Max Is Back: The L Word’s Daniel Sea and Leo Sheng Discuss the Infamous Trans Character’s Return

That’s something I really just loved about episode four: seeing that T4T joy is so rare on screen. So I’m wondering what your hope is for the audience reception of both bringing Max back on in this way.

LS: My biggest hope is just that people appreciate the episode. That’s my hope with most episodes. You can’t control if people like them or not, but I really hope that people can see the love and care that went into crafting this interaction, this friendship, this beautiful reintroduction to Max. I’m also very aware of — I think probably more so than maybe some other folks — of the transphobic responses, which I’ve seen. So, I’m aware of that. Again, I can’t make anyone like it, and I wouldn’t want anyone to like it if they don’t, actually. 

But this episode means so much to me. I was just writing little things — I can post it later – but I don’t even know how to describe how special this was for me as an actor, and as a person. I was 12 when I first came across Max, and so this is a dream come true in a way. And so, I’m just still processing it and I feel very protective of it.

DS: Well thanks, Leo. That’s nice. That’s really wonderful to hear. It’s very humbling to hear. The only reason Max was such a singular story — being the first recurring transmasculine character in TV, and also one of the first trans characters — it was all the gatekeeping that existed then. It’s not that there weren’t talented people out there, or no stories to tell. 

It is a unique thing to be in the position I’m in where I’m now encountering people who are young adults who actually encountered me as Max in their youth, and that it was the first time that they got to see themselves respected. And then as we know, the storyline was also written in a way that did also cause simultaneously some harm for people — at least that’s what people tell me. And then also, a little bit for me playing it. So I feel equally protective of Leo, and [the tenderness between Micah and Max.]

There’s a line when Leo and Max are talking in the kitchen and Max says something like, “I’m so excited that I get to watch you be your own kind of man.” It’s saying that hopefully we’ve evolved, and that for him it might be easier. There’ll be more opportunities, and less of these kinds of things that both I, as an actor, went through and that the character Max went through. It brings me joy to see Leo thriving as an actor, but also to see this character having this kind of arc that’s so life-affirming and holds so much possibility. There’s a lot of precious feeling there that goes beyond just TV making.

I would call that trans and queer possibility — what we have to offer. It’s not just like, “Oh, let me tell you my authentic story of what it is to be trans,” but we are offering actual different possibilities of ways of being. And when we are at our best, it’s like that. It’s mutual aid, it’s care, it’s kindness, encouragement, non-competitive ways [of relating to each other], all this kind of stuff.

LS: Mm-hmm.

DS: Yeah.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

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