Large and In Charge
BY Brandon Voss
July 16 2010 5:05 PM ET
You were out by the time your mother wrote Wicked, which is about a green witch who has been seen as a metaphor for gay people and outsiders in general. Did any of you and your personal struggle find its way into the character of Elphaba?
Yeah, maybe a little. Elphaba certainly has aspects of both Winnie and me, feeling like an outsider, but she’s braver than we would’ve been at that age. She’s so defiant to say, “Yeah, I’m green — so what?” That outsider perspective is a huge part of Winnie’s work.
It’s weird to hear you call your mother by her first name.
[Laughs] I know. When I actually speak to her, I call her “mom,” “mommy,” or some adorably annoying nickname, but when I’m talking about her within a professional context, I tend to refer to her as “Winnie.” Most people know her as Winnie Holzman, the writer — not as my mom.
I’m suspicious of why your mother has always gravitated so positively to gay characters and story lines. Is it possible that deep down she always had a mother’s intuition about your sexuality?
It’s funny, but I don’t think that’s it. Growing up as an adorable, chubby Jewish girl who didn’t get the guy as much as she wanted to, Winnie was also into musical theater, so she just had a lot of gay friends. From the beginning she tried to represent another kind of outsider that she knew in real life and that she could identify with. I actually think my coming out was a bit of a surprise for her. At the time of My So-Called Life, I had a crush on every boy, and I was all about frilly dresses.
In a recent episode of Huge, the sexuality of Nikki Blonsky’s character, Will, was called into question based on her penchant for men’s clothing. It seemed to make her question herself as well, and it briefly made me wonder if she was actually a lesbian character. What inspired that story?
I didn’t really see it as Will questioning her sexuality, and it wasn’t meant to be a red herring. For me, it was just an interesting scenario that the boy she likes has this assumption about her. I did design the character, particular in clothing but other things too, to be a little butch, because I’m tired of seeing every female character in a compulsory feminine role. I saw a lot of tomboys in my youth, and loved seeing a different model of what a woman can be. Will never wears makeup and would never wear a skirt, but she’s really comfortable with herself. Being mistaken for gay wouldn’t normally bother her except for the fact that it’s by a guy she likes. But that’s not been my personal experience because I’ve always presented as very femmy. Even now that I’m really out, people never make the assumption that I’m gay just looking at me.
In the most recent episode of Huge, Alistair, who is played by Harvey Guillen, is rather quietly revealed to be a gay character. How important was it for you to include gay representation in the show?
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily be so quick to assume that Alistair is gay. Yes, it’s now out there that others perceive him to be gay, which may or may not be the case.
Really? In her interview with Out.com, Nikki Blonsky said that she sees Alistair as the show’s gay character. Did she incorrectly out him?
No, that’s valid, but it’s going to be interesting for people to hear about his identity and his self-identification from Alistair’s own mouth, which is going to happen in a future episode. I’m really interested in the intersections of who people are and how others perceive them. It’s incredibly important to me to include queer characters, but I also find it less interesting to do one character that’s just “the gay character.”