The L Word star Daniel Sea says it was ‘healing’ to return to the show as a happy trans elder

Micah and Max meet in the latest episode of The L Word. (Showtime/Nicole Wilder)

Fifteen years after Daniel Sea made waves on lesbian melodrama The L Word, the trans and non-binary actor has returned to the show as Max Sweeney to rewrite their story.

In the fourth episode of Showtime’s reboot The L Word: Generation Q, Max returns as a happy, thriving father of four who is in a loving relationship, giving Sea the much-needed “healing” they were looking for. 

It’s a far cry from the way Max was depicted on the original show. Although The L Word, which ran from 2006 to 2009, broke ground with its first recurring trans masculine character on TV, the show also perpetuated many damaging stereotypes, making Max the subject of derision, ridicule and controversy for his transition. 

“There were highly problematic aspects of the story which I attempted to intervene on in various ways. But as an actor at that time, I had very little, if any, influence on his storyline,” Sea told IndieWire.

Unlike the original series, the reboot has tackled discussions about gender identity and representation head on, and the storytelling is significantly more sensitive this time around.

Forme,the overall arc of the character — which seemed to spiral downwards into suffering,alienation,and misery — was the most painful thing. I was consistently hopeful with eachscriptI received that we would see transjoy, butunfortunately,this is not what the writers chose to do.

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The episode sees Max have a heartfelt reunion with Shane (Katherine Moennig), who apologises for the treatment he received from his so-called friends.

Max reuniting with Shane in The L Word: Generation Q

In one moving scene, Max even bestows advice about trans parenthood to Micah (Leo Sheng), one of the lead characters in the new series. 

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Speaking about Max’s return, Sea told the LA Times: “To see Max happy, and to have his storyline be a reparative story and experience, made me really happy because he does live on as these characters do.

“Especially since he was one of the first recurring trans characters on TV, and definitely the first recurring trans masculine cast member. 

“Characters who are firsts such as Max live on in people’s imaginations and their hearts. I’m not aware of any other time that this kind of reparative storytelling has been accomplished for a trans character from television’s past.

“This has been very cathartic for me to have this opportunity to revisit this character in such a restorative way. … It’s been a healing experience.”

He added that this “reparative gesture” from creator Ilene Chaiken and Showtime could be “another historical first in filmmaking” when it comes to redeeming trans characters who have been subjected to problematic tropes. 

“This opens up a lot of possibility for healing though story in a metaverse kind of way,” they told IndieWire.

And of course fans have rejoiced at Sea’s return.

“I cannot believe Daniel Sea came back to the l word. i don’t have the words for how much it means to see max as a happy, healthy trans dad after everything the original show did to him,” one fan wrote.

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“Very thankful he is finally getting his flowers. I don’t think you can comprehend the power of this moment if you haven’t seen the original L Word,” another added.

The L Word: Generation Q airs on Showtime every Sunday at 10pm.

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