queer person in a space in the world, and that we’ll never meet our person because maybe they’re…somewhere in the middle of the United States or across the world, and we’re all somewhat hopeless romantics because there are so many and so few of us at the same time. So I would just say take your time getting to know people, and that includes platonic relationships,” LoBue advises. “And then I would also say some of your best dates are with your friends. I think it’s okay to have romantic relationships that are platonic, and I feel so fortunate to have those in my life. So, I would just say, ‘Take your time. Always shoot your shot—stop staring at other people in bars—and just shoot your shot and then take it from there. And at the very least, even if it doesn’t work out romantically, I think the beauty of transparency and being open is that if it doesn’t work out romantically with someone, you can always build a friendship if your values are in alignment.’”
LoBue is currently directing Peppermint’s A Girl Like Me 2 miniseries for OUTtv coming out in June. “I’m very excited about it,” they say. And fans are even more excited to see what they do next.