Kate Moennig is a Philly girl through and through. While everything about her may point to Hollywood—daughter of a showbiz mother, cousin of Gwyneth Paltrow, drama-school graduate—her accent gives away her upbringing as Center City–born, cheesesteak-eating, Catholic-school rebel.
These days Moennig (pronounced “Mehnig”), aged 43, lives in Los Angeles, where she moved a few years before filming The L Word, the long-running Showtime series following a group of lesbians, alongside her friend and co-star, Leisha Hailey. When the coronavirus hit the U.S., in the late winter of 2020, Moennig and Hailey decided to start their own podcast, which premiered in June of that year. They called it Pants. (The name comes from the duo’s L Word nickname: two legs of the same pair of pants.)
When they started off, “we didn’t have a concept,” Moennig tells me from her home. “We didn’t know anything except each other and our friendship and our history.”
“People enjoyed the friendship between Shane and Alice”—their characters on The L Word and now the reboot for the millennial crowd, L Word: Generation Q—“and there is only so much real estate on TV,” Hailey adds. “So, we thought, Let’s just talk about who we are and see if people dig it.”
Pants features interviews—Paltrow makes a cameo—as well as talk about the show that launched Moennig’s and Hailey’s careers. The hosts also field questions phoned in from lesbian fans around the world; most recently, Moennig and Hailey launched a live podcast tour. (The first show took place in Nashville in early August, while the next one, likely in October, will happen virtually due to concerns over the Delta variant.)
“People actually relate to [Pants], and that proves a point that we didn’t intend to put out there,” Moennig says. “We all have similarities. We’re all just trying to function in this world and get things done and live our lives and figure it out.”
Sister of the Traveling Pants
The only child of Broadway dancer Mary Zahn and violin-maker William Moennig—the half-brother of Blythe Danner—Kate “was the baby of The L Word” when, at 27, she starred in the show’s 2004 debut. Back then, most everyone could have guessed that Moennig played for the same team. Everyone but Moennig.
“I grew up Catholic and I went to Catholic school…. I wasn’t really in an environment where I could explore that, especially in the 80s and the 90s,” Moennig says.
“Back then, that shit did not exist,” Moennig told RuPaul on his What’s the Tee podcast in 2019, one of the first occasions in which she publicly discussed her sexual orientation. “Oddly enough, when I got The L Word, that’s where my wheels started turning…. But I didn’t have the vocabulary for it. [The L Word] reshaped my life. It was the first time when [being gay] was welcomed and discussed, and everyone was so open and proud and confident. I had never seen it before.”
After The L Word came to an end, in 2009, Moennig, who is married to the Brazilian filmmaker and musician Ana Rezende, appeared in a few independent films and joined the cast of another Showtime series, Ray Donovan.
“We all left the show in 2009 feeling like we never really finished,” Hailey says. “We all could have gone on much longer, but it was back in the era when television series stopped at six seasons … and no show came along, which we always assumed it would, to fill the shoes of The L Word.”
For many people, Pants has occupied that space. And Moennig and Hailey have managed not to get sick of each other—though, like a true Philadelphian, Moennig believes she is the better driver. “There is a lot of braking involved with Leisha—a lot of running up to the light and jamming on the brake,” Moennig says.
Naturally, Hailey disagrees. “Kate is a grumpy driver. She takes on the whole journey … ”
The Pants podcast is available on Apple Podcasts
Adrian Brune is a London-based journalist