Actresses Ally Maki and Nikki Blonsky sat down with AfterEllen.com to talk about their new movie Geography Club, which opens this Friday, November 15. Ally and Nikki play a young lesbian couple in the film, which centers around Russell, an artist and football player who finds refuge in his school’s under the radar gay group. The film is based on the popular YA novel by Brent Hartinger, the first in the ongoing Russell Middlebrook series.
AfterEllen: Your character, Min, is kind of the moral center of the film adaptation of the very popular book Geography Club. She reaches out to Russ, the dashing, closeted protagonist, not to blackmail him, as he originally thinks, but to offer him a safe space. She’s the leader of the club and does her best to include and protect the members. Since you’ve lived in her skin for a while, how would you describe Min?
Ally Maki: Like you said, I think Min is a very headstrong girl. She’s completely comfortable with how she is and her sexuality. She knows what she wants. She’s in a relationship with Nikki Blonsky’s character, Terese, and she really is the spearhead for this group, and its formation and the idea for Geography Club. I feel like she’s really the driving force behind it. The thing about Min is, she wants to come out and be out. She’s so comfortable in her own skin and she knows who she is and really has no shame about what and who she is, which I find so admirable. That’s why playing her was such an incredibly special experience for me.
It’s probably one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever done, but also the most exciting and also surprisingly close-to-home character I’ve ever played. Because everyone has these insecurities you find within yourself. What I love about Min is she is kind of who I aspire to be. She knows who she is as a person, in her sexuality, in all aspects. I think that’s such an amazing quality that kids should see her and want to strive to have that in their own lives.
AE: Min has a girlfriend named Terese, played by Nikki Blonsky. You two have a lovely, sweet chemistry together. I wanted to see more interactions between you two! How was your experience working with Nikki?
AM: Oh, it was so great. Nikki is such a sweet soul. She called me a couple of days before we started filming and it was so unexpected because she was like, “Hey, it’s Nikki! Nikki Blonsky.” And I was like, “Hi, how are you?” She was like, “I wanted to call you and reach out because we’re going to be doing this movie together, and I want us to be completely comfortable with each other.” We just had an instant friendship and we kind of understood each other. It was very—we had some kind of chemistry! It was so great to work with her. She made everything very easy and comfortable, so there was no awkwardness at all.
AE: I think that’s a very sweet thing. How lovely. I’ll have to tease her about that.
AM: Yeah, maybe it was the New Yorker in her.
AE: Usually we are not all that nice. [laughs]
AM: [laughs] Yeah, that’s true! But I feel like New Yorkers are really straightforward. Like what you see is what you get. You know that there’s no underlying fakeness.
AE: So much has changed in the last few years regarding queer characters and visibility; it almost feels as if we are becoming simply characters, not just gay characters. As an actress and someone who has been working in the industry for some time, what’s your perspective on that shift?
AM: I completely agree. What I love about this movie is that it is a teen movie, but the characters in the move are actually breaking stereotypes. Even my character: I’m not the typical smart Asian. You don’t have the flamboyant gay or the asshole football guy. I feel like these characters are really people and you get to dive deeper into their lives and see what kids are truly dealing with. A lot of teen movies these days are just like sex jokes and very formulaic characters, which is awesome and makes me laugh and everything, but I think what is so special about Geography Club is that you see these kids as more than just these stereotypical characters. They’re real people and like kids you would find in high school.
AE: What projects are next for you. Ally?
AM: I actually just did an episode of 2 Broke Girls [the episode aired on Nov 4] for CBS. That was like the complete opposite of doing Geography Club. I play the love interest of Han’s character, but I play this kind of crazy character so it was so much fun. I’ve been working a lot on my YouTube channel to put out skits and a little bit of music.
Next page: Nikki Blonsky