Star On the Rise

This British-born actress is as smart as she is beautiful; listen to what she has to say about being an out woman of color in Hollywood.

BY Neal Broverman

July 24 2012 5:00 AM ET

If you tuned into True Blood on Sunday, there's no way you missed the appearance of Lilith, a gorgeous, exotic vampire first seen naked and covered head-to-toe in blood. The actress behind Lilith is Jessica Clark, a British-born former model who recently appeared on the cover of Vogue India. The out and proud Clark is now making her mark as an actress, starring in well-received independent films before transitioning to premium cable bloodsucker. We spoke with Clark about everything from feminism to racism, and were bowled over by her intelligence, thoughtfulness, and Anna Wintour-esque lilt. And sorry, ladies and gents, she's happily married.

The Advocate: Hi, Jessica. Congratulations on True Blood — can you tell us how you transitioned from modeling to acting?
Sara was the first film project I worked on as an actress; it's a short film. I was really drawn to it because I think it told a story that’s relatively unique in the lesbian community that’s rarely discussed, which is HIV and the complexity of what that brings to a relationship. I feel, obviously, it’s been present in the LGBT community for a long time but rarely told from the female perspective. So, it was something I wanted to explore and put out there. I thought they were two very different women that the story focused on. What I’m most drawn to in life in general  is how we think and why we do what we do and the complexities of people and women and love and I thought that film, in a really short amount of time, addressed and challenged so many of those pre-conceptions.

So, that was my first experience and it ignited something in me. I had always attended classes and written stories as a creative outlet because I need that, and I thought in my previous career in a model the way I approached that was that I believed I was telling a non-verbal story. But to be an actress and live that life you have to be really dedicated, you have to be sure that’s something you really want. And after the experience of Sara, it became real for me that this is what I want to do.

Then your role in A Perfect Ending came next?
It came a couple of months after Sara. I think what’s funny about that is our community—the internet has done such an amazing job of connecting LGBT communities and the arts and politics and having these discussions and forums in places across the U.S. and the world—that didn’t necessarily exist before. There was a certain amount of press and responses to my work in Sara. Nicole Conn and Marina Rice Bader were obviously working on A Perfect Ending and I actually came up on Facebook as a person they should know because we had mutual friends in the artistic community. So there was this Facebook connection and they reached out to my manager to see if I would be interested. I knew Nicole’s work and had a tremendous amount of respect for her as a writer and director. When I read the script, I was completely blown away. And Paris, my character, was really this thrilling, terrifying, amazing challenge and experience for me because she’s so complex and has this amazing power and completely vulnerable side to her. The journey she goes on personally and the journey she goes on meeting Rebecca is sort of revelatory.

As an out actress, did you think for a minute that it wouldn’t be wise to take a gay role?
It was definitely a question that I asked myself. I wouldn’t say necessarily it came out of fear, more one of interest. Things have changed so much even in recent years. And it needs to change in terms of visibility of gay people and gay women in the arts. I certainly didn’t think it was something to be scared of, and I enjoy a challenge. As an actress I want to do as many diverse characters and stories as possible but I also really love the idea that being gay isn’t necessarily the storyline every time. The character can be gay and the story isn’t necessarily about that. With A Perfect Ending, especially, as much as it is a lesbian-driven film in terms of the writer and director and myself, [the protagonist] is not a gay woman, and I think the story and the journey the characters go on is relevant and can appeal to people across the board. That’s what I’m really interested in—human experience.

Tags: television

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