Interview with Michelle Wolff

Michelle Wolff
Michelle Wolff

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. 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

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