She may have slipped off your radar because of her refusal to participate in VH1 reality shows like Celebrity Fit Club and The Surreal Life, but it’s a fact that Mindy Cohn, best known as Natalie Green on the ’80s boarding school-set sitcom The Facts of Life, is still making a steady living in Hollywood. The 44-year-old Los Angeles native now stars in Violet Tendencies as Violet, an unlucky-in-love “fruit fly” swarmed and sometimes stifled by a group of gay male friends in New York City. Before taking the film to Outfest 2010, Cohn gives us just the facts, ma’am, on why she’s earned the right to call herself a “fag hag.”
The Advocate: Have you been enjoying the adoration from gay fans at the LGBT film festivals so far?
Mindy Cohn: Are you kidding? It’s my life, my people, so it’s fantastic to be able to represent this type of character that hasn’t really been well represented on film. I’m really looking forward to Outfest.
When did your relationship with the gay community begin?
Birth. [Laughs] Some of us are just meant to be “fag hags” and divas. I don’t know why, but by God’s grace I’ve always had really close relationships with gay people — not only men but women as well, though that came later. I’m attracted to creatives, free spirits, and people who know there’s something more and want to figure out what it is. People who live in parallel universes are attracted to each other, hence my relationship with the gay community.
That relationship began before The Facts of Life?
Oh, way before. The irony is that we didn’t have many gay people around us on Facts of Life. Two come to mind, but it was much later that I really saw gay people as part of the film and TV community. My mom has a ballet background, so she always took my sister and I to the ballet and theater. When we first lived in West Hollywood, we had a one-bedroom apartment on Sweetzer Avenue, so we were surrounded by gay people. I have a very progressive family that’s always moved comfortably within all different communities.
Violet Tendencies was directed by Casper Andreas and penned by Out columnist Jesse Archer. How did the film come about for you?
I got offered the film, so it came as a phone call. I’ve been out in L.A. auditioning, working, and supporting myself quite well for 25 years, but I’d never received an offer like that before. I’d been looking for a part like Violet for a long time — someone who has no fear. Casper was unsure about me because he didn’t know who I was, so Jesse, Casper, and I Skyped a lot before I got to New York. It sounds so Oprah, but we had amazing Skype conversations. By the time I got there, not only was I comfortable, but so was Casper.
How did Casper not know you?
I think the country he’s from is the one country Facts of Life wasn’t in. Then people would come up to me when we were shooting on the streets, and a couple of the crew members took it upon themselves to be my bodyguards, so I think Casper was like, Who the fuck are you? Why does everyone know you? How are we getting the best tables, and why are you getting so much free stuff? It was cute.
Were you familiar with Casper’s movies?
No, but I was familiar with Jesse. I had actually read Jesse’s book [You Can Run: Gay, Glam, and Gritty Travels in South America]. Jesse Archer is a character — we get it, we love him for it — but I yell at him because he’s such a fucking brilliant writer, and sometimes I think that’s glossed over because he’s such a character and some of the things he writes about are so out-there. While this is a Casper Andreas film — and this is no slight to Casper — it’s Jesse’s film, and I did it because of Jesse and his script.
Jesse also stars as Violet’s gay roommate. Have you ever had a gay roomie?
I used to have a house in Laguna with a gay guy, Glenn, who has been my close friend for 25 years. There were other gay men I cohabitated with who are unfortunately no longer with us. I lost a lot of dear friends and people I considered family to AIDS. But Glenn is alive and kicking, so he’ll hopefully be at Outfest with me.
As we see in Violet Tendencies, a good “fag stag” — a straight guy who hangs out with gay guys — is hard to find. Did having gay roomies and friends make it more difficult to find a boyfriend?
Yes and no. My girlfriends have hit on all my gay male friends, who are very masculine, not knowing they were gay at first blush. So there might have been moments where someone who wanted to invite me to do something salacious didn’t come up to me because he thought I was with a straight man. But I tend to be a good pimp daddy. Take me to a gay bar and you’re going to get a date.