Mia Kirshner invites you to her brothel in “Defiance”

Mia Kirshner has been steadily working in TV and film since The L Word ended in 2009, but we haven’t seen her in a regular role like we will come spring. The actress formerly known as Jenny Schecter plays a major character in SyFy’s new series Defiance alongside Julie Benz and Jaime Murray. Mia plays Kenya, the brothel owner in a post-apocalyptic half-alien, half-human town and during the TCA panel for Defiance, she was quick to address any suggestion that her job as madam was merely a sexist trope.

“It was extremely important to me that it wasn’t a place where women were subservient to men,” Mia said. “These are women who are empowered by their position. They love sex. They want to be there. It’s a place of exploration, and it’s a place of beauty. So that stereotype of a brothel being something where women are sort of these sexual slaves doesn’t exist there. And I wouldn’t be comfortable with doing something like that. So I’m proud that it turns the stereotype on its heels.”

Julie Benz, who plays the mayor of Defiance and also Mia’s character’s sister, also made mention that the brothel is also home to male prostitutes, and the show’s creator Kevin Murphy said it’s full of “aliens and different races.”

Defiance has several different kinds of races of humans and aliens alike, which is one reason why Mia was drawn to the show.

“I think what attracted me to Defiance was it’s it’s an immigrant tale, and it really is a story, for me, about what happens when these cultures, who have never intersected, come together in one place and how they intersect and how they get along,” Mia said. “And I think you learn a lot about the mythology of those characters in the show. And I think what I like about the show is the element of realism and the culture clashes that happen, the sad violence that comes along with it, the stories that and the beautiful reconciliation that comes along with it. So I think, for me, it was really the it was really it’s a parallel to history, which I think is quite interesting.”

Because it’s a futuristic world in which all kinds of beings emerge, Mia said Defiance is home to all kinds of sexualities as well.

“I mean I think that it’s something, as we know,” she said, motioning between her and me, “one’s sexuality — it will exist in bisexuality and whatever form, and it definitely exists [in Defiance], which is why I like it,” Mia said. “It definitely exists. It’ll be interesting to explore that more but it’s definitely women with women, men with men and there’s, thankfully, no stigma. And it’s not even a discussion point, which I think is great. Shouldn’t it be that way?”

Mia calls Kenya “a chameleon.” “With her nothing is what it seems and everything — what you think she wants is the opposite of what she’s going to do,” she said. “So she’s a pretty tricky character and I think that this so-called brothel might be a means to an end to another place she goes. She’s a pretty fascinating character.”

As she often plays multi-layered and mysterious characters, Mia said she thinks fans of The L Word will enjoy Defiance.

“I think the fans of The L Word are a very sophisticated, savvy audience and I think they respond to character dramas. I think this is a character drama,” Mia said. “I don’t want to predict it for the audience, but I certainly think it’s character driven and it puts women in a non-submission position, which I think is important.”

It’s been nine years this month since Showtime premiered The L Word, and Mia said she still keeps in touch with all of her old castmates.

“It was such a special time in my life. I don’t think I’ll have that experience again. All the girls and I say that,” Mia said. “And yeah, I would love to work with them again. I miss them a lot. I miss the camaraderie. Rose Rollins is one of my closest friends, Leisha [Hailey] lived with me for a while last year so yeah, hopefully we’ll work together one day.”

Besides working on Defiance through last summer and fall, Mia continues her work through the non-profit she created, I Live Here, but she’s had to give up some of her control because it’s simply grown so big and successful.

“We got a huge grant from the Royal Norwegian Embassy and we finally built a school structure in the prison so we were asked to start a girls’ reformatory school as well,” Mia said, “so we’re doing that and in the next few years we’ll hand the whole program over to the ministry of education of Bali, so I would say we accomplished our goals. There were no school when we started, the kids had no supervision, nothing. Now they have a structure of schools and teachers — a schedule. And now there will have to be schools in juvenile prisons. I was extremely involved on a day-to-day basis up until about a year ago and then after a certain point, this is beyond my level – my skillset and it’s been given to some people who definitely know much more about running a non-profit than I do. But it’s definitely still something that I’m involved with on an active basis, but not on a day-to-day.”

One interesting tidbit about Defiance: Mia’s character will join the rest of the cast in the accompanying video game, which means trips to the brothel will at least prove fruitful in meeting Mia in a virtual world. However, you won’t find Mia playing the game herself.

“Oh I don’t know anything about video games,” she said. “I’ve never played a video game. It’s so not my world!”

Defiance premieres on SyFy in April 2013.