That’s what friends are for

Officially out spreading her creative wings, actress/writer/director Clea DuVall is ready for her ‘Intervention’

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DuVall, center rear, wrote, directs and stars in a ‘Big Chill’-like comedy with a contemporary gay twist. (Photo courtesy Samuel Goldwyn Films)

It took an intervention for Clea DuVall to finally come out of the closet publicly.
While she’s played queer characters throughout her career as actress — in 1999’s But I’m A Cheerleader and more recently in HBO’s Veep — DuVall’s delightful directorial debut, The Intervention, finally gave her a chance to play a lesbian character that she related to … as well as feel comfortable enough to officially open up about her own identity.

A dramedy also written by and starring DuVall, The Intervention sees a group of friends gather to tell a couple, Ruby and Peter, that they urgently need to divorce, since their relationship has become completely dysfunctional and toxic. However, this well-intentioned meddling causes Ruby and Peter to lash out at these friends, including could-be-an-alcoholic organizer, Annie (Melanie Lynskey), and call out their respective issues. For example, lesbian couple Jessie and Sarah (Natasha Lyonne), the former of which is beguiled by one of their friends’ latest conquests, a frisky 22-year-old bisexual girl, Lola (Alia Shawkat). (One of the funniest bits of drama resulting from the emotional fireworks involves a frenzied, vengeful kissing competition between Sarah and Jessie — it’s worth the price of admission alone.)

“It was actually one of the hardest scenes to shoot,” DuVall says. “There was so much about the timing, the people, getting the dialogue out. There were so much technical things involved I walked away from that worried, but it’s my favorite scene in the movie now.”

While The Big Chill serves as a cinematic inspiration for The Intervention (shot in and around Savannah, Ga.), real life also played a major part in the script’s genesis: DuVall’s personal experience staging a disastrous intervention (“We were all out of our league and it was a bust, but eventually it worked out for that person”) and reconciling a difficult emotional period due to years of intense relationship woes and tribulations.

“Ten years of relationships building on top of each other,” she says, “and running from one problem into a new problem, not really dealing with anything, and the accumulation of shit that stacks up as a result. I think I finally just stopped running away from those things and let myself feel it and go through what I had been fighting to avoid.”

Today sees DuVall in a much happier place relationship-wise, engaged to her girlfriend of four years (she declines to share her name, as the fiancé prefers privacy). As for her choice of onscreen partner for The Intervention, DuVall reunited with longtime friend and Cheerleader co-star Lyonne, these days best known for her Emmy-nominated turn as libidinous prisoner Nicky Nichols on Orange Is The New Black.

“I didn’t originally write the part with Natasha in mind — I saw the role as someone very different,” DuVall says. “Then, as I started casting and getting more people involved, I really wanted someone I already was comfortable with and had an intimacy, where you wouldn’t have to create that or a dynamic on the fly. She’s like my family, and you can’t manufacture that. Because I was doing something so far outside my comfort zone by writing, acting and directing at the same time, any support system and comforts I could give myself was much appreciated. Plus, she’s so talented and funny and could add so much.”

DuVall also agrees that Lyonne — who identifies as heterosexual — makes an amazing lesbian onscreen. “She does!” DuVall laughs. “There’s something very commanding and alpha about her, and I think that stereotypically people equate that with a more male personality, so she feels very comfortable being the guy. With me, she’s always the girl though, which I think she also likes.”

Despite boasting a litany of LGBT roles to her credit, in shows like HBO’s Carnivale, TNT’s Saving Grace, and FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum, after Cheerleader DuVall admits she avoided lesbian turns for years, while also keeping her own identity ambiguous on a public level.

“I was scared,” she says. “There were a lot of lesbian roles offered after, and I was scared. It was the 1990s, I was in my early 20s, and there was so much indirect pressure to be a certain way. No one was ever saying to me, ‘Don’t take on these gay roles,’ but I think I was definitely putting that on myself and that’s too bad, because there are things I look back on and wish I had been more brave.”

