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Leo Sheng: Meeting Max on 'L Word' was childhood dream come true

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Leo Sheng plays Micah on "The L Word: Generation Q." Photo courtesy of Showtime
Leo Sheng plays Micah on "The L Word: Generation Q." Photo courtesy of Showtime

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Editor's note: This article contains spoilers for The L Word: Generation Q, Season 3, Episode 4.

Leo Sheng said doing scenes with Max (Daniel Sea) on this week's The L Word: Generation Q represented a full circle moment in his trans journey.

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"Special doesn't feel like a strong enough word, but it also feels like the only word I could really use," Sheng said. "My 12-year-old self would never in a million years think that that is possible."

In Season 3 of Generation Q, Micah's (Sheng) girlfriend, Maribel (Jillian Mercado), told him she wants to have a baby. In Episode 4, they interview other trans parents about their experiences, including Max in his return since the original series.

"I know a lot of queer and trans masculine parents who have gone through various forms of creating a family," Sheng said. "So this felt like a really special opportunity to show what community can look like and be in the way that they support each other."

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Max appeared in Seasons 3 through 6 of the original L Word, which depicted his transition. In the show, Max's hormone treatment caused rage and his pregnancy complicated his relationship. Generation Q shows Max ultimately did find an accepting family.

"It only makes sense to me that as Micah is questioning parenthood that we talk to a trans masculine person in the show who embarked also on a parenthood journey," Sheng said.

Sheng, 26, said that Max was the first trans man he saw in the media when he was 11 to 12 years old and coming out as trans via clips of The L Word on YouTube. Sheng came out as trans at 12 and began his medical transition when he was 18.

"I had these feelings about myself and my gender, but I didn't have the language to describe it," Sheng said. "I was at a place where I was trying to figure out who I was, and this was a peek into one life that was possible."

Sheng said he also related to the backlash Max received from society in the show. Max lost female friends too, and had negative experiences dating straight women.

"The first clip I remember very vividly was he was getting dumped in a restaurant by this woman he was dating," Sheng said. "She called him disgusting, which is very sad and I think a little scary in some ways."

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Generation Q also finds Max in a world more familiar with trans people. Sheng said the revival series is able to address Max with more accurate language for trans people than the '00s series.

"Bringing Max back while reflecting more-well-known language used by these communities is really important," Sheng said.

Season 3 was filmed during a turbulent year for anti-LGBTQ and anti-woman legislation. Sheng said attacks on bodily autonomy like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill forbidding discussions of LGBTQ terms in school and Texas laws allowing Family Protective Services to investigate parents of trans teens made the atmosphere on the set solemn.

"I don't think representation alone can change politics, but I do believe it's one tool to bring awareness," Sheng said. "Yes, it's entertainment, yes it's a show that people can enjoy, [but] there's something people can take away, learn from it and think about in the real world and their daily life."

The L Word: Generation Q episode 4 is available to stream on Showtime Anytime and air Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on Showtime.

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