Ben Whishaw: The gay interview

Ben Whishaw, right, in ‘Lilting’

As our final lead-up to The Hollywood Issue on Friday, we offer up an interview with the notoriously private Ben Whishaw, who — aside from his work in films like Skyfall and Cloud Atlas — will be appearing soon in Paddington and the supernatural drama LiltingLawrence Ferber tracked down Whishaw and Lilting’s writer/director Hong Khaou.

Lost in translation

Language isn’t the only barrier that stands between a gay man and the non-English-speaking mother of his dead, closeted boyfriend in Lilting.

The feature debut of Cambodian-British writer/director Hong Khaou, this elegant chamber drama stars acclaimed British actor Ben Whishaw (Skyfall, Cloud Atlas) as Richard, who enlists a translator and attempts to forge a bond with Cambodian-Chinese Junn (Hong Kong actress Cheng Pei Pei of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), the retirement home-bound, prickly mother of his recently deceased partner, Kai (Andrew Leung). Although Junn and Richard mourn the same person, Kai never came out or divulged the nature of his “friendship” to mom, and the jaded, sourpuss Junn disliked Richard from the get-go .…

Khaou previously worked for London-based LGBT film distributor, Peccadillo Pictures, and directed a pair of acclaimed short films, Spring and Summer. Thanks to his experience watching and distributing queer-themed films, he learned a few important lessons to apply to his own delve into feature filmmaking. “I wanted to make sure the kissing was correct,” he shares. “I remember having a conversation about that with the actors. It’s such a difficult detail to get right. I understand certain actors, if not gay, they have that trepidation, but if you’re an actor and take on kissing, you want to make sure to convey it correctly. I was very aware the kissing was right!”

Khaou shot the indie film over a tightly scheduled 17 days. Specifically citing John Sayles’ 1996 Texas-set feature Lone Star and 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene as cinematic influences on Lilting, Khaou also drew heavily from his own family life when writing the script. Born in Cambodia, his family fled to England during the 80s while he was a child. His mother struggled to learn English upon arrival, and even now has trouble with the language. One thing she does understand, however, is that her son is gay. “Her reaction [to my coming out] was fine,” Khaou says. “The build up was agonizing. I was shaking and petrified, but having told her she was fine.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Kiesza: The gay interview


Continuing our lead-up to The Hollywood Issue this week, we chat with “Hideaway” singer Kiesza, who’s long be an ally to the gay community. But is she more an Mariah or Whitney fan?  — Chris Azzopardi

Even before making the streets of New York City her own private dance floor for “Hideaway,” Kiesza was courting the queers. The lead single off the 25-year-old’s major-label debut, Sound of a Woman, has certainly boosted her appeal within the community — who could resist the sports bra and suspenders look? — but the gays and this former sniper-in-training for the Canadian Army actually go way back.

On her way to the airport, Kiesza called to chat about pretend-marrying her gay best friend, how Barbra Streisand taught her to sing and her request for the drag queens.

Dallas Voice: Have you been feeling the gay love yet?  Kiesza: I’ve been feeling it before any other love, actually. Even before “Hideaway,” when I was doing other projects, the gay community was always the community that supported me as a brand new artist. I always felt supported by the gay community before anyone else, so it’s a really special community to me.

When did you know the gay community was in love with you?  I would actually meet the people who were coming to my shows and it showed me who my audience was, and I had a very strong gay following, which is amazing. They’re so enthusiastic, and they come dressed in clothes that emulate my own style. They’re always going the extra mile.

You know you’ve made it when guys are doing you in drag.  Yeah, I saw some people doing “Hideaway” in drag, which is amazing. I wanna go to a drag show and see someone performing “Hideaway” live!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Jeffrey Tambor of ‘Transparent:’ The gay interview

Our Hollywood Issue comes out Friday, so we thought we’d do a lead-up with celebrity interviews from the world of entertainment. Kicking everything off? Our Chris Azzopardi‘s piece on the controversial new streaming series Transparent, where he talks to star Jeffrey Tambor and associate producer Zackary Drucker (herself MTF). 

When a show makes its mark on society, it’s more than just TV — it’s history.

In 2014, we met Maura, the protagonist of the brazen, boundary-breaking Transparent, a dramedy centered on a 70-something male-to-female’s journey in coming out to her family. Written by Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under) and produced by Amazon with a standout lead performance from Jeffrey Tambor, the show is being heralded as an Emmy contender for its authentic look at trans life.

