Jasika Nicole on gay actors playing straight and her new lesbian-themed projects


Jasika Nicole is doing her best Kick-Astrid impression: A mix of her smart and science-loving Fringe character mixed with her strong personal beliefs about the LGBT community and the need for all facets of it to come together. AfterEllen.com caught up with the out actress at the Television Critics’ Association winter press tour this month in Pasadena and discussed gay actors in straight roles, the divide on The Kids Are All Right and The Letter Q, her upcoming compilation that serves as a response to the It Gets Better campaign.

AfterEllen.com: Much has been made about the debate between gay actors playing straight. What do you think?

Jasika Nicole:
I want people to support the community. But ideally, there will be a point in time when there is really no community support because it doesn’t need to be separated. As in it’s just a part of the world.

AE: When there is a time where we won’t need sites like AfterEllen.com.

Exactly. Right now we totally do. But I feel like moving in that direction, that’s my personal goal for the world: To get to a place where we don’t need to be differentiated. So in that respect, it’s a little bit frustrating to imagine gay actors playing a particular kind of role.

When people say, “Oh, do you want Astrid to be like … do you want her to have a gay story line?” I don’t care. If that serves her character or the story, then that’s great. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t need to be there because it’s just a relationship that she’s having with another person.

It also frustrates me when people assume that she is gay because she doesn’t have a romantic interest, because that’s such a copout. I think it cheapens the experience of being a woman that’s a part of the queer community, or being a man that’s part of the queer community. Assuming that you don’t see them so that must mean that they have something to hide. That’s really annoying.

AE: Do you think people assume that because you’re an out actress?

Well, I’m sure that they do. I’m sure that that is what the link is. I don’t think that all gay characters in the media need to be portrayed by [gay] actors. And I don’t think that the only characters that gay actors need to portray are gay characters. I feel like people get really stuck on that. They see you as one way, but at the same time I get the import with gay characters in the media, gay characters in novels and in television shows and in movies. But it really doesn’t matter who’s playing them. It just matters what their story is.

AE: Have you seen The Kids Are All Right?

I have not seen that actually. I’m so trepidatious to see it.

AE: Kids divided a lot of the gay community because Julianne Moore winds up not only cheating, but doing so with a man.

Well, and that’s a real story. That has happened in the world and that will continue to happen in the world. That’s just a story that that particular movie told.

You know, I think that it’s really easy to be hypocritical in our community and I get it. I get it that you’re always wanting what it is that you feel like you’re not getting enough of. So, you’re kind of always striving for the other side of the grass, whichever is greener. You know, I say that this is what I experienced but I want more of that because that’s a real story.

I don’t think that it’s fair to negate those stories that happen though. There are people that do sleep with other people regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. The point of that is the infidelity. It’s not the person that it’s with unless you want it to be. Maybe you as a viewer take it that way and that’s how you see it and you absorb it and that’s what you get. That’s fair because everybody should have a different experience of it.

But you know, we don’t need anything else to divide our community. We have plenty of things that divide our community in terms of people who are trans, people who only date trans people, or people who only date this or only date that or whatever. There are so many things that we already have. Like the LGBT community and minorities within that community. That’s a whole other separate niche. If we don’t need them, we can be a collective, powerful group of people that supports each other 100 percent, all the time, no matter if we’re familiar with their experience or not.

AE: I also hear you have a lot of art stuff going on too, personally.

I am contributing to a couple of compilations. One is called The Letter Q. It’s supposed to be a compilation of all kinds of things — writing and prose and poems and artwork that are dedicated to people kind of describing what they would do if they could speak to their younger selves. This whole project was inspired right after the rash of suicides that happened in the gay community with the younger teens.

So it’s people, if they could have a talk with their younger selves and try to convince them that being a teenager sucks and that it doesn’t suck for the rest of your life it just does for that period of time. It’s that mode of thinking. I have been brainstorming with all these people. I was brainstorming with Tegan [Quin] and I’ve been brainstorming with [my partner] Clarie and [AfterEllen.com contributor] Lindsey [Byrnes] and all these people about “do you think that your teenage self would heed you? Do you think that they would listen?”

AE: They might think, “Oh it’s just another stupid adult saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll get better.’ ”

Exactly. Because it’s so real when you’re in it. They might believe you that adulthood gets better. But the teenage years are going to suck, period.

AE: So, when can we look forward to that coming out? Do you have a publisher?

I was put in contact with this woman when we were in New York for Season 1. One of the ladies that worked on it knows this woman and sent her my information. So, I asked Ariel Schrag to see if she would contribute, too. I really have no idea in terms of the future what’s going to happen with it. I just know that it’s been really exciting to have something to write about. Because I’ve been writing myself.

I just started this new comic called Closetalkers that’s about a relationship with these two women that have known each other for years and they’re just roommates. It turns out that one of them is in love with the other one. And how that relationship evolves. I’ve been talking to Claire so much about it because I don’t want it to be corny or cliché. I want it to be a kind of realistic portrayal of a new relationship.

Fringe returns from its midseason hiatus in its new Friday time slot on Jan. 21.