Interview With “Dante’s Cove” Actress Erin Cummings

Erin CummingsErin Cummings joined the Season 2 cast of Dante’s Cove playing Van’s (Nadine Heimann) girlfriend, Michelle. Michelle starts off as a good girl just wanting a monogamous commitment from Van, but after one of Van’s self-taught spells goes awry and wipes Michelle’s memory clean of their relationship, Michelle falls into the arms of scuba instructor and bartender Brit (out actress Michelle Wolff). Saddled with confusing and emotionally distressing flashbacks of her past relationship with Val, Michelle turns to a drug to ease her confusion, but just ends up going out of her mind even more.

While Cummings has worked on television before in single episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, Threshold, Charmed and Passions, her starring role on Dante’s Cove has been her biggest break so far. Cummings recently talked with AfterEllen.com about her commitment to acting (she has even played Lady MacBeth onstage), her positive feelings about aging in Hollywood, and her support for the gay and lesbian community. And when it came to discussing her first lesbian love scene (a sort of ménage-a-trois with Wolff and Heimann in Dante’s Cove) she had no problem sharing all the juicy details.

AfterEllen.com: So Dante’s Cove to Lady Macbeth, what’s that been like?
Erin Cummings: I’m thoroughly excited, and I feel like Lady Macbeth is the role that I was born to play. I feel like I just get her [laughs].

AE: You have a little bit of a dark side to you.
EC: Absolutely. A couple people have talked to me about how Dante’s Cove is a little bit risky.

AE: You mean risqué or risky?
EC: A little bit of both — risqué for sure [laughs].

AE: Risky as a career move?
EC: Most people … were like, “This is a good idea, you should do this.” There were just a few little people that were like, “I don’t really know if you should do this,” and I was like, “OK, that’s crazy.” It’s a little more risqué and people [have said], “Oh wow, are you really comfortable doing that and playing a lesbian? And you have this nude scene.” I think that are enough good girls in Hollywood … but we also need a couple bad girls, and I don’t think we have enough. I miss the Bette Davises and the Barbara Stanwycks.

AE: Oh yeah.
EC: Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favorite actresses, and one of the great things about her is that she looked sweet and innocent, but she played these women who were dark and had edge. … I really want … to get back to a time when a woman [can] hold onto her femininity and yet at the same time just be so deliciously evil that we can’t [laughs] stop watching.

AE: I’ve seen four of the five episodes of this season’s Dante’s Cove, and from what I saw your character was pretty sweet, except for a little detour with some drugs. Is there a dark turn ahead?
EC: I can’t say anything.

AE: I kept wondering if you were going to get inhabited by an evil spirit or something.
EC: Well, this season Michelle definitely plays it straight. She’s the “straight girl” of the show as far as the supernatural aspect is concerned, so for sure this season she doesn’t dabble in any of the witchcraft. We will find out probably within the next week if we’re coming back for a Season 3. … Hopefully if my character does come back, then we’ll see Michelle get into some of the supernatural.

But I think as far as this season, even though I didn’t do anything that was out of the realm of reality, I had to go to a lot of dark places. When Michelle gets the spell put on her and she’s sort of losing her mind, she literally is having a nervous breakdown. … As an actor [to] be effective like that, I had to go to some pretty dark places … So that’s what I mean [by] playing things that are a little more dark and visiting emotional places that are a little bit … harder to reach than just playing the girl next door.

AE: I was thinking of a bad girl more like Tracy Scoggins, who plays Grace on Dante's Cove, just an evil character.
EC: You know what, I love that too. I guest-starred on an episode of Charmed where I played the demonic, alter ego version of Rose McGowan’s character, which was really fun. Yeah, I definitely like that; there’s such a wonderful scale of evil [laughs].

AE: I totally applaud any actress or actor who’s able to go to that darker side and be able to do the nudity and sexuality.
EC: Thank you.

AE: Actually though, as much as you did on Dante’s Cove, what the guys are doing is way beyond.
EC: [Laughs.] It is Boyfest 2006.

AE: The women’s stuff is kind of soft-core compared to the guys.
EC: The ladies' sex scene was very much talked about and gone over. We had actually a meeting the night before … with [here! Vice President of Development] Meredith Kadlec and Nadine Heimann, Michelle [Wolff] and I.

AE: I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting.
EC: It was really fantastic. It was really funny ’cause Sam [Irvin, the director] said, “I’m not a lesbian. I don’t know what lesbians do. I’m going to turn on the camera and I’ll let you guys do what you want.” [Laughs.] And then I said in the meeting, “Look, I defer to Michelle and Meredith, being lesbians, to dictate what we’re going to do, because the biggest thing for me is that I don’t want this to be a clip out of Girls Gone Wild.

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