Dallas Voice: Jeffrey, what drew you to the Maura character?  Jeffrey Tambor: I was coming into Los Angeles from my home in New York, and I was doing a talk show and my representatives, who are tremendous, are always on the lookout for really good things. They sent me this script by Jill Soloway, and I got off the plane — I had about a 15-minute drive to my hotel — and by the time I got to the hotel, I had read this. I called them and I said, “I’m in, I’m in, I’m in. Let me meet Jill.”

Jill and I met the next day — we had a great meeting — and then that afternoon I saw her movie Afternoon Delight, and I called her again. You know, in the pilot, I don’t have that big of a role, but you could just see how beautiful that family and their dynamic was. You could see that Jill was after big themes, but the people were so real, so authentic and so accessible, and so I just said, “I’m in.”

Even though your role is slight during the pilot, your presence is massive.  Tambor: Thank you. The key scene, I think, in that pilot is around that table. That barbecue scene — I could watch that on a loop for the rest of my life. I remember when we were filming that and every face I looked into was just filled with genius and light and quicksilver moods. It’s really a real coup of casting.

With so few representations of transgender people in the media, and trans visibility being at the forefront culturally, what kind of responsibility did you feel to Maura and to the trans community?  Tambor: A huge responsibility. I had nervous self-tappings on my shoulder the whole time. I don’t think I have been as nervous as when I did the scene when I had to come out to my daughter Sarah [Amy Landecker]. I was shaking, and not because I was nervous about being good, or nervous about being talented, or nervous about learning the lines — I wanted to do it right. I turned to Jill many times during the making of this, and to Zackary and [co-producer] Rhys Ernst many times, and said, “This is big. This is huge.” You would feel it at times and think, “This is so much more than all of us put together. This is a big movement.”

Zackary Drucker: Jeffrey brings a tremendous amount of humanity to this role, and from a very internal place without falling into stereotypes or tropes of other representations of trans people that we’ve seen. I think that this show is a huge step in the right direction, and as a trans person, I have a lot of hope, actually, that there are many more to come. This is one big step for bringing trans people into pop culture and into television and film.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Lisa Kudrow: The gay interview

LisaKudrow3By Chris Azzopardi

Ten years without our favorite cupcake-wearing gonzo, Valerie Cherish, is 10 years too long. But the wait’s over. You were heard.

A decade after The Comeback —the hilariously cringe-y HBO trailblazer that lasted just one season in 2005, starring Lisa Kudrow as Val, a D-lister reaching for (everything underneath) the stars — was axed, it has returned to the network this week … with the Friends actress back as our beloved hot mess.

We chatted with Kudrow — who also has her fourth season on Showtime’s Web Therapy under her belt — about “superhuman” gays, her own comeback and the future of Romy & Michele.

Dallas Voice: Lisa, you don’t know how tempting it is to say “hello” three times to you right now. How often do people quote Valerie in your presence? And how often are they gay men?  Lisa Kudrow: Frequently and frequently. You know who the next group is after gay men? College students.

Are you surprised by that?  I was surprised … until I got used to it! But it’s fantastic. That’s really thrilling, and then it struck me: Well, of course! They grew up with Housewives of everywhere, and people humiliating themselves on reality TV. When The Comeback first came out, I think that gay men were the only ones who were like, “Yes. I understand. I get it. It’s great, and I understand.”

You know, those are the people I care about the most — the people who really loved the show. That was my only fear after it was all done. Doing it, writing it, shooting it, it was, “Yeah, this is right, this is right.” Then afterwards, “Uh oh, what if it’s not?”

When it comes to Valerie Cherish, what is it about her exactly that we gay men are so drawn to?  I’ve been asking myself that too — not ’cause it’s a mystery, but I wonder why. I was watching Will & Grace once and there was this hilarious episode where Karen’s at a theater and she throws her flask and it hits someone in the head, and there’s this joke that gay men wouldn’t care because, “Eh, all in a day.” Getting, like, smacked with something is “all in a day.” So I wonder if that’s what it is — because Valerie gets, you know, humiliated, or humiliates herself, all the time. And it’s like, “Yeah, well, that’s the world.”

The other thing that I love about Valerie is, “All right, someone said something not nice, but you know what? Can’t use that. Got this other thing I gotta do.” She just ignores that that happened and keeps going.

That’s what it is too: She perseveres.  Completely perseveres! You can agree with her goal or not, but she’s got it and nothing is getting in her way. There’s something admirable about that; there just is. Except, you know, she’s willing to put up with a lot.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Patty Griffin: The gay interview

Patty1Editor’s note: Patty Griffin, the Texas-based singer-songwriter, will perform in Dallas on Thursday at the Majestic with blues legend Mavis Staples. We sat down with the artist to talk about her two albums released in 2014, and her gay fans.

