And Then Came Lola : Interview with actress Ashleigh Sumner

And Then Came Lola : Interview d'Ashleigh Sumner, l'interprète de Lola

Interview by Univers-L team on June 28, 2010 for Univers-L.com

You’re an actress and a painter, so you’re a full artist. Could you tell us a bit about your background ? What lead you to share your time between those two activities ?

Well, I’ve always been artistically inclined as far as I can remember.  As a small kid, my brother and I were constantly drawing and working on coloring books. My mother made sure we always had a water color painting set as well.  I had a couple of high school drawing classes but that is as far as my formal visual art training goes.  Now, as an actor I’m much more heavily “trained.”  My college degree is in theatre arts and even now I continue to study in an acting class.  Even though I didn’t pursue painting professionally until 2009, I still would paint for myself.  It wasn’t until the Writer’s Strike in 2009, when everything acting wise shut down in Los Angeles for over a year, that I began to branch out with my painting.  I needed another creative outlet to pursue while the industry shut down.

I’ve found that acting and painting have completely found a way to balance themselves out.  When I’m not busy with an acting project, I’m busy preparing for an art show and vice versa. With acting, you have to be cast or working in a class to be creative.  It’s a completely collaborative art which beautiful. With painting, you get to be creative on your time. It’s solitary. It’s a complete solitary expression of one’s self.  I find that very empowering.

How did you end up playing in And Then Came Lola ?

Jill Bennett actually recommended me for the role.  Megan Siler and Ellen Seidler very much wanted to cast actual lesbians in nearly every role in the film (which really had never been done before) and they asked Jill if she knew any lesbian actresses.  My name came up and the directors contacted me for an audition. The rest is history.

Have you seen Run, Lola, Run, the German movie which inspired And Then Came Lola ?

Yes. I remember seeing Run, Lola, Run during college at an art movie house.  I was absolutely blown away by it.  I had never seen anything like before.  It was just so edgy and the music on the soundtrack was like nothing I had ever heard before.  Plus, I absolutely feel in love with the strength and vulnerability that Franka Potente brought to the role.

What was it that attracted you to Lola’s character ?

I was excited to finally have the opportunity to show my comedy chops.  I’m usually cast in dramas so it was great to finally express my lighter side. I was also attracted to the role because of how physical it was.  Usually physical roles are reserved for the boys so I felt the role was a rare opportunity in that regard.  Plus, it was a huge opportunity for me to be the lead in a feature. I had never had that opportunity before so I was very much attracted to the challenge of that.

Did you have a say in the process of writing, editing, or the other stages of production ?

The directors, Megan Siler and Ellen Seidler were very collaborative with all their actors.  Before we started shooting we had a few rehearsals and they were very open to script suggestions or ideas which was wonderful.  Even when we were in the process of shooting, I’d ask if I could improv a few scenes and they were completely open to it.  They trusted whatever felt organic for me and just let me run with it.

There’s a great chemistry between Jill Bennett and yourself during the sex scenes. What did you do to work on this ?

Jill and I had the bonus of really liking one another as both actors and people. We both felt comfortable with one another from the begining which is good when your playing two characters who are romantically connected to one another. We trusted what chemistry was already there and just had fun with it. And love scenes are really just like any other scene in the sense there’s still a story to be told; there’s still character intention and objectives.  At the end of the day, it’s still a scene about telling the over all story of these two people’s relationship to one another. I think Jill and I always kept that in mind and brought that to the table…or bed in this case.

Following Lola’s example, are you the type of persons ready to do almost anything for love, even at your own risks ?
 
You know, I’m definitely a free spirit but I’m also a Capricorn.  We tend to move a slower more planned out pace when it comes to love.

Couple therapy is an Ariadne’s thread throughout the story. Do you think a relationship needs to be analized or should we trust our instinct? Both maybe…

I would say a little of both…

San Francisco is beautifully highlighted. Did you know this city before the shooting ?

No. I hadn’t really had the opportunity to spend much time in San Francisco before I shot Lola.  I have to say, I now LOVE San Francisco. I truly adore the city and have made so many friends connected with the film.  I visit the city all the time.

With Jill Bennett, Cathy DeBueno, Jessica Graham and yourself featuring, the cast counts a lot of “out and proud” lesbians. Is it an advantage or a disadvantage when making a lesbian movie ?

If there’s a disadvantage to making a lesbian film, I haven’t felt any fall out from shooting And Then Came Lola. Only positive things have resulted from my experience with this film.

Ashleigh Sumner

Do you think that being out about your sexual orientation can be prejudicial for your career ?

I think Hollywood discriminates in so many ways, and not just for sexual orientation. Honestly, I think more actresses are the victims of discrimination because of body type than sexual orientation.  They way I see it, in the age of the Internet, you can either choose to be “out” or some one else will simply “out” you.  If you choose to be out, you keep your power. You get to make the choice and come out on your terms and not someone else’s.  Having said that, I think if you are an actor and you choose to be out, you have to be that much better as an artist. You have to work that much harder as an actor.  If more attention is paid to my sexual orientation than my performance in a role, I think it’s time for me to get back to the drawing board – back to acting class and working on the craft. That’s the attitude I try to have.

Has the complete absence of heterosexuals in the cast been a deliberate choice from the start ? Did it bother you ? 

It was a choice by the directors, Megan and Ellen, to cast actual lesbians or bi sexual women in the lesbian roles in the film.  It didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I found it refreshing.  The truth is, more straight people are still cast in gay roles than gay actors are especially in television. I think it’s amazing to see talented out actresses cast in these roles.  From the top to the bottom, this is a film truly by the community for the community. That’s an element I find audiences are really responding to.  This project wasn’t, “gay for pay” in any way shape or form.

The whole bunch of actresses seems to have a great time during the shooting. Some anecdotes you want to share ? 

Let’s just say, this is the most fun I’ve ever had on project.

You run like crazy during the whole piece. Did you have a special training before the shooting ? 

I’m pretty athletic and work out regularly.  I tried running every other day to prepare for the film, but it still wasn’t enough.  I had no idea how physically demanding the role was actually going to be.

You’ve let a cartoon girl make all the dangerous stuff for you. Wasn’t that too frustrating ?

After tumbling off the bike during one take, I was quite happy to have Jett Atwood draw all the dangerous stuff.

So the rumour had it true : straight people do keep their socks in bed and lesbians keep their underwear…

Yeah. I guess it is.

Can you tell us a bit about your work as a painter ? 

My work is abstract. I guess the best way to describe it is kind of a modern take on abstract expressionism. You can check it out on my website –www.sumnerartstudio.com

Do you have plans in the air ? 

I currently have an art show coming up next month so I’m hard at work with that.  I just finished playing the lead in a theatre production in Los Angeles so I’m catching my breath a bit from finishing that up. As far as upcoming projects go, I have a few irons in the fire.  I hope to be back in front of the camera very soon.

Ashleigh Sumner

A propos de Isabelle B. Price

Isabelle B. Price
Créatrice du site et Rédactrice en Chef. Née en Auvergne, elle s’est rapidement passionnée pour les séries télévisées. Dès l’enfance elle considérait déjà Bioman comme une série culte. Elle a ensuite regardé avec assiduité Alerte à Malibu et Les Dessous de Palm Beach avant l’arrivée de séries inoubliables telles X-Files, Urgences et Buffy contre les Vampires.

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