Early in her acting career, Laurel Holloman honed her skills on Chicago, New York, London and Los Angeles stages. In 1995, she kicked off a successful film career with her breakout role as baby butch Randy Dean in The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love. Nearly 10 years later, she took over the small screen in Showtime’s lesbian drama, The L Word. As Tina Kennard, she’s had many ups and downs – from a tumultuous breakup with Bette (Jennifer Beals) and a return to dating men to being back at the top of her game in the entertainment world while balancing being a mom to her and Bette’s daughter.
With the fourth season of The L Word underway, she talks to PopGurls about Tina’s history and her relationship with Bette, working on Angel and what she considers sexy.
Note: There are some general spoilers for Season 4 below.
How have your feelings changed playing Tina throughout each season?
It’s hard to say, I’ve never been on a TV show for this long. I’m not sure if it has to do with having been on something this long – because I usually do film and you do it and walk away and go do something else.
Each season has been really different for me so it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I felt really connected to the first season and really proud of my work and the writing and everything. It was the same way in second season. For me, it shifted in [the third] season because my character went with a man. I didn’t see that coming — I was shocked, but excited to be presented with a challenge. But then the challenge wasn’t ultimately very explored. It’s complex, I guess, my feelings about each season.
There are some great subjects that were brought up [last season], like the custody issue of Bette and Tina. I think it’s fantastic and it’s important to bring up, especially in the political climate that we’re currently living in right now. It’s been a journey to stay with this character and I now look at it like – ‘Wow, anything can happen!’ If you had told me this was going to happen when I was shooting in the first season, I would have been surprised. Our characters can do anything — in some ways, I feel like it’s a great job and I’m happy to be here. ‘What do you want me to do next?’ I try to be professional and try to tell the truth that I’m given. If this is Tina’s truth then I’ll find a way to play it. I have found [the character in] Season 3 and Season 4 more difficult to play.
With everybody else, you get some sense of their history — except for Tina.
I think that a lot of people write into the boards and say that Tina’s a mystery and in some ways I can see that because who knows where she came from and why she behaves the way she does?
There were some things that were told to me by [Co-Executive Producer] Rose Troche and [Executive Producer] Ilene Chaiken when I did the pilot. Tina’s mom was really, really liberal but yet at times she was almost irritating because she was full of contradictions. Her father wasn’t very present at all in her life. I’ve done my own history, because every time I play any character I have to do a history to make the choices that that person’s going to make. It wouldn’t be just for The L Word — it would be for any job I’ve ever done.
Originally when I first read this pilot, I thought [Tina] had probably come out in college. And obviously, what was presented to me is that she’d always been with men, she was engaged to a man and then she met Bette and then she fell in love. And she identified as a lesbian. What Season 4 explores is that Tina still identifies as a lesbian although she’s with this man. But I think that she’s living not completely in the truth of what she is so therefore you’ll see that she’s very unsettled in Season 4.
What do you think is the truth of what or who, Tina is?
Well, technically, she’s bisexual. Politically, I think she’s a lesbian. If you want to break it all down — on the levels of her heart, she’s just somebody who follows her heart, regardless of her politics. Regardless of anything else. Growing up in the liberal environment that she grew up in, she wasn’t rebelling against anything. There’s other levels of what Tina might be rebelling against, [but] going with Bette was not against any kind of family background.
Ilene said another thing to me that I found really interesting — one reason Tina’s drawn to Henry (Steven Eckholdt) is because she’s much more powerful in the relationship than she was in her relationship with Bette. She has more freedom, she has a job, she can have her kid — he helps her find a nanny so she can have someone take care of her kid. She’s much more a non-traditional woman in her relationship with this man.
Which is not where Tina was in her relationship w/Bette.
It’s totally true because Bette has issues with wanting someone to be subservient in the relationship and I think Tina was just squashed and just couldn’t do it anymore. I think that’s a lot of why I think it ends up being Henry, because it wouldn’t have been a man who put her in a traditional [role]. There are a lot of men out there who grew up with working mothers and non-traditional set-ups and they’re just used to women working and I think he’s that kind of person.
I don’t think he’s her soulmate or anything but Tina needs to grow beyond just being someone’s girlfriend. And I think that’s kind of what’s starting to happen. Especially in her career — because her career is really taking off.
Will she be staying with the production company?
She’s a full-tilt professional, film executive — which is exactly what she was but maybe on a lower level — she was a D-girl, a development executive, in Hollywood. Tina worked for seven years, which is why it was so frustrating for me that it was painted that she was some kept woman. She always worked, she just didn’t make as much as Bette.