By Chris Azzopardi

There are singers, there are songwriters … and then there’s Patty Griffin. Not only has the celebrated songstress been praised for her versatility, Griffin’s untouchable talent has earned her a Grammy and landed her material on releases from some of the industry’s biggest names. For artists seeking poetic musings (and really sad songs), Griffin is a go-to. And besides, the Dixie Chicks, Kelly Clarkson, Bette Midler and Emmylou Harris have all given a second life to the writer’s rootsy tunes.

Griffin’s own catalogue, though, is immense, and just this last year she added two more gems to her repertoire: American Kid, a work of staggering genius that, not surprisingly, topped many best-of lists, and Silver Bell, her “lost” LP, shelved by her then-label, that was released 13 years after she recorded it. She’ll perform (probably from both albums) alongside Mavis Staples at the Majestic on Nov. 13.

From her hometown down the road in Austin, Griffin — who also draws inspiration from her spouse, Led Zeppelin legend Robert Plant — chatted about feeling like a “weirdo,” which song of hers helped a kid come out to his parents and getting over her religious prejudices to record a gospel album. — Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: American Kid is obviously very connected to your late father, who was dying as you were writing it. What is the most difficult song for you to get through live? Patty Griffin: I don’t think I have a great deal of difficulty getting through them. My emotional response varies from night to night, and there are times when that can make it hard to sing, but there hasn’t been one in particular that’s gotten me too emotional to sing. It’s all emotional.

It’s been really great to have songs in my own life that speak about him. I didn’t think about it at the time, about honoring him; I was just trying to get myself through him passing away. I didn’t think about how great it would be later to tell his story, at least from my point of view. I don’t know how thrilled he’d be about some of these things!

How is creating and performing music a catharsis for you? To me, it’s just my nature. It’s how I’m built. I feel like I have to do it, you know? I think anybody who’s a musician who gets to be 50 and is still a musician, that’s really how they’re built. They really have to do it. So it’s very second nature to me. It’s really, really not hard for me to express myself that way.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Laurie Metcalf: The gay interview

LaurieMetcalf1Laurie Metcalf talks roles on gay-inclusive sitcoms. By Chris Azzopardi

There’s no question that Roseanne, a show centered on the Conner family, was one of the most influential sitcoms of all time. Just look: Gay marriage is now as trendy as Jackie Harris’ hipster-desired mom couture.

Two decades later, meet The McCarthys, CBS’ primetime comedy about a zany sports-crazed Bostonian family. One of the sons, Ronny, is gay, and the clan’s matriarch is Laurie Metcalf, who played Jackie on Roseanne (and, in case you forgot, was outed during the show’s finale in 1997).

Metcalf recently chatted with our Chris Azzopardi about how The McCarthys — which debuts tonight at 8:30 p.m. on CBS — has made her feel like she’s “missing out” on a real-life gay son, the lesbian kiss on Roseanne that caused a stir, and her own lip-lock with a stage icon, her first time kissing a woman (she thinks).

Dallas Voice: Between HBO’s Getting On and now The McCarthys — and not counting , guest shots on The Big Bang Theory — you’re spoiling us, Laurie. It’s so good to have you back on TV.  Laurie Metcalfe:  Thanks so much. Yeah, it’s been a long time. I’m spoiled myself right now; I’ve got two wonderful projects. But yeah, I’ve been doing mostly just theater for the past six years.

Which do you prefer: TV or theater?  I have to say, I prefer stage, probably because it’s where I came up. I feel like I understand it best, and I like the immediate gratification of a live audience. You know, it’s been so long since I’ve been on a multi-camera show that it just felt like home walking back onto that set, so that was fantastic. I didn’t think one of those would come back around!

What drew you to The McCarthysFirst of all, I love that multi-camera format. It’s a very collaborative way of working, because you’re in there with the writers, and everybody is trying to contribute to making the show the best it can be on Friday nights for the audience. It’s a group effort, and I really like working that way. Then I talked to Brian Gallivan, the showrunner, who I adore. He came up from Second City, so I felt we had a little something in common. And he’s fantastic. So calm, so supportive and so wonderful to work with. [The scripts] went through so many changes that I know were very difficult for all the writers involved. He’s just a really fantastic leader and he sets the tone for the whole project, and he’s super funny.

Especially as “Sassy Gay Friend.”  When we first talked, I said I was a huge fan of that character and he’s like, “Are you kidding me?” Then we agreed that Sassy Gay Friend should do an intervention at some point on Jackie from Roseanne. Wouldn’t that be great?

