I caught up with Rebecca Henderson via email this week to ask about her character ‘Lizzy’ in the wildly popular Netflix series Russian Doll, and we exchanged some ideas on the lesbian mid-life crisis, coming out, and on-screen lesbian representation. Plus, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of her.
Afterellen.com: If you knew Lizzy in real life, would you be friends?
Rebecca Henderson: I don’t know if Lizzy and I would be friends! I’m usually the caretaker in my relationships and I struggle to let myself be taken care of, so maybe I wouldn’t want to hang with Lizzy because she might try to manage me and love me, and I’d be like, leave me alone TV Lizzy! I can take care of myself!
AE: When Lizzy talks about dating a younger woman, that’s such a funny and relatable scene.
I have a theory that lesbians are more prone to mid-life crises than our straight counterparts. (And I can say this as a lesbian ha ha) But I could be wrong. What do you think?
RH: This has never occurred to me but I so wish we were on the phone so you could give me a full breakdown of your theory! I wonder if I’m about to start witnessing some shit go down… I’m 38 so I’m approaching that time. But honestly, I would think the opposite was more likely. I would think we’re less likely to freak out and have a midlife crisis because coming out and being out takes so much self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
AE: For those who don’t know, your wife Leslye, co-created the show. She also directed, correct? So that means you got to work together a lot. What was that like? Do you and your wife have any creative differences?
RH: I loved working with Leslye. Watching her make Russian Doll was a very inspiring and moving journey. She created it with Natasha and Amy, she wrote much of it, she was the show-runner, and she directed the first three episodes (which really set the tone for the whole season) and episode 7 which is one of my favs. Leslye works extremely hard and is a full-on genius.
I would say our biggest creative difference is she works basically all the time and I work basically none of the time- hahhahaaa. So when I work I’m like YAY I’m here this is fun! Wow- exciting times lets do it let’s CREATE guys what’s up! And she is doing like ten projects a year so she’s just on the highest frequency constantly. For her last birthday, I gave her a week away without me so she could just be quiet and alone.
AE: So I don’t know if you heard this yet but there was some buzz from the lesbian community with some sharp criticism of the scene where you wake up the morning after the “orgy” of sorts and you’re in bed, and a man gets out of the bed. Some say that scene was yet another way media tries to make lesbians seem sexually pliable, as if lesbians would ever consider being with a man. What is your take on it? Did they misjudge?
RH: MISJUDGED! Lol I never thought Lizzy had had sex with that guy. It literally never crossed my mind. I just assumed that Lizzy thought that a backwards dildo on a dude was funny. I don’t know why but I always thought of Lizzy as a gold star lesbian.
AE: Any thoughts on lesbian representation on TV in general? Is it ever accurate?
RH: I came out the night Ellen came out on her series. She was the first lesbian I ever saw. When she said “I’m gay” I started weeping and didn’t know why. I wept and wept and wept and realized I had pushed something so far down deep inside me. And then I had a name for it! I started to tell people like this, “I discovered something wonderful about myself: I’m gay.”. That’s how I told people!! ANYWAY… to answer your question, it’s obviously getting better because of HBO, Showtime, Netflix etc., but we have a long way to go. The networks, for the most part, are still a nightmare for LGBTQ representation and it would be cool if they caught up. Working on RD was awesome- no one ever said be less this or be more that. It was very freeing. I want more of that for us all.
AE: Do you have a favorite scene from the show?
RH: My favorite scene is the last scene I’m in, episode 8. Natasha directed the episode and she was excellent. I like that Lizzy gets a kind of closure in that little scene.
AE: You’ve also got a new film coming out! Can you share anything about it?
RH: Just Premiered at SXSW, it’s called Mickey and the Bear. I play Dr. Leslee Watkins, a psychiatrist at the VA hospital, and I form a mentoring friendship of sorts with a 17-year-old girl who is struggling with her veteran father who himself is struggling with alcoholism and PTSD.
If you still haven’t’ seen Russian Doll, check it out on Netflix.