Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"

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Vp Issue 8: "Now It’s Our Party: Profile, Ilene Chaiken"

[Originally published in issue 8, 2005, by Ramiy Rosenduft and photos by Angela Jimenez]

It is just after 7 am and Ilene Chaiken is walking on a Vancouver beach. She is clad in baggy carpenter jeans, a white long-sleeved t-shirt layered underneath a blue sleeveless shell, and a pair of snakeskin boots. Holding a mug with both hands, she is staring reflectively out at the horizon. Chaiken, the creator/executive producer of the landmark Showtime series The L Word, is a petite woman with piercing blue eyes and a Cheshire cat grin.

I am surprised, as this is hardly the image I had conjured for a woman at the epicenter of a pop culture zeitgeist. Inside her rented beach house, Chaiken has two identical pots of coffee on the stove - one caffeinated, the other decaf. She assures me that she also has tea and yerba maté, just in case. Plain coffee is just fine for me, though all that extra effort creates a feeling of comfort that stays with me throughout the day, and reveals a certain maternal energy that seems to permeate all of Chaiken’s interactions. She brings this same nurturing quality to the show, which seems to be the most demanding of all of her proverbial babes. “The L Word is fairly all-consuming at the moment,” she tells me over the kitchen island. She laughs about the idea of future projects. “I have other things on the back burner, and I’m trying so hard to find room on the stove.”

Labor of Love
Chaiken and The L Word staff have been in Vancouver since the summer filming 13 episodes for the show’s second season, which premieres February 20. (Showtime’s groundbreaking primetime drama centers around a group of mostly lesbian women living in Los Angeles. These women run the gamut from professional tennis player to ex-drug addict street kid turned posh hairdresser. It seems a deliberately motley crew, but part of the show’s central theme is proving the eventual inter-relatedness of all social circles and each character’s individuality further emphasizes this point. Chaiken won’t reveal too many details about the upcoming season. Enthusiastic fans trade show secrets and leak spoilers or plot lines through weblogs, unofficial websites, and gossip circles, but the show staff works hard to maintain the element of surprise. Still, Chaiken has a few secrets she’ll let out. One change is that the vignettes shown before