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Sarah Shahi

Sarah Shahi


Sarah Shahi won our hearts playing the ooh-la-la lesbian Carmen, Shane's left-at-the-altar DJ girlfriend on The L Word. Now she's winning our admiration for her post-L Word acting range: She made us laugh in her cameo as a vapid morning-show host in For Your Consideration, made Tony Soprano nearly see God in The Sopranos, and now makes criminals (and viewers) sweat as no-nonsense cop Dani Reese in the new NBC TV drama Life. The 27-year-old Iranian-Spanish-Texan -- a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader! -- checked in with The Advocate during a recent shooting break.

You show a lot of skin in the first episode of the series -- first when you're putting on clothes after a night of anonymous sex with some dude, and later when you make your cop partner help you strip off your shirt and shower. It's all for the ratings. The shower scene? There was a cocaine explosion, and when cocaine gets in your eyes, apparently -- I don't know this from experience -- it stings really badly and you just want to get it off you. Let's be honest: If it were real life, I probably would not take my clothes off, but it's network TV and we'd like to stay on the air, so I figured, Why not?

Well, it worked. It worked -- there you go. See, you're talking to me, so I got some kind of something out of it.

In 2006 you were number 66 on the Maxim Hot 100, but this year you were number 5 on the hot list. That means lesbians have better taste in women than straight men, right? Of course! Lesbians do everything better.

Thanks for the endorsement! By the way, my gaydar went off when I saw your scene with that other woman cop in the new series. Lieutenant Davis, played by Robin Wiegert.

Was my gaydar on-target about her? No, the character's married; she has children. I think you're trying to create something that isn't there.

Oh, wait, Robin Wiegert -- she played the lesbian-like Calamity Jane on Deadwood. I guess it's delayed gaydar. OK, but what about the sexual tension between you and your partner Charlie Crews [Damian Lewis]? I guess it comes into play without he and I knowing it -- it's not the intention of these characters to have that feeling toward each other, at least in the beginning. If there's to be anything between Dani Reese and Charlie Crews, I hope it just becomes tantalizing. I hope the audience never fully gets what they want from it, because then the imagination is over, you know?

Well, you left little to the imagination in the sex scenes you had with Kate Moennig (Shane) or Mia Kirshner (Jenny) on The L Word, nor the one with James Gandolfini (Tony) on The Sopranos. You can tell us -- who was the hottest? Oh, you can't ask that! The imagination is often wilder than the actual answer. Girls offer one thing, and then Gandolfini offers something very different. All three were great! [Laughs]

I thought the weirdest was the sort of lap-dance-on-the-toilet scene with Mia Kirshner. You don't see water sports too often on networks other than ESPN. Yeah, the toilet scene was a bit weird. You hit the nail right on the head. I don't know whose [peeing] trajectory can be so strong that they cause someone to orgasm. That was definitely the strangest thing I ever had to do. I personally don't know anyone, gay or straight, who thinks that's the way to get off, or that it can even be slightly arousing.

You've been quoted in an interview saying that you had "dabbled" with women. What's a dabble? A dabble is what you think it is. You try something, and it's fun and nice at the moment, and then you go, OK, I tried that. [Shahi won't discuss her personal life further, but she's been photographed at events over the past few years with Reba actor Steve Howey.]

In another interview you told a journalist friend of mine that when you came to L.A. it seemed sort of expected that you'd make out with a girl at some point. I think any young girl moving to a big town like L.A. [she's from Euless, Texas, a suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth]...I think it's part of the discovery process. You're out on your own for the first time and you start to experiment with things. You don't know if they're right or they're wrong, but here's your opportunity to go with it -- to explore those feelings. I think it's a very natural, normal thing to do. I did it.

It used to be that if actors played gay, they would avoid gay parts after that because they were afraid of being typecast. Do you feel that at all? After The L Word I did have some offers to do some roles that were gay, and I chose not to do them (a) because of the material -- had it been a straight character I wouldn't have done it -- and (b) because I can understand the stereotype. This is a town of stereotypes, unfortunately. Once you're sort of pigeonholed into something, it's quite difficult to get out of it. I have no aversion to playing a gay character again, but it would definitely have to be the right role.

So if it were the right role, whom would you most want to be cast with? Wow...let's see, I wouldn't turn down Penelope Cruz or Rachel Weisz. They're pretty high up on my list right now.

Did working on a show like The L Word make you question your sexuality at all? Not really. It's funny, because we were on location, and there were times when I definitely was feeling kind of lonely [giggles] and I was like, Maybe I could... But I think that sex and the Kinsey Scale and the whole bit -- it's all such a personal thing that I really don't feel like I can comment freely on that and sort of have people read what I'm saying right now and have it be fact. Because what I'm saying today could change tomorrow, especially on that sort of topic. My big thing when I was on the show was that I definitely felt I was representing a group of people who had very little representation on television. And I felt, Leave them the fuck alone. Gay, straight, who gives a fuck? [Gay couples] are no different than heterosexual couples--sometimes they even function better than heterosexual couples. That was the biggest revelation I had on The L Word. What is the big fucking deal? They're just like everyone else; leave them alone.

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