That became a big issue between Tina and Bette — the financial disparity.
I also think that Bette wanted control — she wanted to pay the mortgage, she wants to pay everything so ultimately she controls what they do and where they go, those kind of things. Which is not just [in] same-sex relationships, it’s all relationships when you share responsibility of a house, mortgage, children, childcare, juggling jobs, juggling time. We do this thing where we go, ‘oh, well, the person that makes the most money gets the choice.’ Well, why doesn’t the person who takes care of the child get the choice? It’s really hard work! It’s really not fair and it’s not fair to do it in any type of relationship.
Tina’s just as guilty of it when she starts to make money and Bette was struggling — she hoards it over Bette. I think what Ilene did — this was one part of the season that I really did like to play — she really shows the bad behavior, what people do when it comes to money.
Everybody I’ve ever heard who’s done any kind of counseling for couples have always said that when you fight about money, that’s not what you’re really fighting about. Money’s a currency, it’s something that exists in the world. When it really comes down to it, Bette and Tina are going to have a roof over their heads. If they don’t have that house, they’ll have another house. They’re two intelligent people who can figure it out and when you argue about the bits and pieces of it, the fight isn’t about the money, it’s about deeper, deeper, deeper issues. Like Bette betrayed Tina, Tina has feelings for a man — there are all these things and it gets propelled into the nitpicky stuff about money.
People, they change. Some women will want to stay home with the child and a few years later, they want to get out and do something. I think this is very common in same-sex relationships with women because it so complex with how many opportunities women are given today.
That’s a good point.
That’s something that I did appreciate having to explore in Season 3. I do like that Ilene creates characters that aren’t black and white — when you see Tina in the beginning, she’s just seems like she’s very soulful and good and honest, and then you realize that she has all her flaws too. She’s got a dark side. That’s definitely more interesting when you’re on a show for many years, playing the same character, you certainly don’t always want to do the same thing.
Were you told that Tina would be with a man?
I was told in the beginning of Season 3 that that would happen. The reason I was told it was going to happen is because it had happened to a lot of people that Ilene had known, especially after there were kids in the picture. She wanted to tell the story and she wanted to explore it. I wish that she had explored it a little bit more in the sense that you could see what the real attraction was between Henry and Tina, and who he was as a man.
After a few episodes, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen so it was hard to really understand why Tina did any of that. The history I gave myself is that she did it because she wanted to fight less. It was easy, Henry wasn’t a person that she was going to sit there and have a bunch of fights with. And she wanted to really explore her career and be supported with it. To tell you the truth, I don’t think Bette would have ever been very interested in her career, because I think Bette really focuses on her own career. Tina didn’t have anyone to share the movie business with.
But anything can happen in Season 4, it could be that after being apart for a little bit, Bette and Tina realize that they are great friends and there is a connection and there is something. And they start to listen to each other more.
Everyone seems to have an opinion about Tina and Bette, but what’s your take on the Bette/Tina relationship?
For Tina, I think Bette is the love of her life, without a doubt.
Tina has tendencies toward co-dependency and you kind of see that in the beginning, in the pilot, and when you see her in Season 4, she’s gotten to do a lot of the things she wanted to do. She wanted to have a child, she wanted to go back and have her career. She’s sort of got it and she’s juggling it all — except, she’s with a man. She’s not really doing so well because she’s not really with her friends. It’s making her feel uncomfortable. It’s a great thing because there are other things that have changed and changed her as a person and she could never go back to being who she was. She can never go back to being “Bette’s Wife.” She may go back to being Bette’s partner on an equal basis, but she was never treated as an equal partner. She can’t go back there because she’s grown.
I think that she’s the type that went from a man who she was engaged to, that took care of her to Bette who kind of took care of her. [Now] she’s definitely not being taken care of by anyone. She won’t live with Henry, she won’t move in with him, she doesn’t want to live with him. She doesn’t want to get married to him. She’s definitely on her own right now. I have no control over it — but I would love to see more of her history onscreen, I would love to see her date. I would love to see her pick up a woman, I would love to see how she manages that. I’d love to see her in some positions that we haven’t seen her in.
Even with the other women Tina’s dated, she’s been pursued.
Always been pursued. I even asked Ilene — if there ever is another woman, can I be the pursuer? I think it’s totally in Tina, it’s not a quality that she doesn’t have. People aren’t black and white that way. Especially when in matters of the heart, or even your sex drive (laughs). Sometimes you’re being pursued and sometimes you’re pursuing.
