Actress and musician Leisha Hailey may be best known as the lovable Alice Pieszecki in The L Word, but she’s been making music and gracing the screen for over twenty years. In the irreverent, campy horror flick, Dead Ant, Hailey plays Stevie, a member of the once popular hair band, Sonic Grave. When the band is en-route to play at a Coachella-like music fest, they stop along the way to pick up some peyote and trip together in the desert. However, things go awry when Stevie’s bandmate kills an ant, and the band is cursed from sun up to sun down. I had a chance to talk with Hailey about her new movie, and being an out lesbian in Hollywood.
Bella Books: I get very excited whenever you pop up on a TV show or movie. And I love that you’re getting to play such a fun, badass character in Dead Ant. Now I’m scared of ants.
Leisha Hailey: Oh are you?
BB: No I was just joking. [laughs] So how would you describe Stevie, the band’s drummer and driver?
LH: Driver. That’s a good one! I watched probably eighteen hours of Lita Ford Youtube videos. I really wanted to base the character kind of on her, just physically and how she moves and stuff. I think I identified a lot with the has-been quality of her. I’ve been doing music over twenty years and when I read the script I was really excited about that part of it, that it was this band trying to make a comeback and not giving up. I identified with that a lot. I think she’s bad ass. She’s kind of clueless but she gets through life.
BB: I like that Dead Ant doesn’t take itself too seriously and really embraces the quality of the story. It almost kind of gives me a Grindhouse feel.
LH: I think we all dove really hard into trying to be as genuinely over the top as possible, like finding the reality in the characters but having the most fun we possibly could. It’s so ridiculous but you can’t take it too seriously. I think it would have been a totally different movie if we had.
BB: What were some of your favorite scenes to film because there’s a lot of frivolity and craziness happening?
Leisha: I had a lot of fun inside the trailer. We did that on a set with green screens for a couple of weeks. So all the ants, when they’re attacking the trailer, they were like pieces of green tape that we were screaming to. That’s when we were in really tight quarters together and Tom Arnold is so extremely funny. It was unbelievable. We were just hot and sweaty and screaming. That was my favorite part of the whole filming process.
BB: The film is premiering at ScreamFest on October 10th, and please tell me that you’ll be wearing Stevie’s wig because you rocked that look so hard.
LH: By the way, it was just a tiny little hair piece, just the bangs. The rest is my hair but we found that hair piece and we sprayed it to death and clipped it in the front of my hair. I think I’ll probably look a little more like myself.
BB: Will this be your first time attending the fest?
LH: Yes it will.
BB: You’ve been in a couple of horror movies over the years. Are you a horror fan yourself?
LH: I can’t say that I was to begin with but now I really enjoy the genre because I think when you know it from the other side it’s a lot more entertaining and a lot less scary to watch. I don’t know how I fell into this genre to be honest.
BB: It works for you though! It really does.
LH: Oh good! Well thank you.
BB: Are you a big Halloween person? Do you have major plans for Halloween? Are you the go all in costume kind of person?
LH: I’m like completely opposite. I might get a bag of candy for the kids in the neighborhood but it’s never been my holiday. Thanksgiving is more my jam.
BB: So you’ve been out for pretty much all of your career and you’ve been such an inspiration to so many people. It’s becoming more common for actors to be more open about their sexuality but it certainly hasn’t been an easy road. I’m just curious, in your position, how have you seen the industry change over the last ten years?
LH: The industry? I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think it’s changed a lot. The world has. I think the industry has to catch up. I don’t think there’s enough gay content on television. I don’t think — I was just telling the last interviewer that I definitely felt like I was pigeon holed after The L Word stopped and got a lot of offers for gay roles. It was a little heartbreaking because as an actor you want to be seen as someone who can do more than that. It’s kind of funny that everyone’s like “she’s gay so she can play gay.” It’s a little tired.
BB Interesting. I always like asking out actors their perspective on things because I think everyone has their own experience with things. You were such a hugely known, out queer actor in a hugely known, popular queer show so your experience is by far very unique.
LH: My whole life I’ve really thought and still believe that being out was a really positive force in my career. I think it’s based on honesty and that always helps with anything. I do think Hollywood can have a limited perspective on that, which was a little hard to swallow. But I got through and I’ve played a lot of roles that aren’t gay and it’s really rewarding to do that as well.