Michelle Wolff starred in the recent lesbian romantic comedy Mango Kiss, and has appeared on a variety of TV shows, like Chicago Hope, JAG, Providence, and Without a Trace. She talks to us about about her career, playing straight, the need for more good lesbian movies, and the challenge of being typecast.
AfterEllen.com: How did you get started in film?
Michelle Wolff: I went to school in Santa Cruz, and then I moved to San Francisco and started doing stuff there–theater and a little bit of television. But I knew that if I wanted to do something more, I'd have to go to L.A. I ended up going to L.A. for three months, and booked my very first audition on Chicago Hope. Nobody ever books their first audition but somehow it happened. I went on a couple auditions after that and I didn't get anything else, but then Chicago Hope became a recurring role.
After about three months, I moved back to San Francisco, because I wasn't quite ready to leave there, and then when I was ready, I moved back to L.A. I realized I had to live there if I was serious about acting, and that's when things actually started rolling. I think I had lived there for about three months when I booked Mango Kiss, and they flew me back to San Francisco! It was like a month of shooting, and they put me up in this hotel which is about three blocks from where I used to live. I was calling my friends, "Hey guys, I'm back. Come on over to my hotel room!"
AE: Tell us about Mango Kiss.
MW: We started the film about four years ago, but it took a long time for it to actually get out there, because the film that we initially shot was not the film you ended up seeing; it was originally told from a different point of view. The producers decided the story wasn't working for them as it was originally done, so they went in and re-worked the whole film to be from the point of view of my character, Lou, which required shooting some additional scenes two years later.
AE: So how did you get yourself to look like you did two years earlier?
MW: I got a call asking "do you still have that blue sweatshirt?" because this is low, low budget and we used our own clothes, and I'm like (laughs), "are you kidding me?" I had to grow my hair out a little bit, because it was actually longer and I can still see that my hair wasn't quite the same. They were little things like that. I can see the difference, but fortunately, I don't think anybody else can.
AE: How did the audience react at film festival?
MW: Audiences reacted really well. Mango Kiss was a good film, a beautiful film, and it explored a territory that a lot of people didn't really know about or were kind of afraid to look at, but it does it with humor, so I think that makes it a little more acceptable to people. People really enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing the leading role for a change. I have had maybe two or three roles in mainstream Hollywood that I thought were challenging to me, roles that were big enough or interesting enough. In all the other roles, I tended to get typecast very quickly.
AE: Why do you think that is?
MW: I think that in Hollywood, they have a hard time accepting different kinds of images for women. When I walk into the room, they are not going to see me as the love interest of Tom Cruise. They say that I would make a great cop. If you’re tall, strong, and you have a little bit of an androgynous edge, they are going to make you the paramedic, or the firefighter. They have a very hard time seeing outside the box.
I was blessed to book a show on the Discovery Channel called Crime Time where I played a woman who is actually real and in jail for killing her son. This was a role that mainstream Hollywood would almost never look at me for. They have a hard time seeing outside of the box