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 AfterEllen.com 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
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
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
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 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
Penélope 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.