BY Corey Scholibo

November 05 2009 1:10 PM ET

ROBIN TUNNEY THE MENTALIST X390 (WARNER BROS) | ADVOCATE.COM

Well, there is always next year.
I remember my family used to call him the bachelor and [said] that he was just really picky, and I think they were only able to embrace his sexuality because he was so groundbreaking and successful. I think he did have a lot to prove coming from where he came from. He is the first guy who ever kissed me on the lips. He was older than me and I wiped my lips and he said, “One day you're really going to like that.”

You got your first lesbian on-screen kiss in Naked City, right?

I did a little lesbian kiss in that and I have a little lesbian kiss with Hope Davis in The Secret Lives of Dentists.

Well, the cliché question then is, was it at all difficult or different?

Not at all. I mean, maybe it has to do with the fact that I am a woman. I would much rather have to kiss a woman at work than a guy. Inevitably it is uncomfortable. I don't know anyone who says "I had this sex scene at work today; it was amazing." It's fraught with anxieties and brings out everyone's insecurities about the way they look and the way they taste. With a woman the boundaries are more clear and you can have a better time. It's like, “Hey, I'm straight. If I go for it, it doesn't mean I want to have sex with you after work.” And with a guy it is always ambiguous and weird. Sort of by virtue of doing your job well you worry, Am I leading this person down a long road? And women are softer. It doesn't screw up your makeup as much either. There are a whole bunch of advantages.

Did you ever enjoy any of those advantages in your off-screen life?

Well, it's weird. Two of my closest girlfriends were a couple when I met them and I have always gone to gay bars and always felt comfortable. But it has never really been my thing. I have also always been in a relationship and I didn't go to Smith or Bard -- I didn't go to college. I got married really young, and so during the younger, more experimental phase I was always involved with someone. C'est la vie.

You missed your window.
Yeah, but the boundaries that people draw in the sand about sexuality seem really preposterous to me. I mean, if you're lucky you spend 26 minutes a week doing it -- out of how many hours, you know? I understand that it can be necessary as an identity since society makes it so difficult on some people, and I wish [gays] were allowed to get married, and their relationships should be equally as legal and all that. Because there isn't that equality, people need to band together and make a difference. But when I think about my great friends who are gay it's not the first personality trait that pops up.

You also apparently are a celebrity poker champion?

I gotta tell you, I like to play the cards. I don't have any time anymore like I used to. When I was unemployed sometimes I would be at the casino in the middle of the day. One of my favorite moments on the The Mentalist was when we did an episode we shot at a casino in Los Angeles. The [assistant director] came up to me and said, “Wait till you see the people in there. Total degenerate gamblers. It's terrifying.” And I went to sit and play some hands at lunch and I knew like five people [laughs]. It's fun. You have to be completely engaged. But it's an incredibly chauvinist game. I played in it and didn't think about the implications at the time, but they separate the men and the women at the [World Series of Poker]. They have a separate event for “ladies,” like there is a difference. It's so 1950s.

On The Mentalist you are playing another tough, ass-kicking woman. How did you end up in that role?
The creator made a show called Rome that I thought was really fun. And in The Mentalist there is this modern dynamic where my character is the brawn and Simon Baker's character is the brains. He gets scared and cowers in corners and I make fun of him. It really does have that dynamic of sexual role reversal, which I think is important for our culture. She's the boss, which is pretty cool -- and has the highest body count on the show, FYI. And I must say, for the first time in my life I like the stability of working on TV and that it is a family. I don't think when I was in my 20s I could have been disciplined enough to shoot nine pages a day. I would have been hungover or crying about boyfriends. You have to be a full-grown adult to do television. Thank god, I think it's good. It would be hard to walk around and 18 million people watched you on television every week and you thought it was terrible. That would be hard.
















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