Ally Sheedy on “High Art,” her new lesbian role and LGBTQ activism


Ally Sheedy has become passionate about LGBT activism in the last couple of years, which she says can really be tied to her family, especially her 17-year-old out daughter Rebecca. She says that lending her voice to the Ali Forney Center and making sure New York State does not cut funding for the non-profit that offers 250 beds for homeless LGBT youth is all because she feels “a personal pull.”

“When it’s right in your state, living here,” Ally said. “There’s a center where I went and you see. In the freezing winter, the kids will have a warm place for the day but at night, they’re on the street. And having a teenager and seeing the teenagers — it really hit me.”

The actress, who has starred in such beloved films as The Breakfast Club, War Games and St. Elmo’s Fire, also says the gay community is her community. “For various reasons, I feel very embraced and at home in the [gay] community in New York,” she said. And so lending her voice and name to the Ali Forney Center, including a recent rally that aimed to get the word out about possible budget cuts, is something she feels compelled to do.

“I have a really good friend who is on the board and he was telling me about it, so I went and visited and it just really captured me,” Ally said. “I just wanted to get involved and started to get more and more involved. There’s really very little media awareness — not just of the Center, but of these homeless kids — and we need to kick it up, otherwise nobody is going to pay attention and you’re going to lose beds. So we’ve been trying to kind of raise the awareness level, so we had a rally last Monday and we’re trying to get people to understand what’s going on.”

Ally said that there are 3,800 kids without a place to live in New York and that 40 percent of the homeless are LGBTQ youth. “The shelters can’t really accommodate them safely here,” Ally said. “So we’re trying to say, whatever you do with your budget, the tiny fraction of it goes to these kids cannot get cut. In fact, it has to get increased. Ali Forney is one of the most visible shelters and there aren’t very many. There’s just a couple, not very many in New York and New York is the place — it seems to me — where a lot of kids who get kicked out of their homes in other part of the country, or have to run away, end up here. They don’t have anywhere else to go. So this is not the place to be cutting beds for them.”

Besides having a lesbian daughter, Ally also acknowledges that she is something of a lesbian icon. Her role in the Lisa Cholodenko film High Art is iconic and, despite the fact that Ally has had several other high-profile roles in famous films, she is still approached on the street by fans of Lucy Berliner.

“Women in general come up to me about that movie. It’s a mixture – a huge percentage of gay women really identified with Lucy or fell in love with Lucy,” Ally said. “It’s funny, there are a lot of women in general who, for some reason, got hooked by that movie. I’m not quite sure if it’s only – I kind of think it definitely speaks to gay women but also speaks to, for some reason, women, more than men. Something about the journey those three women went through in it —Lucy, Greta and Syd — for some reason, somebody identifies with somebody. It’s kind of interesting. There was a mom with her kid in the stroller and she said “Oh my god, you have no idea how much I identified with you! I was Lucy and here I am with a kid and that movie was all about me!’ It was really funny.”

Ally’s daughter has seen the movie, and so have a lot of her friends. “She’s thrilled about High Art, probably more about High Art than any other movie.” Ally said. “Any of her friends think that I’m the cool mom — ‘We can be around her and she won’t have any judgement about anybody.'”

Ally has taken the last few years off of acting, for the most part, as she’s been a “24/7 full-time mom.” But now that Rebecca is a senior in high school and looking at colleges, Ally is hoping to get back into working, specifically in TV.

“I’ve been looking for a television series because there’s some good stuff in there. And I found one and I did the pilot and it actually shoots in New York so if that goes that’ll be my next big thing to work on,” she said.

The pilot is for a show Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) is developing for Lifetime, named after and based on the Modern Love column in the New York Times every Sunday. And, as luck would have it, Ally plays a lesbian.

“I play a glamorous, funny editor at the New York Times,” Ally said. “So she’s the editor, one of the editors, and is divorced or not any longer with her ex and marries another women and has a child. The series is about what relationships are … and all the unconventional, strange things relationships are today. It’s kind of a cool premise. She’s taking an actual story from the column every week and it becomes the basic theme of the episode and the actors playing whatever the column was and it’s how that particular story reverberates with everyone at the newspaper. I just hope it goes because I love it.”

While we’re waiting to hear if Modern Love will make it to the 2012 TV roster, visit the Ali Forney Center’s website and learn more about how you can help LGBTQ youth in New York find a place to sleep at night.

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