AE: Which actors do you admire?
JL: Meryl Streep, for one. Anne Heche is a fabulous actress, too, I think she’s one of the best, and Vince Vaughn, I think he’s great. Catherine Keener is fantastic — she did this great film Lovely and Amazing, about women’s self-contempt, and she was brilliant in Living in Oblivion.
AE: What kinds of changes if any are you seeing in parts for women?
JL: I’ve been at this for about ten years, and it seems like women are now more often being considered for what have traditionally been male roles, written for men — authority figures like principals, doctors, psychologists. The doctor I play on Blind Justice was originally named Dr. Paul Taylor, but at the audition, they saw seven men and three women, and then they cast me. So they’re more open to trying women.
There does seem to be this whole fat man-beautiful wife thing going on in the sitcoms that I’m not a big fan of. We haven’t had a woman headline a sitcom recently the way we had in the 80′s and 90′s with Roseanne, Brett Butler, Cybil…
AE: That’s true. The only one I can think of is Reba.
JL: You know, I auditioned for that show. It was a great script. Then they revamped it to fit Reba, which was really smart — look how long it’s been on — but I do remember I thought that script was great.
But you write what you know, and these TV writers — who are actually really nice guys — they know what it’s like to be a guy. So shows like Two and a Half Men are really funny, but they’re mostly about guys. The women on that show — Marin Hinkle and Holland Taylor — just sort-of come in and out, but I think they’re really the heart of that show. Holland Taylor’s character is really one of the breakout characters of that show.
AE: There does seem to be a trend of more women behind the camera —
JL: I agree. There’s this great documentary film out called In the Company of Women about women in independent film … there are so many women now who are directing, and actresses who just do independent films, and have become like independent film icons, like Parker Posey, or Frances McDormand, who you’ll see occasionally do a mainstream movie to pay the bills. So many stories would not be told without independent films, the studios just aren’t making them.
AE: What’s your favorite lesbian film?
JL: Desert Hearts just blew me away. I thought it was extremely well done, and the characters were really likeable, and feminine, and it was beautiful watching them in the love scenes. It was gorgeous, and really rang true.
AE: It’s been twenty-five years since that came out, and you’d think that movie would have opened the floodgates, but there really haven’t been a ton of lesbian movies since then —
JL: I think we’ll probably look back on it and say "it started trickling then." But remember All in the Family? At the time, a lot of people thought we were ushering in a whole new kind of television, it was so groundbreaking, but since then we haven’t been anywhere near the taboos that show blew up.
AE: Why do you think that is?
JL: I think the Christian Right is very powerful, and I think a lot of people in America are conservative. But all these Christians who said that morals were the reason they voted for George Bush, I wonder how many of them were among the 25 million people who watch Desperate Housewives? Which is hardly moral television.
AE: What do you see in terms of lesbian characters, on film or TV?
JL: You know, there’s not much going on there. That’s why The L Word is so good. It isn’t in the popular culture just yet — it’s still on a channel you have to pay for — but we’re at such a really important time in our culture.
It’s almost like you’re going back to the time when we had to decide whether to abolish slavery. "Do we get rid of the gays, or do we accept them and weave them into the fabric of society?" Our history tells us we ultimately weave everyone in the fabric of society, though, so I think it’s just a matter of time.