Actress Jennifer Lanier Is Standing on Ceremony
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
November 16 2011 1:26 AM ET
You’re old hat at theater, of course. But I hear you’re doing some TV appearances as well. Tell me about the two appearances you have coming up this year.
I have a very cool guest star role on the season finale of Leverage. It should air in February. I play a tough law enforcement officer that the team has to get past. It’s set up as a parody of some well-known action movies, so hilarity ensues. I love being able to be funny, and this was a wonderful opportunity to work my comic chops. In Grimm, I had a lovely small role as a police lab tech. It’s the 10th episode, so it will air sometime in January, I believe.
You’re quite a well-known theater actress nationally, and you’re doing more and more TV as well. Is that hard to do in Portland?
Portland is actually a terrific place for an actor outside of Los Angeles and New York. I am amazed at the opportunities. There are a number of companies of varying sizes doing very good theater here. I am very fortunate to be in the loop of actors that folks think about, and not just for the usual roles. I have had the pleasure of being cast as a man — talk about stretching my actor muscles. I guess that shouldn’t be to big a stretch: I spent a few years playing many different animals for a children’s theater in the ’90s. Television and film production has jumped in Portland as well. There are so many projects coming here now. It’s fantastic.
I heard you used to be the spokesperson for Christian Children’s Fund. Were you openly gay then? Did you replace Sally Struthers?
Yes, I was a spokesperson for them for about four years. They are now called Child Fund International. And I did, in fact replace, Sally Struthers. They had chosen a man but needed a woman as well. The production company did a nationwide search and decided on me. When I got the call, the first thing I said was, “I am a lesbian; is that going to be a problem?” The powers that be in CCF told me that would not be a problem. Their only concern was nude photos. If I had had nude photos out there, then no deal. Lesbian? No biggie.
How long have you been out as an actress?
Since I have been out, since 1980. It’s never been particularly easy, but I can’t see any other way. I walk through the world as a butch, so there is no way I could really be closeted. I have had to put up with directors telling me, “Since you look like you could beat up the guy you are acting with, could you please try to not let those big biceps show?” This was in a scene where all I was wearing was a bra and a slip. It’s always frustrating to have to prove one’s femininity, as though straight actors never stretch out of their comfort zones. But it does create some humorous moments. I was working in a show in Ohio one summer and had a long, romantic kiss with my male acting partner, Todd. The joke that was going around the cast, which eventually got back to me, was “Why is the kissing scene so long? Because Todd likes the taste of pussy.” I thought it was funny on two levels.