That’s all changed now, however, and DuVall feels especially comfortable in the skin of behind the scenes director: This year she directed the video for Tegan and Sara’s synth-drenched earworm of a single, “Boyfriend” (she also enlisted Sara Quinn for The Intervention’s original score), while several projects are in various stages of development.

Yet there’s one zone DuVall admits she feels compelled to enter despite her lack of comfort to date: politics. With this insane, high stakes election versus Trump and a pro-gun, anti-female/LGBT GOP platform, she’s motivated to intervene.

“I’m in conversations with people I worked with to see what we can do to get involved and help with gun control,” she says. “There’s an organization called Emily’s List, and their goal is to get female Democrats elected to all the levels of political office. I think I’ve shied away from being too publicly political, mainly because I felt I wasn’t educated enough, and I want my opinions to be based on education rather than reactions to things I don’t like.”

— Lawrence Ferber

The Intervention begins a national roll-out this week.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Wood on fire

Bi actress Evan Rachel Wood, who teams with a queer crew for a powerful new movie, talks Orlando massacre, sci-fi and tea with Elizabeth Warren

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Wood, right, appears in her new film with fellow out actress Ellen Page, left.

Openly bisexual actress Evan Rachel Wood is fired up lately about the Orlando massacre, misconceptions about bisexuality, and her role in the post-apocalyptic indie, Into The Forest.
Headed up by queer female dream team Ellen Page, Wood, and director Patricia Rozema (When Night Is Falling, I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing), the film is based on Jean Hegland’s 1996 post-apocalyptic novel. Living in the remote, woodsy Northwest with their father, siblings Nell (Page) and Eva (Wood) find all power and technology has suddenly gone down due to a mysterious event, but that’s the least of their problems when a tragic accident, shifty strangers, and a horrific crime strike their once idyllic corner of the woods. (The film is currently available via VOD and will run in select theaters later this summer.)

Raised in Raleigh, N.C. (her father, David Ira Wood, is a local theater icon), Wood, 28, is probably best known for playing Mickey Rourke’s estranged lesbian daughter in 2008’s The Wrestler, a lusty Sapphic vampire queen in HBO’s True Blood, and a debauched adolescent in her 2003 breakout Thirteen. She came out as bisexual in a 2011 Esquire interview, dated Kate Moennig of The L-Word (whom, she says, remains a best friend), and on June 10 this year made a YouTube video to clear up misconceptions about bisexuality and share her personal tale of revelation.

“There is so much shame that comes with that ‘bisexual’ label, so I was like, I’m not going to be ashamed or silent,” she remarks. The mother of a nearly three-year-old son (dad is actor Jamie Bell, whom she amicably parted with in 2014), Wood chatted by phone about post-apocalypse existence, the Orlando tragedy, her turn as an android in HBO’s upcoming sci-fi series Westworld, and which political figures she’d go on a date with.

— Lawrence Ferber

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Dallas Voice: As a North Carolinian, are you rolling your eyes about the HB2 bathroom bill, transphobia and other horrible GOP legislation going on down there lately?  Wood: Oh my God. I can’t even. It’s embarrassing. When I grew up there we prided ourselves on being a progressive southern state. It’s really disturbing to see this happening.

Ellen Page brought both you and Rozema on Into The Forest. Was the fact she was also openly queer an element that helped convince you to sign on?  Well, the script really drew me, and it was just a really pleasant coincidence that me and Ellen and Patricia are all out. We had a few giggles about it, like that’s pretty cool, but no. It worked out that way.

So what issue does the movie address that most compelled you?  How disconnected we are from our primal nature and how we relate to our environment. No one really knows or is taught how to live off the land, to forage for food, to survive without all the luxuries and conveniences of a soft bed or gas. Too often we don’t ask ourselves the question of what would happen if you didn’t have those readily available. They are luxuries. I felt it was a reminder of what’s really important when all the things are taken away — in this case, two sisters and the love they have for each other, because that’s what’s keeping them alive.

