By Lawrence Ferber
Openly bisexual actress Evan Rachel Wood has been fired up lately about the Orlando massacre, misconceptions about bisexuality, and her role in the post-apocalyptic indie Into the Forest.
Headed up by queer female dream-team Ellen Page, Wood, and director Patricia Rozema (When Night Is Falling, I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing), the film is based on Jean Hegland’s post-apocalyptic 1996 novel. Living in the remote, woodsy Northwest with their father, siblings Nell (Page) and Eva (Wood) find that all power and technology has suddenly gone down due to a mysterious event. It turns out that’s the least of their problems when a tragic accident, shifty strangers, and a horrific crime strike their once-idyllic corner of the woods.
The Raleigh, North Carolina-raised Wood (her father, David Ira Wood, is a local theater icon) is probably best known for playing Mickey Rourke’s estranged lesbian daughter in 2008’s The Wrestler, a lusty sapphic vampire queen in HBO’s True Blood, and a debauched adolescent in her 2003 breakout Thirteen. The 28-year-old came out as bisexual in a 2011 Esquire interview, dated Kate Moennig of The L-Word (whom, she says, remains a best friend), and on June 10 of this year made a YouTube video (search on “Pride month Evan Rachel Wood”) to clear up misconceptions about bisexuality and share her personal tale of revelation.
“There is so much shame that comes with that ‘bisexual’ label, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to be ashamed or silent,’” she remarks.
The mother of a nearly three-year-old son (dad is actor Jamie Bell, whom she amicably parted with in 2014), Wood chatted by phone about post-apocalypse existence, the Orlando tragedy, her turn as an android in HBO’s upcoming sci-fi series Westworld, and which political figures she’d go on a date with.
Lawrence Ferber: As a North Carolinian, are you rolling your eyes about the state’s HB2 bathroom bill, transphobia, and other horrible GOP legislation going on over there lately?
Oh my God. I can’t even. It’s embarrassing. When I grew up there, we prided ourselves on being a progressive southern state. It’s really disturbing to see this happening.
Ellen Page brought both you and Rozema on Into the Forest. Was the fact she was also openly queer an element that helped convince you to sign on?
Well, the script really drew me, and it was just a really pleasant coincidence that Ellen and Patricia and I are all out. We had a few giggles about it, like that’s pretty cool. But no—it worked out that way.”
So what issue does the movie address that most compelled you?
How disconnected we are from our primal nature and how we relate to our environment. No one really knows or is taught how to live off the land, to forage for food, to survive without all the luxuries and conveniences of a soft bed or gas. Too often we don’t ask ourselves the question of what would happen if you didn’t have those readily available. They are luxuries. I felt it was a reminder of what’s really important when all those things are taken away—in this case, two sisters and the love they have for each other, because that’s what’s keeping them alive.”
This is a big spoiler to those unfamiliar with the book, but it needs to be touched on: there’s a scene where Eva is raped, and it’s downright painful to watch. Can you talk about that?
Yep, that was really intense. We did that in one take. The only thing important to me was how it was shot. I didn’t want to glorify it in any way or take away from the emotional trauma by focusing on just what’s happening physically, because I think that’s part of the problem of what’s happening with rape culture. People think it’s not a big deal because you’re still alive afterwards and it maybe only lasted 15 minutes. But what they don’t understand is it’s not the physical trauma that’s most damaging. Of course it’s damaging, painful, and horrible, but it’s the emotional scars rape leaves that take a lifetime to deal with and come back from. You lose a part of yourself, it’s taken from you, and it’s really hard to get back. I think that’s what we showed in the film. You see this girl just disappear slowly, and when that happens you’re in such shock your body doesn’t know how to handle it and you kind of leave.”
Did you and Ellen discuss the Orlando massacre when it happened in June?
She was one of the first people I contacted. I tried to make a point of reaching out to a lot of my queer friends, because obviously this is devastating for everyone, a blow to us all, but I think it cuts a little bit deeper to those who feel it could have been them. It’s devastating, and we were shaken up by it, but I view myself as a person who can stay strong in the face of despair and ignorance. This is one of those cases where I got really scared and sad, but then angry in a good way because it was motivation and inspiration. I’m just done hiding, I’m done walking on eggshells, and I think a lot of people feel that way, but I also have a desire to show and give people as much love as possible.”
Let’s shift gears to some lighter topics for a bit, shall we? Who are your current celebrity crushes?
You know what, I met Jamie Lee Curtis yesterday, and I’ve got to say she is a babe! I was so speechless and starstruck. I’ve been so in love with her for so long, and she was even more beautiful in person.
How about Nick Jonas, who has been happy to court the gay boys as well as the girls?
Oh, I don’t know enough about him and what he’s doing!
Elizabeth Warren? Would you say yes to a wine-and-cheese date with her?
I love her. Oh, hell yeah. She’s great.
And Bernie Sanders?
Sure! Can he bring the bird? [Laughs] I’d date them all except Trump.
Are you Team Hillary?
Ummmm . . . as opposed to Trump? [Laughs] Getting politically involved in the press is very dangerous right now. I’m not voting for Trump!
Whose life story would you most like to portray?
Janis Joplin. It’s a dream from forever and ever, and [the studios’ response is always] like, “Oh, you’re too pretty.” Dude—movie magic! She’s just incredible to me.
What can you tell me about your character in Westworld, and are there LGBT characters?
Absolutely. It’s based in the future, and it’s going to be much more fluid [sexually], so of course that’s there. My character is a “host.” I think what’s going to be really cool about the hosts—because we don’t like to use the word robot—is they could be more fluid and genderless. It’s going to blow people’s minds. The writing impresses me the most—it’s so intricate, deep—an existential nightmare, and very much based in reality. It’s set in the future but based on real technology we’re developing now, looking at the state of humanity and where we’re at, what we consider entertainment, and why we’re so attracted to darkness. It’s taking a good, hard look at that.
As the mom of a boy you call “the raddest son,” what is your wish for your child’s future?
More tolerance, empathy, kindness, and communication. That’s a reason I had children. Sometimes people think, “I’m not going to have a kid because everything’s so messed up,” but I felt that here’s my chance to put something good into the world—raise a good man, and for him to be the change. That’s a lot to put on him, but that’s how it works.”
Freelance contributor Lawrence Ferber is co-writer of the award-winning 2010 gay rom-com Bear City and author of its 2013 novelization.