What do you think is Tina’s pursuing style?
It would be not so overt. It would be more subtle, but I think it would be very aggressive. Once she pins herself onto something, she stays focused. I think her romances go hard and fast. I don’t think she’s the player type. She doesn’t have the thing where she has to sleep with as many women as she can. She has to feel a connection.
When the Helena thing came about, there was hardly any dialogue and the dialogue that was there, unfortunately, was a little bit cheesy. So I went to Ilene and asked why does this character sleep with Helena Peabody (Rachel Shelley)? She said, ‘Well, she’s so beautiful.’ I said that I’d already established that my character is not that shallow and I put a lot of work into the fact that she needed a soulful connection with somebody. It was fantastic, Ilene changed it to Helena being very attracted to Tina’s pregnancy and her body, which is something that Tina was feeling insecure about. That charm that Helena had, and that seduction hit Tina in a way, because it hit all the insecurities that she was having. So it made it a more authentic seduction.
I’m also like, ‘uh, there’s pretty people everywhere!’ It doesn’t mean you’re going to sleep with all of them (laughs). Tina definitely has some shallow qualities but I think when she fell for Bette, she fell in love with this whole person and so the next woman she was going to sleep with, it couldn’t have been that — I was so pregnant! They handled it really well, I’m very proud of what happened in Season 2 and how it all evolved. I think for me, Season 3, was probably the hardest.
Yeah, that transition — I also never really thought that Tina would seek out men from the Internet. But you just sort of make the choice to play it. We have no control over any of it — plot, story, writing. We can only try to sort of collaborate on certain things that we feel would be more truthful for a character since we’ve lived in their skin for a little while. But that’s okay because it’s Ilene’s show. I want to just act, I don’t want to control it. (laughs)
Many fans were disappointed in the lack of mention of Dana’s death in the Season 4 premiere. Did you feel a disconnect with Dana missing?
The death of Dana, to me, when you have something like that significant and tragic — it just has a ripple effect on a group of friends. And although she’s mentioned, it just didn’t seem realistic. It could be that it’s television and it’s entertainment and they didn’t want to bring people down. I was happy to have a breast cancer storyline, [but] it didn’t seem very realistic to me in the way that death is dealt with — and how it would penetrate all these people, not just Alice, but her other friends. I don’t think my character mentions a word about Dana the entire season, she might, but I don’t remember it.
Interesting, considering how essential she was to the group for so many years.
Yeah, I do think it’s addressed a little bit with Alice. I will say this and a lot of people were open about it, Kate (Moenning) was open about it — it just sucked, it sucked that she died.
I felt like when we did the show — and I’ll always feel this way — this cast was like everything fit like a glove, we just clicked. I would have loved to have seen the exploration of all these characters, and some of the characters that were added. But now there’s a lot of characters — I probably feel that way because I’m an original cast member, but it’s very different now. I do think that you have to bring new people in to continue certain storylines. I would have loved to see Alice and Dana in a relationship, and if Bette and Tina weren’t going to be in one, I would love to have seen how Alice and Dana were.
All the women on The L Word are sexy in their own way. What do you define as sexy?
A sense of humor. Just not taking yourself too seriously. For me, I’m just not attracted to power, manipulation and ego — I don’t find it sexy. I find it to be kind of a facade. And if the façade is there, how do you get in, how do you see the person that you’re attracted to? For me, it’s that wicked smart sense of humor that’s sexy — combined with people who are very passionate.
What girlie drink do you secretly (or not so secretly) love?
It’s so embarrassing but I love Cosmopolitans. (laughs) And that’s so girlie. But I can drink a Jack and Coke, too!
What song reminds you of your first crush?
First crush — I’m so melancholy when it comes to music, probably something from Badly Drawn Boy. Just sort of moody because I’d probably have a crush where I couldn’t tell anybody, I’d just have to live with it in pain. (laughs)
You’ve been involved in several charities.
I have done benefits — we did a benefit for Hospice because my mother used to work in the Hospice in North Carolina and we did that for the movie, A Rising Place.
And The L Word, in a way, has covered a lot of things like the Lyon-Martin Women’s Center in San Francisco — we raised a ton of money for them and that was really fantastic and I kind of wanted to pick something separate from the show.
[I was] a little bit influenced by my mom. I know Rachel supports them on her website. This year my husband and I asked not to receive any presents and we didn’t give any presents to our daughter — we just made donations to Doctors without Borders.
