Interview with Mandana Jones of “Bad Girls”

Mandan Jones and Simone Lahbib

AE: There is still an outcry for you and Simone to reprise your roles in a TV movie or similar format. Is it ever going to happen?
MJ: I haven’t been approached in any shape or form. I think there’d be a lot of interest for it. I think it’d be terribly interesting. And what I also think is interesting is that I think Simone had her child a month before me. I’ve often thought the fact we both have babies born less than four weeks apart is curious, and we must have continued to go down a similar arc as it were, in terms of life.

AE: So you’re not opposed to reprising the role, if the script is right.
MJ: No, I’m not. I think the integrity of the story would be important to me. I wouldn’t really be interested just in a reprisal because you could make a lot of dough out of it and sell it globally. Having said that … [laughs], I might slightly eat my words, given that there’s now a baby in the frame. I would like it if there were any talk of it. I would really like it that they’ve come up with something interesting and a real development, that they’ve got something to say.

AE: Your son is now 11 months old. How has raising him affected you?
MJ: As much as I adore my boy — and he is a joy — it is like a prison sentence. [Laughs.] It really is, and nobody tells you that. Nobody can prepare you for how life-changing it is and how relentless it is, and you just think, well, this is how it’s going to be. I don’t know when I’ll sleep again. [Laughs.]

I had a natural birth at home with no drugs. I feel like I really went into it. It’s like anything in life. You can go to India and come back a changed person, or you can go to India and go, “Wasn’t that a lovely holiday?” Being such an ancient mother, I really wanted to get what was going on, and not skim around the edges and have a superficial experience of it. … Now I’ve changed my mind. [Laughs.] Now I want a superficial experience, and the drugs.

AE: Time for the epidural?
MJ: I’m a little late for the epidural, but there’s always vodka. [Laughs.]

AE: Many actresses in their 30s struggle to find quality roles. Do you fear experiencing that struggle as you return to work now, after taking time off for your son?
I’m 39 now, and I’ve experienced it already. You go up for jobs selling tea bags or whatever it is — it’s not that interesting, really. I think you kind of know it’s coming, and you’re prepared for it, really. It’s not some sudden realization. It seems you have to wait until you’re old enough to play Gertrude in “Hamlet.”

AE: Has motherhood changed how you view the work you want to do?
MJ: I feel I’d be jolly lucky to get anything. I’m not being overly humble. There are a lot of incredibly talented people out there, and I was very lucky to get the part of Nikki Wade because it’s rare that you get to play a character who can have an impact around the world. You just don’t get many roles that really affect and change people’s lives.

I still am amazed that something you shot, say, seven, eight years ago is impacting someone in Lithuania who’s sending you letters saying, “I am 57 years old. Your program has given me confidence to come out. Now I’m about to go upstairs and wake up my invalid, bed-ridden, 85-year-old mother and tell her that I’m a lesbian.” And you think, “No! Don’t do it, for God’s sake!” [Laughs.]

AE: Do you feel a particular responsibility to fans in the gay community?
MJ: Yes, I do. But then I also think I’ve really succeeded if someone asks, “What part did you play?” and I can say, “Nikki Wade,” and I don’t have to back it up with, “the gay one.” The fact is, sadly, nine times out of 10, that’s what I have to say is, it was the lesbian character. Maybe that’s because you can’t shift in one performance generations of regard. “Which one is that one? The lesbian?” I always felt that was a shame. I failed in that case, but there it is.

AE: It seems a good time to work in two words that seem to come up in every interview with you and Simone: lesbian icons.
MJ: Can we work in one more? International. [Laughs.]

AE: The pressure on two straight women to represent a community — that must have been incredibly intense.
MJ: Yeah, I think it was. Definitely so. You’re just an imposter to some extent, trying to play it as real as possible, but never sure if you’re pulling the rabbit out of the hat or not. So, yes, there is always that feeling of, you know, we’re two straight actresses and are we getting this right? Is this ringing any bells for you?

I did feel a sense of “I’ve got to get this right, and if I don’t then all I’ll do is reinforce all the same prejudices.” I felt very keenly that sense. So, for me, I always returned to just playing a love story. It just doesn’t matter. The gender is irrelevant. If you get caught up in the fact that it’s gay, you’re putting it in a ghetto.

I find it offensive — you don’t talk about the straight couple. You don’t talk about the white family. You don’t talk about that. You don’t use that prefix. So let’s just try and get rid of it, let’s just drop it. She’s militant, she’s gay, she’s out — I couldn’t come to it that way. I could only come to it from my truth, which is: It’s love, it’s universal.

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