For the past three seasons, The L Word has flirted with butch identity in several characters, from Shane (Katherine Moennig) to Ivan (Kelly Lynch) to Moira/Max (Daniela Sea). But it may be this season's Tasha Williams, played by Rose Rollins, who has brought the most authentically butch lesbian to the series. The reserved, stoic Tasha is a captain in the National Guard who has just returned from Iraq when she catches Alice's eye — leading to an opposites-attract romance that has quickly become a fan favorite.
The 28-year-old Rollins grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and has been living in Los Angeles since 1999. Before landing a starring spot on The L Word, she was a successful model, played C.J. Cregg's (Allison Janney) assistant Suzanne on The West Wing, and acted with Jennifer Beals in the 2002 film 13 Moons. AfterEllen.com recently talked with Rollins about the new dimensions her character brings to The L Word as well as her own take on being a tomboy.
Warning: the interview contains some spoilers about Tasha and Alice's relationship.
AfterEllen.com: Tell me about your character, Tasha.
Rose Rollins: I come home from Iraq, and I'm in the National Guard. It's not really stated as to why I'm home, and no one really knows for how long. But while I'm back, I'm just really reserved, very serious. And my longtime best friend, Papi, she introduces me to the gang, and I kind of take a liking to Alice, but we live in two different worlds, and I know that nothing could ever come of it because we just don't believe in the same things. We don't have the same outlook on life. She's just not as serious as someone that I'd like to be with. And plus, I don't know how long I'm staying, so I told myself that I wasn't going to get involved with anyone while I was back, and yet … we kind of fall for each other.
AE: I thought I heard your character was injured in combat.
RR: It's not really stated. I guess I'm basically coming back for a reprieve. I've just been through a lot there, and I know that I'm going back. I actually wasn't sure as to how long, but I just needed a break.
AE: Does your character talk about her experiences in Iraq?
RR: Not really. I'm kind of one of those people that keep a lot to myself. I do finally let Alice in a little bit, right before I tell her that I'm going back, just to try to make her understand where I'm coming from and what I've been through. But I also have a few flashbacks as well, so I am suffering from some post-traumatic stress while I'm back, and they [the episodes] definitely touch on that. And they also touch on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
AE: How does that play out?
RR: Well, it's just kind of basically how it is today. Even though it is "don't ask, don't tell," people still know. People still judge; people still don't want to see it; people still want to try to undermine. There's someone who tries to undermine my position because he found out I was gay, so he was actually gunning for my job. It just touches on all of the responsibilities that come with it. It's not as easy as just don't ask, don't tell.
AE: Does your character talk about her viewpoints on the war?
RR: Yeah. I'm committed to fighting for my country. I mean, I made the commitment, and nothing or no one could lure me away from that commitment and what I stand for. And I also touch on the fact that it's not about me fighting for George Bush at all, because it's not like I condone what he's doing in any way or I condone the war. It's just the commitment I made to fight for my country.
AE: How does that coincide with your own views on the war, and do you get asked that all the time?
RR: [Laughs.] Yeah, I do. I don't really like to get too political personally, but I definitely do not 100 percent agree with the war, but I do understand where my character is coming from. I'm also one of those people who, if I make a commitment, no one else has to understand it. As long as I understand it, I'm going to follow it through. And I think that's more where she's coming from than anything.
AE: Have your opinions on the war, or even just your sensitivity to hearing about it, changed since playing this character?
RR: Definitely, and upon researching for my character I've spoken to numerous people who have been over there. And everyone's viewpoint is so different, but I totally just have a whole new respect. I mean, we all know what's going on, but most of us are so far removed from it. So we know, but we don't really know. And it just really gave me a lot of insight and a whole newfound respect for what these women are going through over there, risking their lives.
AE: Are you able to consult with the writers of the show if you have questions in general?
RR: Oh, absolutely. Everything. I couldn't believe it. This is the best job ever, because you did actually have that freedom to go sit with the writers if you had any problem with anything or any questions. And they were there 100 percent and willing to listen, no egos. You know, some writers are like, "Well, that's the dialogue, so that's what you say." But no, it wasn't like that at all. It's a lot of collaborative ideas.
AE: How well do you relate to your character? Was it challenging in any way?
RR: We're actually very similar, and most of it was fairly easy for me. But the most difficult part was sort of placing myself in a woman's shoes that's at combat in a foreign country, and that was very challenging. And also just shooting those scenes, being in the middle of fire and being responsible for so many lives because I'm a captain. That was the most difficult part. But as far as the person that she is, I found that relatively easy, because we are so similar.
AE: Reserved and disciplined and serious?
RR: Yes. I do like to have a little more fun than she does. [Laughs.]
AE: I hope she gets to have some fun on the show.
RR: Yeah, she definitely does.
AE: Do you mind if I ask what your sexual orientation is?
RR: I'm straight.
AE: Had you ever played a gay character before this?
AE: Is it the same as playing any other character who's different than you are?
RR: For me personally, I felt that it was kind of easier in a way, because I'm not that femmey girl, and in my work I always have difficulty being that feminine, sexy girl. I was raised with five brothers; I'm a tomboy, so it was very easy for me to just be the tomboy or kind of bring the tomboy side out of me more, instead of trying to suppress it and be the sexy girl. I'm not really good at being the sexy girl.
AE: I'm surprised you say that because of your whole modeling career.
AE: I guess you put that on just like you put on any character.