Toni Collette: The Many Faces of Toni

Toni Collette: The Many Faces of Toni

She smooched Julianne Moore in The Hours, supported her suicidal gay brother in Little Miss Sunshine, and pretended to be a drag queen in Connie and Carla. Now Toni Collette finds herself prowling “titty bars” as a suburban housewife with dissociative identity disorder (and a teenage gay son) in The United States of Tara, a Showtime original series created by Steven Spielberg with episodes written by Juno scribe Diablo Cody. But regardless of the role, the 36-year-old Oscar-nominated Aussie knows that gays will always adore her — and she knows that ABBA has a lot to do with it.

The Advocate: In The United States of Tara, Tara suffers from a condition formerly known as multiple personality disorder. Do any of her personalities have lesbian tendencies?
Toni Collette: “T,” the provocative 16-year-old girl, could probably go both ways. We haven’t seen it onscreen thus far, but she’s definitely the most overtly sexual of all of the alters.

Have you ever explored that side of your own personality?
Um, I don’t think this interview is about that. But thank you for asking, though!

Fair enough, but another one of Tara’s alters,  a male personality named “Buck,” must’ve helped you get in touch with your butch side. Does anyone dismiss Buck as a big dyke?
Most people around Tara understand what she’s going through, and those who don’t understand learn very quickly or find it very confusing. All of her alters exist as extreme versions of feelings that are repressed within Tara, and Buck is considered the “angry protector.” It’s not that Tara’s pretending to be a guy or dressing up as a guy. When she’s Buck, Buck believes that he’s Buck, so there’s no question that he is a guy; therefore, people that know Tara treat him as a guy. He likes to go to titty bars and he flirts with girls. He’s also homophobic, actually. Tara and her husband have a gay son, and Buck has a chip on his shoulder about that.

Tara writer Diablo Cody also knows her way around a titty bar. Did you hit the town with her?
Diablo knows a lot of things. We hung out a little bit, but we were shooting a half hour [of final scenes] every five days, so there wasn’t much time for socializing. But she’s a fantastic writer with an original voice. I’m so excited to work with such great material, because it’s very rare.

Buck aside, how does Tara’s son’s sexuality affect the family dynamic?
It’s no different from having a straight son. They just accept him for who he is, and they accept his crushes. Love is love no matter where it stems from or who it’s given to. He’s a cherished, beautiful member of the family. I love that character so much. He’s absolutely divine. Keir Gilchrist, who plays him, is such a brilliant young actor.

How might you react if your own daughter, Sage Florence, turned out to be gay?
I wouldn’t care, as long as she’s happy. Look, life is short, so why limit it? I accept people and their decisions no matter what they are. In fact, I think that’s the biggest problem in the world: People want others to align themselves with their beliefs. If people were more accepting of differences, it would be a much more peaceful planet.

Your daughter recently had her first birthday. How has motherhood changed you this past year?
It’s the most profound experience of my life, so I don’t even know whether I can articulate that for you. Now that I am a mother, I don’t think anything I could say could actually really explain how it feels. Until you become a parent, there’s no real understanding.

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