Patricia VelasquezSection 4A, Entertainment Feature Thursday, November 12th, 2015
LGBT Weekly talks to the world’s first openly lesbian supermodel and star of the Caribbean-set lesbian Spanish language movie Liz in September
Ask a gay man over a certain age about the play or movie Boys in The Band and you’re likely to illicit a reaction. Maybe it’s ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘game-changing’ or even ‘sad.’ But whatever it is, it is. Now, ask that same generation of its lesbian equivalent? You wait. But the truth is most couldn’t name an iconic lesbian period piece. And why should we be able to? The answer didn’t debut for another eleven years; Hollywood had no interest at the time in exploiting its salaciousness in a way that they did with BITB and, besides, The Last Summer at Bluefish Cove was so narratively different from BITB (aka – the characters weren’t little more than self-hating queens) that to suggest another perspective should and could be told by a group of woman was almost as radical at the time.
But after 80 performances, it closed March 1, 1981 at The Actors Playhouse and remains a perennial favorite in regional theaters across the globe. And why shouldn’t it? It has multiple layers of dramatic richness among its generationally different characters, someone is dying, and some are in the closet. Its emotions are current, not that that would necessarily matter anyway.
But it’s still a mystery to a lot of people who consider themselves literary.
That’s why Liz in September, the movie version of this lesbian classic drama holds enormous potential and has Patricia Velasquez starring in the title role. Velasquez, who is probably most famous for any of her enormous show gigs as arguably the world’s most pre-eminent lesbian Latina supermodel, Sandra Bernhard love interest for almost two years, a successful businessperson who has managed to exploit renewable sources without sounding like a Johnny-come-lately and a motivational speaker whose book, Straight Talk has been an inspiration to thousands of teenagers across her native Venezuela and the world for giving a voice to the downtrodden, the hopeless and LGBTQ youth community.
San Diego LGBT Weekly had the pleasure to speak to the star about her role in the updated version from acclaimed Venezuelan director Fina Torres.
San Diego LGBT Weekly: How did the part of Liz find you?
Patricia Velasquez: Well, Fina Torres is a very well-known director who comes from my country, Venezuela. It was expected that at some point we would join forces and do something together. I saw her in Los Angeles and I said we should sit down and talk. And when we talked, she brought a project, a really beautiful project to me. She asked me if I was interested in working in this project and I said, you know, why don’t you come to my master class in Los Angeles with a teacher named Ivana Chubbuck. One of things about Fina is that she really listens which is the sign of a great director. I was about to go out and put on a scene; it was a scene from the original play of this film which is called, The Last Summer at Bluefish Cove. And she said, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this scene. I was offered the rights to this play and I couldn’t get it off the ground about six years ago.’ So I came out, did this scene and people went crazy. And once it was done, Fina said, ‘I think this is what we need to do. We need to focus on this.’ It’s very admirable what she did because she could have taken the rights to do the film and then turn it into a film for the Americans, shoot it in English and use straight actors. But she decided to do it in Spanish.
How close did you keep to the original part of Liz from Last Summer at Bluefish Cove and how did you make it your own.
I think the main quality that I identify with in Liz is her stubbornness. But, honestly, as an actor, you try to find elements of a character without judging your character that you can find in yourself. We are all parts of different characters no matter what, no matter what we play so I connected to that. Parts of fear, you know, fear of being loved, fear of commitment, loneliness, do you value your friendship, your yearning for love. So those are the parts of the play which I probably connected to the most. And then I believe that when a script comes to you, it come to you for a reason.
Would you have taken the part of Liz had you not come out or (even) concluded you were lesbian?
Oh, absolutely. I already came out years ago. But I’ve always had the belief that the less people know about you, the better because you’re supposed to be an actress (famous?) It’s very hard to look at actors when you know so much about their personal life. So I try to stay away a little bit so I can be not understood. What I didn’t know was that I was hurting myself along the way because I wasn’t really being true to myself. But I probably would have taken the part, for sure.
You have a very nice, a very touching story about you coming out to your mom. You know, and I’m paraphrasing here, you came out to your mom and she was very generous and she said, “It must have been so hard for you.” And she was putting your feelings ahead of hers. Do you think, though, she knew?
I think she knew. I think she knew, yes. I think parents do know. You know, you have to put yourself in the shoes of other people. For example, where was my mom? This was not something she was very used to seeing and it’s not a part of society that she’s normally in touch with. The feeling of it, she couldn’t quite figure out what it was because it’s not something she was exposed to. I think it’s more the not being able to understand that world. And also, like the case of my mom, thinking how hard it must have been for you all of these years, and also … of myself like am I being open enough to create a space for my daughter to be able to talk to me about who she is.
I’m a young girl. I live in a rural part of the world that doesn’t look favorably on my being a member of the LGTBQ community. I have parents I can’t come out to and I’m starting to lose hope. What advice would you give me?
I would advise this person to read my book, Straight Talk. It’s so wonderful because ever since my book has come out it has spoken to a lot of these girls and boys. You have no idea how many letters I get every single day. I would just say if they have access to this book, because it’s a very long journey, read it. If you don’t have access to my book, I would just say, you are born in a family, and you are born in the family you were supposed to be born into. That’s the number one thing I would say. And the number two thing I would say is, sometimes, when we want people to understand us, we forget to realize we both need the space to allow people to go through the process. Just give people the space to understand their new reality.
Liz In September is available on VOD from Wolfe On Demand and Vimeo On Demand and from 12/1 from iTunes, Amazon and others.
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