AE: And you found Helen courageous, even though it took her a long time to know what she wanted?
SL: Yeah, it took her quite a long time to get to that place. Her life was turned inside out, but at the end of the day it was love, and she went with her gut. It overcame her head in the end. She got there. She did the right thing in the end and followed her heart.
AE: The writers call Helen a lesbian. You've called her a bisexual. Which do you think she is, or is it open to interpretation?
SL: Bad Girls was my first big role and a controversial one at that. I had no idea it would become such an important show for so many people, or that there would be such sensitivity surrounding certain issues. And I certainly didn't expect so much media interest. I wish now I hadn't labeled Helen one way or another. She's a woman who fell in love with another woman, and I saw it as two souls that came together and had this amazing connection. Helen fell in love with Nikki, deeply and passionately â€” that much I understand, that much I'm comfortable with. But as for the politics, I'm afraid they're beyond me.
AE: Did playing Helen give you a greater understanding of the issues confronting gays and lesbians?
SL: It did, although I've always had some awareness of the issues through my gay and lesbian friends. But, yes, I learned lots from the show. I think I was fortunate to play a character struggling to understand her own sexuality, and to experience all her issues and fears very personally for almost three years. Of course, at the end of the day, I'm an actor and I'm straight, so these aren't issues I have to live with. I go home to plenty of my own issues. [Laughs.]
AE: You've said before you'd like to have a chat with Helen. What would you want to ask?
SL: It was tongue-in-cheek. I have no idea; probably about her dress sense. [Laughs.]
AE: Oh, God.
SL: Especially Series 1 â€” that poofed hair and the twin sets. Not necessarily a good look. But there's that perverse side of me that liked it. [Laughs.] I liked that in the first series she looked a bit dowdy, middle-aged and heavy.
AE: It's interesting you mention that. In your interviews related to Wire, you laugh about the extra weight you put on while you were pregnant. I can't think of a U.S. actress who would do the same.
SL: I think it's slightly different over here [in Britain ]. I don't think we're as obsessed by the aesthetics. I don't mind speaking about any of that. I'm sure there are lots of women who have had babies and find it difficult to shed the extra weight because they can't get to a gym or have chronic sleep deprivation and still have to find the energy for their kids. So you eat and try not to care about your jelly belly. [Laughs.] After all, it's worth it to have your child. I'm sure for Wire they light every wrinkle and bag under your eyes because it adds to the gritty look of the show â€¦ but then, as I said, I quite like that. I think it helps the realism, so you can believe Alex and Helen do what they do for a living.
AE: Can you tell me about a scene from Bad Girls that has stayed with you?
SL: There was a scene in the very beginning â€” the first episode â€” where everything is kicking off with the women and a near riot was happening, and Helen has to establish her authority. I think I was feeling exactly what Helen was. I was so nervous because I had to go out in front of everyone and take control and establish my place within the show.
And I remember the scene where Nikki turns up at Helen's house. Their first night together.
AE: What do you remember about it?
SL: Just what the character was feeling because they were such heightened emotions. There was fear and excitement and passion. Nikki had taken such a risk and made her way over to find Helen. They were risking so much, and yet the attraction was so strong they couldn't fight it. All that kind of stuff came into play during the scene. Kind of sets it apart from another scene where she's ticking off Jim Fenner, you know? [Laughs.]