Clea DuVall is finally able to play a gay character that aligns with her identity. All she had to do was write the part.
Speaking on a panel of LGBT writers Tuesday, the actress revealed that her sexuality and its portrayal were among the reasons she penned her new movie The Intervention.
“I’ve played a lot of gay characters, but I haven’t really played a gay character that is gay in a way that is the gay that I feel like I am, if that makes sense,” said DuVall, who is known for her lesbian roles in the 1999 cult hit But I’m a Cheerleader, which skewers ex-gay therapy, and more recently in HBO’s Veep.
The Intervention, which will screen at the opening gala of the Outfest Film Festival next Thursday in Los Angeles, is also DuVall’s directorial debut. But this additional role wasn’t always part of the plan.
“I didn’t intend to direct the movie. I wrote it for someone else to direct,” DuVall revealed, adding she felt the responsibility of writing, acting in, and directing a project might be “too much” to handle.
“But then when I tried to find someone to direct it, it just didn’t feel like anybody would be able to tell that story the way I wanted it told,” she said at the event, which was hosted by the Writers Guild of America's LGBT committee in Los Angeles. “And if I wanted to have that much control over it, I should just do it myself.”
The Intervention, which was compared to The Big Chill by Cosmopolitan, follows three couples who embark on a weekend trip together to Savannah, Ga. This getaway is then revealed to be an intervention on behalf of one of the couples, which sparks each character’s sorting of emotional baggage. It premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
The dramedy reunites DuVall with Orange Is the New Black actress Natasha Lyonne. The longtime friends, who played romantic partners in But I’m a Cheerleader, return as an on-screen couple in The Intervention. DuVall said their real-life friendship played a hand in casting Lyonne, who identifies as straight.
“I wanted her to play that role because I wanted it to be a believable person, that we were in a relationship together. It’s really hard to have chemistry with someone, and Natasha and I have so much history and we’re so comfortable with each other physically that I don’t feel weird putting my arm around her even though she’s straight,” DuVall said, adding, “It’s really fun being in a movie with her and getting to play girlfriends again.”
In contrast, DuVall noted that other past on-screen lovers had not been as comfortable as Lyonne with playing gay.
“Some actresses are weird. I’ve had actresses [where] their boyfriend stands off-camera when I have to kiss them, and then that doesn’t feel good. She wasn't even that cute anyway,” DuVall joked of the scene partner, who she did not identify by name.
But filming again with Lyonne and fellow Cheerleader castmate Melanie Lynskey wasn’t always bliss either, said DuVall, who referenced their “sibling-like dynamics” at the panel.
“When we made But I’m a Cheerleader, we were like friends and that was great. And the second we started working together, it was like we were at each other’s throats and fighting all the time … so much behind-the-scenes drama,” DuVall said.
DuVall has had a diverse acting résumé that ranges from Oscar-winning films like Argo to Lifetime's The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. When asked by an audience member why she chose the parts that she chose, DuVall essentially summed up The Bechdel Test.
"I always look for women who are not the kind of stereotypical women, because generally in TV or film, the woman is there because of the man or for the man, and there is a real gender role thing at play there that in my life is not interesting to me, obviously," she said.
"I don’t think I’m the best person to represent that on-screen," DuVall added. "I really identify with the feeling of being 'other.' And those are the characters that I’m really drawn towards, because I just think they’re more complicated and they’re more interesting."
For more information on The Intervention and the Outfest Film Festival, check out The Advocate's list of favorite films from this year's lineup.