Evan Rachel Wood on her queer roles, educating others about bisexuality and her preference for suits

Before actress Evan Rachel Wood came out as bisexual in 2011, most queer women were fans of her work, beginning with her role as a bicurious teenager on ABC’s Once and Again. Her character Jessie eventually entered into what became the first teen lesbian coupling on network television with on-screen girlfriend Mischa Barton. She went on to play Tracy, the experimental teenager infatuated with her more mature classmate (Nikki Reed) in Thirteen, sharing drug-induced kisses that implied there was more than a friendship between them, at least for that night. Then came Pretty Persuasion, in which she was a 15-year-old seeking revenge and using everyone she can to get what she wanted — including the seduction of a reporter played by Jane Krakowski.

And this was all before she hit 16. Evan’s star continued to rise and she played Queen Sophie-Anne on True Blood, Kate Winslet‘s defiant daughter in Mildred Pierce and Mickey Rourke‘s estranged gay daughter in The Wrestler. Now married to actor Jamie Bell and expecting their first child together in the next year, Evan is one of the most consistent actors in Hollywood, choosing parts in films that excite and challenge her as well as audiences.

It’s in her nature to be unexpected, as she’s had tongues wagging about her personal life since she infamously dated Marilyn Manson in 2007. Since then, she’s opened up about her bisexuality in both the press and on her personal Twitter feed where she eloquently answers questions posed to her about how she can be both married to a man and have had romantic feelings or sexual attractions to women. At age 25, she’s already a seasoned performer and well-adjusted person with a better idea of who she is and what she wants than most people twice her age.

Evan was happy to talk with AfterEllen.com about her career, her sexuality and her musical aspirations. Also, she’d be more than happy to have your vote in this year’s Hot 100.

AfterEllen.com: You’ve played so many queer roles. I feel like you’ve played more queer roles than anyone! Let’s just start with Once and Again. It was such a pivotal show. I watched that show with my mom — she watched it and I started watching it with her. Looking back on that time, did you always know your role was going to have that queer bent to it and what did you think about that?
Evan Rachel Wood:
No, I didn’t know. I started the show when I was about 11. I had a meeting with [show creators] Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick before the third season. I started back up again and they brought it up and said, “You know, we’re thinking about making your character have a crush on a girl.” I, without hesitation, said “Great! I think it’s a great idea!” [Laughs] And my mother was in the room with me as well and she was all up for it, she just wanted to make sure I was comfortable with it. Little did they know, they were so on the nose with me because that was definitely around the age I was very aware of my own sexuality and I just hadn’t really told anyone yet. So it was something near and dear to my heart and something I was obviously excited to do on the show. And I thought it ended up being beautiful. We had such an amazing reaction to those two characters and their relationship. People started all these amazing websites and I’d get stopped on the street constantly and it really moved young girls going through the same thing. So I was really proud to do it.

AE: It was kind of a risk at the time. Do you know if the storyline was met with any hesitation from the network?
ERW:
We were banned — the episode was banned in one state. It was, I think, I want to say West Virginia — somewhere around there. They wouldn’t air it. And I kept thinking “Wow, I watch all these crime shows and there’s all this rape and murder and they don’t seem to take offense to that or worry people will see that and go do it, but two people fell in love and an entire state couldn’t bear to watch it.” It was just really interesting that people because they were just worried people would see it and go do it. [Laughs] So we did, we ran into some issues, of course.

AE: Would you say that has been your most controversial role?
ERW:
It’s funny because it’s such a natural thing for me, I always forget that it’s controversial until I come up against people that are coming down on me or calling me names or telling me I’m a sinner and stuff. It kind of just makes me giggle because I forget that there’s that kind of mentality. To me it’s not controversial, it’s totally normal.

AE: In Thirteen, your character had a flirtation with Nikki Reed. Did you see her as being bisexual or was it more about experimentation for her?
ERW:
You know, I think that was kind of an obsession between the two girls in Thirteen. I definitely felt it was borderlining on Single White Female — loving someone so much you almost want to be them. A lot of girls have some kind of love for a girl that is bordering on “Do I want to be this girl or do I want to kiss this girl?” You’re not sure whether you want to be her or you’re in love with her. It becomes this situation where I think Tracy was kind of bordering, for sure. I’m not sure if she really considered it, I think she was probably confused.

AE: And then you went on to play a smaller but important role in The Wrestler as a lesbian, and had done Pretty Persuasion that point — were you wondering “What is it these casting directors are seeing in me that they keep casting me in these queer roles?” At the time you weren’t out.
ERW:
I don’t know! I just thought they were geniuses. It really wasn’t until I had a couple of friends point it out to me: “Evan, you’ve played so many queer/gay roles.” I was like “Really? Oh my god, you’re right!” [Laughs] They handled it so perfectly in The Wrestler because it was talked about maybe once, and it was just accepted at fact. It wasn’t a big deal or a big thing that her character had to talk about. It was just who she was an that was it. It was never made into a big thing.

AE: In Pretty Persuasion, did you see [her sexual relationship with Jane Krakowski] as part of your character’s manipulative ways?
ERW:
I think she was so manipulative and kind of evil and dead on the inside. I think she’d be willing to do anything. She was also a pretty smart girl and I don’t think it mattered to her either way. I’m sure she has those tendencies. One thing that was great about her was on the outside she was a sophisticated schoolgirl, but on the inside, everything about her went against her image. That’s why it wouldn’t be weird if she did [identify as bisexual].

AE: When you came out publicly, had you already come out to your friends and family? What were your thoughts on how and when you should come out?
ERW:
Yes. Well, there was always the “Should I, shouldn’t I” make it public. There’s a part of that says “Is it people’s business? Should I make it a big deal about it? Maybe it shouldn’t be a thing and I don’t have to talk about it.” But I think because of the state that society is in right now, especially on this issue, I felt a real need to come out and speak out for equal rights and for the gay, lesbian, bisexual community. I think if there was ever a time to come out, now would be the time. And if I can use my status to draw awareness and get people talking about it, then that means the world to me. So that’s really why I did it. And it was such a relief, you know? It’s a part of who I am and it has been for so long and I was proud of it and I wanted people to know that side of me. My friends knew since I was in middle school or freshman year, they all knew. My parents, even though they are really open-minded liberal people, I was so nervous to tell them. They were amazing and supportive and they didn’t have a problem with it. So I came out to everyone first.

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