I just think it’s tricky to find an organization that you feel the money gets distributed in the right ways. It’s a challenge, especially in the Sudan and those counties, to make sure it’s distributed the correct way and Doctors Without Borders is known for its work and is probably one of the most powerful organizations in Africa. When it was time to pick a place to give donations, Doctors Without Borders was probably the one that was the most important.
I hope that, as I keep working as an actor, I try to explore what other organizations might need help and need attention. I have a friend who’s doing a documentary about child prostitution — it’s started mostly in Thailand but really what she found out is that a lot of the sex slave trade was happening in the United States, and it’s happening in Vancouver.
Child prostitution was discussed in the documentary Born into Brothels as well. It really shakes your world up to sit down and really think about what’s going on.
It does — it’s such an intense thing. It’s sort of mindblowing, especially now that I have a daughter just to hear the stories that she told. She first went over there with Eve Ensler because they were shooting V-Day stuff. [She met] an 11 year old girl who would sell herself for 5 dollars because her family can’t eat — and the family will let it happen. And the younger you go, the more money. It’s so scary. It definitely will go down as one of these horrible things that our government continues to overlook, along with everything that’s going on in Africa.
[My friend] wants to create centers for these children who end up being runaways and have been sexually abused — a place for them to go, that can help them get on their feet and get back in the world again. It’s called The NEST Foundation — so hopefully, that would be something I’d like to help her with if I can.
On a lighter note, you played Justine Cooper in several episodes of Angel. What did you think when you first read the script? Was it like, “Whoa. Cool.” or “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into? Get my agent on the phone!”
With everything in that show and with Joss Whedon, I’m like ‘Cool! Bring it on!’ I loved, loved, loved doing that show. I had such a good time and I loved the drama in it, I loved the physical stunts in it. I would do anything for Joss Whedon for him again — I don’t know if he’s going to do more TV or keep doing films. The writing is just fabulous and fun, and full of layers and metaphors.
It was an incredibly professional set. And they had a lot bigger budget than what we have on The L Word so it was fun to explore what that was like (laughs). It was one of those things — it’s hard to get kick-ass, tough girl parts. And then to have a great sense of humor attached to them — that’s what was fun.
Is that what attracted you to the role?
Yeah, when I first heard about it, I didn’t know the show and I didn’t really know about Buffy or Angel. It was actually my manager that said you should really consider this. The character was a Sigourney Weaver/Ripley type, very military, very tough, very angry. And I just felt like I hadn’t done that.
It was very quick — I read for everybody and while I was driving home, driving out of the parking lot, they called and offered it to me. So I think they’d seen a lot of people and were having trouble finding it and it just kind of clicked. They were very positive and supportive — I think it was only supposed to be a few episodes and it ended up being, like, eight or more. They were just really happy with what I did with the character, and I had a blast. I overlapped the beginning of Angel with the pilot of The L Word, and since I was a regular on The L Word, I had to fly back and then had to shoot Angel on a Saturday which was a bit complicated — so I was aware that was probably going to be my last Angel (laughs). Schedules were conflicting.
Did anything surprise you about working on the show?
The loyalty of the fans. People are very, very loyal to Angel and Buffy. The funny thing is that Jennifer Beals is a HUGE fan and she’s watched all of them. She started with Buffy and went through all the Angels.
Did you have any memorable Whedonverse fan encounters?
Oh yeah, right after the episode where I slit Wesley’s throat — which was SO much fun to shoot! It’s so out there and it was so great. I was in an office and this woman was like, ‘I’m going to kill you! I can’t believe you, you are so evil!’ (laughs) I forgot — I just don’t think that anyone watches anything I do, ever. I just don’t think that way and I was like, ‘WHAT?’ And then [I realized], ‘Oh yeah, Justine, She’s crazy.’
Speaking of fan encounters – you’ve been to The L Word conventions. What was that like?
I’ve been to two — we all went to one this year and I went to one the year before. And that was probably the most contact I’ve had with fans, ever. It was really intense and emotional, and exciting to also see that it’s reached so many foreign audiences. Because so many people that make it to London fly in from Paris, Italy, all sorts of places. There were girls that were from Russia, Japan. A lot of people are watching it on DVD because they’re not getting it where they are. It’s fascinating and exciting.
That’s when, for me, as frustrated as I might get with the craziness of the storylines and consistencies and the growing cast and I just go, ‘Wow, I’ve been blessed to be part of something that’s touching so many people on a different type of level and has a social impact and a political impact that way.’ Going to London was the first time that I really got to feel that on an emotional level. And I just felt a huge sense of pride and I felt very blessed.
Property of PopGurls.com — Do not repost without permission.