When it came time to make the second season of "The Real L Word," the reality series about the lesbian world in Los Angeles, the entire cast was let go except for one wild child.
Whitney Mixner, the tattooed special-effects makeup artist with a reputation as a heartbreaker, not only was retained by the series, which returns tonight on Showtime; she arguably is the center of the show, around which all the action occurs.
"Of course, I'm flattered," Mixter, 28, says from Los Angeles about surviving and being advanced on the show. "I'm honored to come back to the project, although it was bittersweet for me to see those girls go from Season 1. They were like family for me."
But the producers, she adds, "were ready to explore new avenues this season. I think you'll find it's more fast-paced, a little younger maybe. At the same respect, they've found women dealing with a lot of complex issues, or going through similar stages of their lives."
Mixter's newfound celebrity means she's often stopped by passers-by, and not just other lesbians. "A lot of male cops recognize me, for some reason, and they always comment in a good way," she says. "Maybe it will result in fewer tickets, I don't know."
Mixter says she has no beef with how she was portrayed last season — as pretty much the kind of player that the character Shane was in the original scripted "The L Word" that preceded the series.
"That was me," she says. "I don't dislike myself as a person, so I can't say I dislike how I was depicted. The reason why it came off that way last season is that we didn't put up walls in every situation. That's why you saw graphic things, in the bedroom and stuff. I wanted to expose myself, be honest, and I wanted it to be a growing experience."
Indeed, there are few figures in reality TV anywhere that have been as exposed as Mixter. While other shows may cut away or shut the bedroom door, she was consistent in leaving it open.
"I'm comfortable with myself and comfortable with my body. Being on a premium cable network allows you to have that freedom and lack of censorship, which I'm always about. They wanted the reality of lesbian life in Los Angeles, and that's part of it," she says. "And maybe people don't know that. To expose people to that may open their mind. I never thought we were doing anything gratuitous. I was a consenting adult with another consenting adult. If I have any regrets, I have regrets for the situation."
The only way to get something out of the experience was to approach it uncensored," she says, though, she adds, "There were definitely times I cringed at things I did."
Even so, she says, "People I know know how I am as a person. My family and friends have been really supportive, even though there were some jaw-dropping moments where people were, like, 'Whitney!' I definitely told my mother to avoid Episode 7 last year. But a lot of people appreciated that I didn't censor myself. I got a lot of support."
She had to deal with the reaction people had. "People love to hate you, and hate to love you. But I feel solid in my friend and family support base. If you want to love me, awesome; if you don't, that's fine, too."
Still, Mixter says, "If there were some things I didn't like about myself, I worked on them this season."
That means appearing to be more monogamous and expressing interest in getting together with an old flame. "I don't want to give anything away," she says, as if explaining her life would be tantamount to a spoiler alert. "But you will definitely see me more ready for that, and try to get comfortable with that feeling myself. Whether or not the circumstances are right is the question.
"I would say that I slowed down my player ways," she says. "But there's definitely not a lack of action. It's more about me trying to figure it out."
Mixter says she was "pretty much the same" as she is now in her 17 years of growing up in Connecticut. "I did well in school and did my thing," she says. "But I was definitely the wild child growing up. You could ask my friends."
She's certainly heard from them. "I've gotten a lot of Facebook messages from familiar faces in high school past and stuff like that. They're all proud of me and whatnot. We all keep links."
She returns to her home state when she can to visit her mother, who lives in Glastonbury, and her father, who lives in Hebron. "Connecticut summers, I can't miss. It's all about the lake and the barbecue. The changing of the leaves I always come home for. There's no such thing as fall anywhere else but New England. And I miss winter. I always have to come back to sled and snowboard."
Came Out Early