Absolutely. You gotta make that happen. Speaking of Jackie, do you find it amusing that her mom style is now a fashion trend among hipsters? That sounds about right! I mean, it’s about time. We had our 25th-year anniversary [in October 2013], for God’s sake.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Andrew Scott: The gay interview

PRIDEBy Chris Azzopardi

Editor’s note: If you’ve seen Andrew Scott in the BBC miniseries Sherlock, you already know (1) he’s a hottie; (2) he’s scary as hell as Sherlock’s insane nemesis Prof. Jim Moriarty. But you might also have seen him in the new film Pride, which, sadly, closes today after a brief run at the Angelika. Our Chris Azzopardi chatted with the recently-out 38-year-old Irishman.

Dallas Voice: For you, how does it feel being part of a movie that’s moved so many people in the gay community?  Andrew Scott: It’s extraordinary, really. We’re all completely blown over by it. The response we’re hearing from cinemas across the country, where people are standing up at the end and they’re clapping — it’s just very unusual for me. I’ve certainly never been in a film before where that happens.

People just feel very inspired by it, and they have very passionate feelings toward it. So yeah, I’m thrilled about that — thrilled [it’s being embraced] not just by the gay community, but by a lot of different audiences. We kind of really hoped that the gay community would embrace it, but we keep saying that it’s not just a gay movie. The message — the idea of solidarity — isn’t just for a gay audience. All of us are more similar to each other than we think we are.

Pride demonstrates strength in numbers, which seems especially relevant now that the gay rights movement is in full swing and more straight allies are standing up with us. As the fight for equality marches on, what do you see as the relevancy of this story right now?  Being gay isn’t something in and of itself that’s a virtue any more than being straight is, but the attributes that gay people develop as a result of being gay – mainly empathy toward other people, and compassion and tolerance — those are things to be proud of. It’s a real message that I find really heartwarming. To segregate people is very dangerous in the struggle for gay rights for people across the way. Inclusivity rather than exclusivity. We must celebrate our differences, and we must celebrate our humanity as well as our sexuality.

You recently spoke out against the notion of “playing gay,” which is obviously something you feel strongly about.  You can’t. It’s absolutely impossible to play that as an actor. If someone were to play me in a film about my life, I would hate for just gay actors to audition for the role, because I think I could potentially have attributes as much in common with a straight actor as I could with a gay actor.

You can really make a general wash of people’s sexuality [and say] that people are exactly the same. But the attributes I possess as a human being could be represented by anybody with human sexuality, really, if they have the chief attributes that an actor needs, which are empathy and imagination. So, I do think it’s very important that those things are mentioned, that a human being is made up of a whole range of things and sexuality is, of course, one of them, but it’s not the sum total.

Which straight actor would you want playing you in a film?  Oh, I have no idea! That thought terrifies me! The fact that I can’t even get an audition for that part terrifies me even more.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sinead O’Connor: The gay interview

Sinead2In 1992, Sinéad O’Connor was at the height of her career following the success of her single “Nothing Compares 2 U” when, during a one-woman protest against sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, she tore up a pic of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live. Causing an uproar, and eventually thwarting her pop-culture presence (not that she cared), that defiance would come to define the Irish singer’s life and career.

More than 20 years later, O’Connor found herself entangled in more controversy — this time with Miley Cyrus, who became the target of the Grammy winner’s digs last year. The two famously feuded in 2013 over the music business, when Sinead warned the twerker that it “will prostitute you for all you are worth” (per O’Connor’s people, questions about the viral brawl were off-limits for this interview).

Does Sinéad have balls? Of course she does — big ones. She talked with our Chris Azzopardi about that region during our recent conversation, insisting that sex — whether it’s with a man or a woman — isn’t necessary for making her “dick hard.” Still, she lets it all hang out on her 10th studio album, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss — which drops today — candidly revealing that, Everybody wants something from me / They rarely ever wanna just know me.

The exception: this chat, during which Sinéad recalled her introduction to the gay community — and how that community gave her the courage to be herself, speak out and “take shit.”

Dallas Voice:  With regard to this album and your last, 2012’s How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, you’ve been on a mission to find yourself. What kind of sacrifices and choices did you have to make on that journey to self-actualization?  O’Connor: Gosh, god, I don’t know. I suppose it’s the same for everybody. It’s not like you’re suddenly there and you don’t have any more work to do; it’s a life’s work for all of us, isn’t it? It doesn’t finish until you get to the other side. I think, actually, the things that help you self-actualize are the mistakes — so-called “mistakes.” I don’t like that word. But the things that you get wrong is how you learn to get things right. 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tori Amos: The gay interview

Tori1“Lighting, sweetie, lighting!” is Tori Amos’ theatrical retort to my compliment about how she’s still looking as radiant as she did at the launch of her career more than three decades ago. Now 50, and with her acclaimed 14th album, Unrepentant Geraldines, she’s facing age head-on. Candor isn’t unusual for the composer; from rape to religion and even her MILF status, she’s approached a bevy of topics too controversial for most artists.