This is a big spoiler to those unfamiliar with the book, but it needs to be touched on. There’s a scene where Eva is raped, and it’s downright painful to watch. Can you talk about that?  That was really intense. We did that in one take. The only thing important to me was how it was shot. I didn’t want to glorify it in any way or take away from the emotional trauma by focusing on just what’s happening physically, because I think that’s part of the problem of what’s happening with rape culture. People think it’s not a big deal because you’re still alive afterwards and it maybe only lasted 15 minutes. But what they don’t understand is it’s not the physical trauma that’s most damaging. Of course, it’s damaging, painful and horrible, but it’s the emotional scars rape leaves that take a lifetime to deal with and come back from. You lose a part of yourself, it’s taken from you and it’s really hard to get back. I think that’s what we showed in the film. You see this girl just disappear slowly and when that happens you’re in such shock your body doesn’t know how to handle it and you kind of leave.

Did you and Ellen discuss the Orlando massacre when it happened last month?  She was one of the first people I contacted. I tried to make a point of reaching out to a lot of my queer friends, because obviously this is devastating for everyone, a blow to us all, but I think it cuts a little bit deeper to those who feel it could have been them. It’s devastating and we were shaken up by it, but I view myself as a person who can stay strong in the face of despair and ignorance. This is one of those cases where I got really scared and sad, but then angry in a good way because it was motivation and inspiration. I’m just done hiding, I’m done walking on eggshells, and I think a lot of people feel that way but I also have a desire to show and give people as much love as possible.

Let’s shift gear to some lighter topics for a bit, shall we? Who are your current celebrity crushes?  You know what? I met Jamie Lee Curtis yesterday and I’ve got to say she is a babe! I was so speechless and starstruck, and I’ve been so in love with her for so long and she was even more beautiful in person.

How about Nick Jonas, who has been happy to court the gay boys as well as the girls?  Oh, I don’t know enough about him and what he’s doing!

Elizabeth Warren? Would you say yes to a wine and cheese date with her?  I love her. Oh, hell, yeah! She’s great.

And Bernie Sanders?  Sure! Can he bring the bird? [Laughs] I’d date them all except Trump.”

Are you Team Hillary?  Ummm… As opposed to Trump? [Laughs] Politically, getting involved in the press is very dangerous right now. I’m not voting for Trump!

Whose life story would you most like to play?  Janis Joplin. It’s a dream forever and ever, and [the response is always] like, oh you’re too pretty. Dude, movie magic! She’s just incredible to me.

What can you tell me about your character in Westworld, and are there LGBT characters?  Absolutely. It’s based in the future, and it’s going to be much more fluid [sexually], so of course that’s there. My character is a “host.” I think what’s going to be really cool about the ‘hosts,’ because we don’t like to use the word robot, is they would be more fluid and genderless. It’s going to blow people’s minds. The writing impresses me the most, it’s so intricate, deep, an existential nightmare and very much based in reality. It’s set in the future but based on real technology we’re developing now, looking at the state of humanity and where we’re at, what we consider entertainment, and why we’re so attracted to darkness. It’s taking a good, hard look at that.

As a mom of what you call the raddest son, what is your wish for your child’s future?
  More tolerance, empathy, kindness and communication. That’s a reason I had children. Sometimes people think, “I’m not going to have a kid because everything’s so messed up,” but I felt here’s my chance to put something good into the world, raise a good man and for him to be the change. That’s a lot to put on him, but that’s how it works.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 8, 2016.

—  Dallasvoice

Today’s gift suggestion

THEY’RE GRRR-EAT!

We love our bears. We love our contributing writer Lawrence Ferber. So of course we love that he’s got another movie coming out. Ferber is the associate producer of Bear City 2: The Proposal, the follow-up to the gay hit Bear City, which he co-wrote. If you missed the first one, you can get it in a special two-disc set along with the new direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray romantic comedy. Of course, you can also buy each film individually, but if you like sexy hairy guys, two is definitely better than one. ($24.99–$34.99)

Available exclusively at BearCity2.com.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones