Kelly McGillis Is Not a Role Model

Returning to the silver screen in the vampire thriller Stake Land, Kelly McGillis reveals the even scarier responsibilities that come with coming out.

BY Brandon Voss

April 21 2011 3:40 PM ET

KELLY MCGILLIS 2 X390 | ADVOCATE.COMThe thought of coming out never crossed your mind in 2008 while you were playing a closeted Army colonel on The L Word? Or when you filmed those steamy lesbian sex scenes for The Monkey’s Mask in 2000?
No, because I had children I had to care for. We lived in an area where people were scared of any differences. My priority has always been my children.

Even with an empty nest, you still live in the small town of Collingswood, N.J. Has there been any negative response?
I’m sure there was, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I didn’t pay attention to the negative or the positive. It’s none of my business or concern what other people think of me. I spent a lot of my life worrying about that, and it’s a big waste of time. It’s what I think of me and how I live my life that matters.

You didn’t pay attention to positive letters of support from fans? There must have been letters.
I don’t know. If I got any, I didn’t read them. If things come to my house, I pretend like I don’t live there. And if I get an e-mail from someone I don’t know, I pretend I don’t exist.

But once you came out, you became a role model whether you like it or not.
Yeah, but what a terrible burden and a huge responsibility that is. Listen, my life has been screwed up. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and dumb choices in my life. I’ve had some really crazy things happen, mostly of my own doing. Do I really want to think of myself as a role model? I don’t think so. The truth is, if anything, I would like to be seen as a human being doing the best I can with what I’ve been given, and as someone who muddled through somehow and didn’t kill anybody.

Any pressure from the gay community to lead a pride parade or film a gay rights PSA?
No. I do believe in the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts, and I’m a part of that, but it’s not as if I’m standing on a soapbox. This is my fundamental belief: I have no right to use my public popularity to sway people to think as I do. I have my thoughts, beliefs, and values, but those are mine. I came to those conclusions after living a long life, trying different things, asking questions, and finding out what worked and what didn’t. Those are my conclusions, and I would hope that other people can come to theirs on their own. Maybe I can lead by example, by living a whole, honest life, but not by telling people what to believe.

Whether it’s overcoming rape in 1982, battling substance abuse, or struggling with your sexuality, your story has the potential to help and inspire many people. Have you ever considered writing a memoir?
Listen, darlin’, I’ll definitely do a memoir at some point, but nobody will believe it. And I’ve got to wait until quite a few people have left us first.

You and longtime girlfriend Melanie Leis entered into a civil union in September. Why was it important for you to take that step in your relationship?
She had been asking me for 10 years. It never really mattered to me, but it became really important for her as something that would make her feel reassured, so I did it. I can’t say that it was a political move. I did it out of respect for somebody that I loved very much.

Political statement or not, you invited The New York Times out to Collingswood to cover the ceremony.
That wasn’t my intention to begin with, but when they asked me if they could cover it, that’s what I chose to do, because I do believe in equality for everybody.

That Times feature was very revealing, and both you and Melanie were surprisingly candid about your rocky relationship and shared history of substance abuse. Were you happy with the piece?
I never read it. I don’t read those things, so I don’t know.

Does that mean you won’t read our interview?
Probably not. [Laughs] Life is too short.

Tags: film

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