Jon Wolfe Nelson
The L Word isn't just for the ladies. Sure, guys have been on the groundbreaking Showtime series, but none have truly had the lasting stay or impact like Tom Mater has. Originally intended as a guest star/interpreter for Marlee Matlin's character, Tom, played by Jon Wolfe Nelson, has since found himself part of the love mix with his relationship with transman Max (Daniela Sea). And with the sixth and final season approaching (premieres Jan. 18 at 10 pm/ET), things between them are just going to be more "extraordinary," Nelson teases to TVGuide.com. Find out what else the actor — a real-life interpreter — has to say about the last season, being the drama's sole source of testosterone and if he'll be part of the spinoff.
TVGuide.com: You're an interpreter. Is that how you got The L Word?
Jon Wolfe Nelson: I've been an actor for many years and for about 15 years I've been a professional sign language interpreter. When I was in New York, I made my living in the theater by interpreting Broadway performances for deaf audiences. So when the casting call went out for a sidekick for Marlee Matlin's character, she was like, "Oh, call Jon Wolfe Nelson. I'd love to work with him." We did an episode of The West Wing in 2000, I think, and she said, "Oh my God! We're gonna work together again someday!"
TVGuide.com: And now it's the last season. What's the scoop? Do you have a juicy storyline?
Nelson: I do! It's really amazing. I'm not supposed to say! Tom and Max, who is a female-to-male transsexual, ended up in a tryst last season that stuck, so this season, they find themselves in even more extraordinary circumstances. You'll see something play out between two people who never thought they'd end up together.
TVGuide.com: How did the relationship develop? You were only intended for a few episodes.
Nelson: I dunno. I mean, I've got to think that they liked working with me as an actor and that I guess really served the purpose for Max's character. I think there was a season there, I think Season 3, where they weren't quite sure what to do with Max anymore. There was a lot of tension and he was pretty much separate from the other characters about his experience trying to be seen as a man in the workforce. Then I come to town, and I think it just served everybody. I just hope it just means they really liked me.
TVGuide.com: What do you think makes them work?
Nelson: I think because interpreters are such a rare breed of people, they really have to be in touch with every facet of human kind because even though interpreters are language specialists, they're also sort of social workers, in a way. They bridge cultural communication gaps that without them, people wouldn't understand what was going on. I think because of that, Tom was like, "Alright, this is...new, but I'm really willing to give it a try." Max looks like a young pretty boy and Tom just sees Max as just a pretty boy, who has got a really strong sense of fortitude. I think when you're in a relationship with someone that self-confident that it's kind of inspiring. I think they're just drawn together in their uniqueness.
TVGuide.com: You've already wrapped. Will fans be satisfied with the ending?
Nelson: Hmm. I think it will definitely elicit a strong reaction from everybody — die-hard fan base and infrequent viewers. Do I think they'll be satisfied with it? That I don't know. It leaves you going, "Well, OK. If they were making another 12 episodes, there would definitely be a really big story to tell." It leaves you at the pinnacle of what could happen to all these people in their situations.
TVGuide.com: You guys also have Elizabeth Berkley coming on this season. Did you work with her?
Nelson: We were on set only one day together, but we had so much fun. She's really, really a sweetheart. It was at The Planet when everyone was there so we stood around for like 18 hours today. We didn't actually play opposite each other, but we had a good time hanging out. She's really, really a beautiful, lovely person.
TVGuide.com: Who does she play?
Nelson: She plays an old roommate of Bette Porter's. Roommate from college and they were once likely romantically involved, but it never got resolved between the two of them and they hadn't seen each other in years and then she shows up. I think she's in four or five episodes.
TVGuide.com: The show is about women and the cast is predominantly female. Did you feel like you were encroaching on their territory?
Nelson: I had that fear before I got there, but Marlee is such an incredible, dynamic person that there was none of that. The first season I [was on] I worked very closely with Cybil [Shepherd], Jennifer [Beals] and Marlee, and we just had a good time. I think probably because I sorta just eased in as the little brother type. It's different — I go there and have a penis. [Laughs] But it's like, "You're not my competition." You know what I mean? It's just different. I could see how a new girl might feel weird coming there because it's already such an established territory, but for me, it's like, just slip on in, have a good time while you're at work and that's what we did.
TVGuide.com: Do you feel like guys deserved a place on the show?
Nelson: Yeah. That's why I was so excited about the first season I went there. One of the executive producers, after I was hired, said, "Dude, you're the gay babe. We're gonna use you as much as we can. We haven't had a really desirable, young gay character on the show." They had some other gay characters — Alan Cumming was on, but he was a very dissolute drug user and crazy. [She] said, "We wanted somebody our 20- and 30-year-old fan base would go, 'Oh, watch The L Word! That cute guy's on there!'" I think I just served a lot of purposes for them. I don't think they realized when they hired me, but then they discovered.
TVGuide.com: You've only been on for three seasons, but the show's been around for six. Is it time for it to end?
Nelson: My answer is gonna be "NO!" Because I wanna keep working. I think it's different when you're asked to join the cast mid-run, so I had three nice seasons. But for those who've been around for six years, I'm sure they are ready, as actors, to put those characters to rest and give birth to new artistic projects, which I totally understand. Of course, the selfish part of you goes, "No, I wanna keep seeing the story! If you don't like it, why don't you find a new job and get someone else to be on the show!" [Laughs] But I think it's wise. They've told this group's stories a number of times in a number of different ways, and after that, it just sorta turns into a bad soap opera if you go on too long. I think you definitely wanna leave on a high note — not like, "Season 8! Oh my God! The aliens landed and now we have an interracial, inter-planetary lesbian story." It's too much.
TVGuide.com: Are you gonna be involved with the spinoff?
Nelson: You know, we talked about that and I don't think so because there wouldn't really be a place for him with the kind of show it's gonna be, so probably not. I would keep my fingers crossed for a movie. There were talks for a moment about making a movie later and with the way things are left this season, there definitely would be room for Tom to come back if there were a movie.
TVGuide.com: What's coming up next for you?
Nelson: I work as a sign language interpreter when I don't have acting work. Right now, just auditioning. Things are slow around the holidays and there could be an impending SAG strike, which makes all of us stand around with a lump in our throat like, "What is really gonna happen?" So I don't know. I've got some stuff locked down that won't even start panning out until the middle of January. I would love to move on to another, if not Showtime, like a popular HBO-type of series.