In the early 1980s, photographer Mary Ellen Mark was sent to downtown Seattle to capture the youth living on the street for Life magazine. What manifested from her portraits of these kids as young as 13 was a documentary called Streetwise, which provided an even closer look at the way several teens were stealing, prostituting, using drugs and fighting just to survive. Among them was Lulu, a 16-year-old tomboy lesbian who was a leader, of sorts, the one who helped protect the weaker girls from pimps and johns and others who threatened their safety.
Lulu (right) with her girlfriend Dawn
Sadly Lulu (nee Lou Ellen Couch) was killed while trying to help her girlfriend get away from a homeless man and he stabbed her in the heart. There’s now a plaque in Pike Place Market that bears her name.
Season 3 of The Killing, which premieres Sunday, June 2 on AMC, has a storyline inspired by Lulu and her friends from that 1984 documentary, where a missing girl from the streets has Detective Holder trying to glean information from Bullet, the Lulu-esque character played by Bex Taylor-Klaus.
Because it’s 30 years later, Bullet has a different look than Lulu, but maintains the same kinds of mental and physical toughness needed to live amongst others who are bigger and stronger and little care for the law or morality. Whereas Lulu donned a baseball cap and sports jacket, Bullet has a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-likeness to Lisbeth Salander, which Bex Taylor-Klaus said was specified in for the audition.
“It was kind of like an added bonus,” Bex said. “I remember getting the audition … and going in and see a lot of girls sort of looking in the same manner that I did and having fun with it.”
Bullet sports a jet black fauhawk on the top of her head with the bottom shaved close to the skin. She wears a spikey gauge in her ear and baggy clothes that mask her feminineness so that she is often seen as male.
“It’s actually a total dream scenario,” Bex said. “Bullet is such a fantastic character. There’s nothing normal about her. She’s so unique and so layered and deep and fun to explore, so she’s definitely a dream role.”
Bex said Bullet is different from the other street kids, such as her friend Kallie (Cate Sproule) and her crush Lyric (Julia Sarah Stone) because whereas they’ve been kicked out of their homes, Bullett is there because she wants to be.
“The majority are there because of problems or getting kicked out or running away,” Bex said. “Bullet’s on the street because she ran away — not because of any problems, but because the streets are where people need her.”
In the first two episodes airing this Sunday on AMC, Bullet demonstrates her hatred of cops by telling Det. Holder to get off her block and pushing him to the point of his picking her up and telling her she better watch her “baby butch” back or he will embarrass her in front of her friends. But their relationship is going to become more interesting as the season goes on, because Bullet has insight into the street life that Holder will need to help solve the case of a missing street girl.
“They definitely grow on each other,” Bex said. “So when they first meet each other, their first meetings are intense: ‘I don’t like you.’ ‘I don’t like you.’ ‘Well good, we don’t like each other.’ But they’re both kindred spirits and they have different aspects of both their characters’ that they share. It’s gonna be fun to watch their relationship as it grows. It’s sort of love/hate.”
Outside of the crime, Bullet is pining for Lyric, who is involved with the older Twitch (Max Fowler). “Yay, love triangle!” Bex said. “I can tell you that street kids do hang out together a lot and things — the street kids spend time together and things happen that I can’t tell you.”
Bex said that she watched Streetwise after filming had ended, and she’s hopeful she conveyed Lulu’s essence.
“Watching it after living it was fascinating, just to find little pieces in there that we’d seen before, that we could connect back to the script and stuff that we’d filmed,” she said. “And I remember watching and watching the [Lyric] and Bullet characters and thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t think I did this justice.’ She’s just so cool! Just tough and spunky and obnoxious in the best way. I hope I did that right.”
Just like Lulu’s being a lesbian in Streetwise, Bullet’s sexuality is not a highly-discussed topic in The Killing — it simply exists like any other facet of a person. As this is Bex’s first major television part, she said there was some concern (“Not on my end”) that it was a very dark kind of role to play.
“I think there was some talk about ‘Should we do this because should your first role be a gay role because then you’re putting yourself in a pocket?'” Bex said. “And my reaction was ‘It’s what it is. Bullet is such an amazing character. This is my dream.'”
“First of all,” Bex continued, “the role being gay is — I mean, the point of Bullet is not that she’s gay. There’s so much to her, there’s so much to this girl. I love the strength and determination she has. I get this beautiful, unique, incredible opportunity to play this character I admire who I learn from on a daily basis. I mean Bullet knows who she is and she can accept it all — the good, the bad, the ugly, even if others can’t and won’t. Not everyone is that strong. My biggest worry is that people will look at her and only see a gay kid when really that’s just a piece of the big puzzle. When you look at the big picture, people are a million different things and that’s what makes them so interesting. I don’t want people to lose sight of the beauty inside people just because they see one thing that they find ugly. Bullet — there are people out there who won’t like Bullet because she’s gay. I just want them to be able to see everything because Bullet is such a phenomenal person.”
Outside of watching Streetwise, Bex said she didn’t do a lot of research before playing the role, and she didn’t think it was necessary for playing someone who identified as queer.
“I don’t really think you can really do that, because being in love with someone is being in love with someone whether you’re a guy and a girl and you’re a guy and a girl,” she said. “That’s just being who you are and being in love with who you are in love with.”
Either way, it sucks if that girl is in love with someone else.
Returning this season is Annie Corley as Regi Darnell, Sarah Linden’s (Mireille Enos) social worker-turned-friend that is an out lesbian and is shown celebrating her marriage to her partner, Ellen, in the first episode. A regular on Season 1 and only recurring in Season 2, it’s likely that Regi won’t be around a lot this season, but she’s still a part of Sarah’s life.
Speaking of Sarah, she’s left Seattle PD and is now working for minimum wage on a fishing ferry and dating a much younger guy. But when Holder comes calling about his new case, she won’t be able to stay away long.
The Killing premieres Sunday, June 2 on AMC.