As a long-time fan of Rookie Blue, I was thrilled when a new lesbian character appeared in the middle of season four. I was even more thrilled to learn that this character would be sticking around, and that her storyline would revolve around Gail Peck (played by Charlotte Sullivan), my favorite character on the show. I always said that Gail had sexual chemistry even with inanimate objects, so it didn’t feel inorganic that suddenly she was now in a flirtationship with a woman, with the potential for more.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just me projecting my hopes and dreams all this time. Charlotte Sullivan chatted with AfterEllen about her character and tells us she’s been playing Gail with the possibility of this storyline in mind since almost day one.
Check out what she had to say about Gail, Holly, and queer visibility in general. I guarantee that by the end you’ll want to raise her up on your shoulders and nominate her for Ally of the Year.
AfterEllen: Thank you so much for talking to me today!
Charlotte Sullivan: Absolutely! Someone from my team forwarded me your articles, I read them, they’re amazing, thank you for writing so eloquently about the show. I appreciate it.
AE: Thank you! I’ve been a fan since the first season, so it was excited to get the chance to write about it.
CS: And this new storyline that we’re approaching is kinda juicy, so I’m excited to get to finally talk about it, because I haven’t been able to talk about it in a while.
AE: Yeah, everyone’s really excited—I’ve actually had a lot of people tell me they’ve started watching the show and got hooked on it because this storyline piqued their interest.
CS: I love hearing that! Oh, that’s amazing! That makes me really happy.
AE: So, just to jump right into talking about Holly and Gail, how is it working with Aliyah O’Brien? It must be nice to have someone actually reacting positively to Gail’s antics and snarkiness.
CS: First and foremost, Aliyah is a very, very cool chick. I was quite intimidated because she’s genuinely a very, very incredible woman and I’m pretty dorky, so I was nervous to meet her. There are parts of me that I put into Gail, so Gail’s kind of socially awkward and definitely a bit kind of cryptic and strange, and those are parts of myself, and meeting her I was like a blubbering fool. She’s just so vivid and very athletic and really positive, beautiful—we were very nervous and very giddy with each other, which was kind of fun.
What’s really nice about doing this storyline is, you know, they could have probably put me with another guy, because that’s really what this show is about, it’s about relationships, right? So having me pass on from Nick and go on to some other dude.. it was just a nice way to create a kind of deeper layer with Gail, which was really refreshing. Because, truth be told, if you put me with another man, it’s sort of, in itself, the same storyline again. Okay, last year it was somebody else. This creates like, who am I, what’s happening, what’s going on, and it just creates all these different, amazing different layers that, for me, as an artist, I get to play something totally different, and that’s kind of what’s been the most exciting part of it. And also the feedback has been really, quite remarkable. So that’s a whole different—it’s like playing Gail, but in a different light, it’s really nice.
AE: I loved when she was talking to Chloe and Gail said she was jealous that Chloe isn’t afraid to be herself all the time. I was wondering if I was just projecting my own story onto that or if it was Gail starting to question her own sexuality, or if it was just a general Gail reflecting on herself.
CS: It’s interesting, I think on the show we’re trying to discover what this is, and we’re not labeling it. Like, I think a lot of people are like, “What is this? Are you gay, are you straight?” And I’ve always had hints about her sexuality—you know, I talked to the writers about it, back in season one, I questioned if she was really in love with these guys that they had been putting in front of her. It was something that the writers had taken in their back pocket and kind of always toyed with the idea, and even if no one was noticing, but I would kind of play it like you didn’t know. Because she could have really been happy with men, but we don’t necessarily want to put labels on it, because we don’t know. It’s all about discovery, right? So I think with Gail, like, I just love the idea of cracking her open and kind of finding out what’s inside of her. Because even if she isn’t gay, she’s discovering something new and trying a new experience. But if she is gay, and it’s this kind of amazing journey of going through and discovering oneself. But yeah, with that quote from Chloe, it is true, Gail can’t really let her guard down with people, she has a hard time doing that. And she’s just the black sheep of anybody, she has friends, but can we call them really friends? She doesn’t really let anybody in. And so maybe with O’Brien, it can open up a whole new side of her, which is the most amazing thing to play for me and makes me so excited to work with Aliyah because it’s a lot of fun and she’s a really great woman and it’s been really kind of amazing.
AE: One of my favorite scenes, actually, of probably the whole show was when Gail and Holly were in the batting cages. It felt like it was the first time we really saw Gail genuinely laugh and have fun.
CS: [Laughs] A lot of our writers when they saw that, they were like, “That, for two seconds, was not Gail, that was Charlotte.” I’m certainly not—this actually goes back to originally, when I was asked to do Rookie, my first instinct was, “No!” My God, I’m not athletic, I’m not strong, I’ve got noodle arms! If you need me to protect this city, you should be afraid, because this is not a good idea.
I didn’t have confidence, I said no—and not because I didn’t want to be part of the show. I really wanted to be part of the show, I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself and they’d fire me! That was the original thought that I had had. And David Wellington, one of our directors, was like “You don’t understand, these are not seasoned officers, these are people discovering who they are, so you don’t have to be like a muscle-woman, you don’t have to be. You are discovering, and you can be a fool.” So that kind of made things a lot easier for me. And specifically with that batting cage scene, Gail is really uncoordinated, and is awkward, but she hides with this veneer of venom all the time, because she’s afraid people will reject her and they will make fun of her, which I think everybody fears that. I don’t know if that made any sense at all.
AE: It does! And it’s great to hear that there’s a little bit of you shining through in that scene.
CS: I think if they had it their way they would have been like, “Can we redo that scene?” Sorry! I’ll play better next time! Yeah, that was very me.
AE: Are we going to see more of Holly bringing out that softer side of Gail in the last few episodes of this season?
CS: This season coming up? Are you referring to this season or Season 5, which we’re about to shoot?
AE: Oh! Is Holly coming back for Season 5?
CS: I don’t know! I’m not sure! I mean, it’s kind of up—I mean, really, truly, they would never tell me, but I think because of what happens in our finale, it’s certainly a cliff-hanger. It’s quite an intense episode, which would probably lend itself to her coming back next year, because it’s literally a continuation of the following day. So, I would think that she comes back. Unless she just up and leaves me and I’m stranded and abandoned once again.
But yeah, Aliyah is a very cool—I have to over-emphasize this—she really is like VERY cool. You know the people who are like, “You just put your hair up like that and it looks good!” She’s one of those people that you want to murder. Like, effortlessly beautiful. It’s so annoying. [Laughs] I just love doing work with her, so I hope that I have way more stuff with her.
Charlotte Sullivan on her new “Rookie Blue” relationship