Interview with Maeve Quinlan of “South of Nowhere”

 
 

AE: It sounds like an exciting challenge for you to play that.
MQ:
(laughs) The whole character's an exciting challenge for me. I couldn't be more opposite from her.

AE: So how did you connect with the character?
MQ:
What drew me to the project was the writing—which is so incredible. I'm straight—although it doesn't matter if I'm gay, straight, whatever—but so many of my best friends are gay or lesbian. In fact, my two roommates are lesbians. And I know their stories, and I know how important it is that I play this character with the utmost truth. I've heard a lot of similar coming out stories, and I really researched this with my friends. They tell me, “Oh my God—I had chills with the slap” –- you know, the scene where Paula slaps Spencer? Three people have told me that they had the exact same scenario.

We really played around with that and wondered if we should do the slap scene. But we decided that we had to do it. And we did it real by the way (laughs). Gabby and I really wanted to make it as real as possible.

So in order to connect with the role, I've really listened to my friends and asked a lot of questions. There's not one leaf that I don't turn over to find a nuance that people can relate to. And that's something that can be said for everyone on this show. Everyone comes with their A-game.

This character is so different from me and that's why it's really important that I play her the way I'm playing her. Unfortunately, it's what a lot of kids are up against. Having two parents who are like, “Oh you think you might be gay? That's excellent! Pass the macaroni” is not, unfortunately, usually the way it is. Rob Moran is doing such an incredible job as Arthur, and you'll see his journey in this as well.

It's been the most rewarding part I've ever played, it's been the most difficult part that I've ever played. And when I say rewarding—I mean that it's really making a difference.

AE: Gabby and Mandy have both said that they get a lot of mail from teenagers who are coming out or questioning their sexuality. Are you receiving any kind of mail from adults, specifically from parents?
MQ:
MySpace is such a great avenue for these kids to send fan mail and get a real response. And the letters I'm getting are from kids, include “I have a parent just like you. What do I do? I'm so scared.” I get a lot of gay or lesbian adults saying “I wish I'd had this show when I was this age, I thought of suicide when I was 15 and I didn't know where to turn.” So I have yet to get a parent, just tons and tons and tons of kids. A lot of appreciation but a lot of requests for advice.

A lot of kids are saying that their parents are watching the show with them. One actually said, “My mom didn't want me to watch it at first, but now she's watching it with me and she's really learning from it.” That's pretty powerful.

AE: What kind of impact do you think the show is having on television and on the culture?
MQ:
Well, I've never seen a show like ours. And not to pat us-–the writers and the producers and the network–on the back, but I am because they had the guts to do this. And we're not pushing the envelope for the sake of pushing the envelope. We're really bringing these stories to light and doing them honestly and genuinely.

A lot of times—and I won't name shows—a girl kisses a girl just for ratings. And there is zero of that in our show. So if I could say anything, I would say it's impacting the more mainstream networks to do that in a similar fashion and not for ratings or shock value, but for relatability and honesty and integrity. I'm hoping. What we've been able to accomplish has been so brave, and we wouldn't have been able to do that if we had started the show on a major network.

As far as cultural impact…My mother—she won't want me to tell you her age (laughs) so let's just say she's a grandmother—just loves this show. And on paper I actually am like Paula. I'm Irish-Catholic, my family is from Ireland, and was raised with pretty intense Catholicism—grace before meals, church every Sunday, rosary, the whole bit. So my mother is from Ireland and convent educated, so very, very, very Catholic. She loves the show and in her Irish accent she's always saying, “These parents need to wake up! This is what's happening in the high schools, they need to open their eyes, they need to relate and watch this show!” She thinks that they way they've told the story with Mandy and Gabby has been so tasteful, it's been real—with the drugs, with Clay's storyline. So if she loves it, that's why I think that this show is a mirror of what's going on culturally. I don't know if it's changing things culturally, but it is a mirror for it, and hopefully people are seeing that.

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