That same directness extended to our recent conversation, prior to her appearance in Dallas on July 29 at the Winspear Opera House in support of the album, during which Amos chatted with our Chris Azzopardi about the LGBT influence on “Promise,” a duet with her daughter; being the muse for the big Frozen ballad; and the gay fans who share their “traumatic experiences” with her.

Dallas Voice:  How did your last several projects — Midwinter Graces, Night of Hunters and Gold Dust — reenergize the contemporary songwriting heard on Unrepentant GeraldinesAmos: All of them fit into giving me fresh perspective. Starting with Midwinter Graces, I was thrown into the deep end, studying carols from the last few hundred years and just immersing myself in a different genre. It’s almost as if it became a baton hand-off, from Midwinter Graces to Night of Hunters and Gold Dust, back and forth with The Light Princess [a musical written by Amos], which was floating between all these projects, because she’s been in development for five years. All of them were giving inspiration to the other. Each one was giving some kind of spark.

The spark linking all of those works is very evident.  They’re very interconnected, and The Light Princess cast recording — I’m producing that for Mercury Universal — will be out globally in early 2015, and we’re making the record on the tour, so [Unrepentant Geraldines] will be affecting that. They all gift each other something. I don’t always know what it is when it’s happening; you just get energy from one that propels another.

There is a freshness, a new perspective [on the new CD] that I was able to bring to contemporary writing because of all these other projects that had shown me different possibilities in structure and different possibilities in line. In that way, I feel like I’ve been rejuvenated by these other projects. When these songs were coming, they were coming not for me to make a record; they were just coming so that I could process what I was going through. And I didn’t share them with anybody. They were for my own private notebook.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gloria Estefan: The gay interview

Screen shot 2014-01-15 at 9.53.48 AMEditor’s note: As part of our upcoming Music Issue on Friday, we offer this interview by our Chris Azzopardi with queen of Latin pop Gloria Estefan, who discusses her planned Broadway show, her gay fans and how drag queens saved her.

You’d be lucky to see Gloria Estefan busting out the conga these days, but that doesn’t mean she’s not keeping on her toes. A spot on Glee last season, a new album, an upcoming Broadway musical, restaurants, hotels — the singer is busier than ever, she says. We caught up with Estefan to chat about plans for her upcoming autobiographical stage show, being “saved” by gay fans and punking people with Gloria drag queens.

Gloria2Dallas Voice: What’s life like now for you compared to what it was in the ’80s?  Estefan: Supposedly I’m leading a quieter life, but I’m busier than I’ve ever been! In the ’80s, I was on the same cycle: write, go into the studio, record, then go on tour. All I could do was sleep, exercise and sing in the shows. I could do absolutely nothing else. Now, we just do so many other things. Back then we didn’t have two hotels and seven restaurants — all that came later — so in essence, we’re probably busier now than we’ve ever been. Plus: We’re working on that Broadway show. It’s very exciting.

The Broadway musical is inspired by your own life. How did the idea first come to you?  We’ve had many offers through the years to do something like this, so we’ve been working on an idea for a Broadway-type show for over 10 years. You can’t do it on your entire life. We’ve been able to synthesize what part of our story would make a great Broadway show. It’s really on the fast track, and we hope to be done with the book by January. It’s being written by Alex Dinelaris, who just did The Bodyguard in London. He wrote that and he really gets it. I really loved his approach. We’re incorporating the songs with a meaning into the storyline, and of course I’ll do some rewrites, some interesting little turns and some new music as well. I love that, because the creative process for me is my favorite part of everything. Also, we’re very excited about finding a young Gloria and Emilio [Estefan, her husband]. Whoever plays me already has their work cut out for her!

There’s been talk of Jennifer Lopez playing you. How likely is that?  I don’t know where people get all these rumors, quite honestly. I don’t think J. Lo would wanna do eight shows a week on Broadway. I don’t think that’s high on her list of priorities! But yeah, it’s an iconic role and I would love to find somebody new — a breakout. I honestly think there’s a reality show in the search for them, so we may even do that. It’d be a fun thing to share. After seeing Smash – I used to love that show and I don’t know why it got canceled – it’d be cool to do something like that.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones