Dreya Weber is a busy lady. When she’s not out on the road performing as an aerialist with the likes of Madonna, Pink, Britney Spears and Cher, she’s busy playing gay on-screen in movies written and directed by her husband, Ned Farr — like 2006’s The Gymnast, which collected a slew of awards on the LGBT film festival circuit. Farr and Weber return this year with A Marine Story, a dramatic look at Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which bans gays from openly serving in the U.S. military.
AfterEllen.com caught up with Weber to discuss the film — which is currently playing the LGBT festival circuit — and why she and Farr are dedicated to making films for the lesbian audience.
AfterEllen.com: Is A Marine Story based on actual events?
Dreya Weber: We took pieces of stories that had been volunteered to us by either former serving Marines or currently serving Marines, some of whom were not gay, mostly women and mostly closeted women currently serving in the military.
AE: How is A Marine Story‘s Alex different than The Gymnast‘s Jane?
DW: I wanted to make something that was action-oriented with a character that could kick some ass after doing The Gymnast. The character I played in The Gymnast was so passive and crushed. It’s interesting because if you’re gay or lesbian and you’re serving in the military, you have to press your own sexuality but you get to be a super overachiever and super physical and aggressive. It was a funny parallel on one hand and completely opposite on the other.
AE: The film has some great commentary in its writing — one of the best lines being about how we fight side by side with the British and "they let the gays in" and how if someone who is gay can opt to stay in the fight and die then it’s not a matter for a politician to decide who can and can not fight. You’re absolutely opening up a discussion.
DW: Ned really feels very strongly that the crux of it: That if we truly recognize our gay and lesbian heroes that you cannot deny people civil rights. If we’re going to accept that we let everyone die for our country and let them ultimately be who they are, then you cannot deny marriage rights. He feels really strongly that those two issues are connected. I’m really proud of this movie.
AE: A Servicemembers United study found that in 2008, 45% of soldiers discharged under DADT were minorities and 30% were women. Why do you think minorities and women were so frequently discharged?
DW: I do think that there’s a structural, white, old-boy network in the military. Harassment of women to separate whether a woman is gay is big-time in the military. So if you’re a woman and you’re gay and you’re a minority that is three strikes. It’s why it’s really important that policy-wise and law-wise that we not allow the discrimination to be in there — because it’s already in there and it needs to be broken down on a deeper level. It’s structural, I think, and it has been in place for a long time and the military is … once you take that code on, it almost overwhelms everything else.
AE: With your husband, Ned, you both are continually drawn to LGBT stories — and politics. What is it that keeps you coming back to these story lines?
DW: My family is very balanced. I have a gay brother and my sister is bisexual and super political. What’s really important to me is my awareness about the options of sexuality, the openness of the world and the beauty of diversity. I was very fortunate to be a young teenager when I was exposed to that and I thank my brother and my sister for giving me that kind of environment to be in. People ask me why I always play lesbians. (Laughs.) I don’t always play lesbians. This to me is one of the most magnificent challenges — to play a character from a community that is traditionally underrepresented.
AE: You have a very devoted lesbian following from your work in The Gymnast. What does that mean to you?
DW: I’m honored. I was in a movie called Everything’s Relative that came out about 12 years ago and that was the first kind of awareness that I had about (lesbian films) because it was almost an entirely lesbian crew and our director was a lesbian. She really rallied the community around that production and I was told so many times by women on the crew and women in the community that they were so frustrated with the quality of the movies that were made for gay women. They wanted to know why their stories couldn’t be told about things other than just going to bars — like full stories with well-rounded characters. That was my first exposure to a kind of world that was underrepresented in the film community.
When Ned and I were talking about making The Gymnast — I was still getting e-mails about Everything’s Relative and I had this fan base — and how the couple hundred people in the world who care if I make another movie are gay. We decided to keep that in mind and make a story that was thoughtful and well-done for my tiny fan base! (Laughs.)
AE: And look where it’s gotten you!
DW: I know! It’s amazing. I’m so honored.
Watch the trailer for A Marine Story below:
A Marine Story screens at Philadelphia’s QFest on July 9 and 11, and L.A.’s Outfest on July 14. For more information, visit the official website or the Facebook page for A Marine Story.