BLUE, PALOMA, Wigs
Stage and screen star Julia Stiles currently stars in the WIGS Youtube channel series BLUE, playing a single mother trying to protect her son from the consequences of her secret career as an upscale escort. The talented actress also wrote and directs PALOMA, an upcoming WIGS scripted series set to debut this spring. Starring Grace Gummer in the title role, the series follows a young woman dealing with the unpredictability of relationships, both in romance and in the workplace.
Stiles has appeared in Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in the Park) as Viola and the West End revival of David Mamet's Oleanna. She reprised the role of Carol in the first ever Broadway production of Mamet's play in 2009.
The actress appeared in the film version of David Mamet's play Edmond and the motion picture A Little Trip to Heaven. Her other films include The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Identity, Mona Lisa's Smile, Hamlet, Ten Things I Hate About You, O, State and Main, Save the Last Dance and The Business of Strangers. On TV she guest starred as Lumen Pierce in the fifth season of the Showtime series Dexter, a role that earned her Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.
Stiles spoke by phone about Season 2 of the WIGS Blue and Paloma, premiering later this spring.
So what made you decide to do a web series to begin with?
You know what, it was as simple as wanting to work with Rodrigo Garcia, and I really love the way he wrote. He approached me about doing Blue I guess a little over more than a year ago. At first I was a little bit reluctant about the idea of a web series only because I didn't know what to expect, and I didn't know really how the programming on Youtube would develop, but I was intrigued also by the idea because I thought this is kind of the wave of the future and the way that people watch shows more and more, you know on their devices and on the computer.
But what really sold me was the first scene of the first episode in Season 1. It was just such a great premise and setup for a show, which is that this girl leading a double life is going to be constantly dealing with how to manage that and how to control it and that the two worlds are going to collide. In Season 1 she is with a client and as things get hot and heavy she realizes that he recognizes her from high school. I just thought that the idea that she's trying to keep something so secretive-a character that's living with a huge secret to me that was worth exploring. Then I sort of looked at the idea of doing a web series differently, which is that I do get a lot of creative freedom that you sometimes don't get when there's a lot more money involved or if you're working with a movie studio or a network.
Can you give us an overview about your new series Paloma?
Sure. It's four episodes and it's basically a rumination on love and how delicate love is. It's a year in a couples' relationship and how like the presence of a third person can destroy that relationship even if there's no infidelity or foul play. It's just like the idea of this girl being attracted to somebody else and a lot of suspicion and jealousy arises. But it's about a young woman who works in an art gallery, and she has a very flirtatious relationship with her boss that could help advance her career, and that ends up confusing her and also just destroying this loving relationship that she had with her boyfriend.
Since Blue and Paloma are both web series do they differ at all from the films on network television that you have done either creatively or technically?
Well, I think that the way that viewers watch them is different but day to day I felt like I was on a set of a TV show. The turnaround is faster so whereas in movies and with television shows the amount of time it takes to get something developed and financed and the setup and shot and out in theatres or on TV is so long. I mean it can be years, and the exciting thing about what we're doing with WIGS is that we can accomplish so much more so quickly. I wrote Paloma in September and it's already finished, and we shot Blue in November and December and it's already being aired.
In terms of technically it's really not that different. We use very professional crews and good production value and the cameras are pretty sophisticated, but creatively it's different. It's just much more contained so really when we were making Blue it was really about my collaboration with Rodrigo and when I was making Paloma I would look to Jon Avnet, our producer and the creator of the channel, for guidance. He gave me so much freedom to just go with my vision, and that's really different from I think when you're working on a studio film. You have a lot of executives with opinions and usually valid opinions but because there's so much more money at stake I think they're a lot more people to answer to. We didn't really have that with Blue or Paloma.
Where do you think Blue is in her life in relation to what many women confront about the future?
Well, in some ways it's really normal, in some ways it's really extraordinary. Her work as a call girl is very extraordinary and not the norm, obviously, but her relationship with her son is-I think she's confronting his adolescence in a way that is probably pretty normal for most mothers and sons. He's starting to be interested in girls and she's got to deal with answering all those questions about sex, and she's also uncomfortable with it.
Also, she's a young mother so it gets a little confusing between the two of them like what is the parent/child relationship, and sometimes they act like siblings, and who is actually parenting whom. Then another interesting thing that we approach in Season II is that because he started acting out in school they both have to go to therapy. I think probably a lot of mothers don't like the idea of their son having to be in therapy because the first person the therapist is going to look to blame is the mother, but also a mother like Blue who has such a web of lies that she's tangled in the last place that she wants to be is in a therapist's office being asked questions about her past so it gets interesting.
Since you wrote and directed Paloma what place is it coming from in terms of what you wanted to say?
Well, it's funny because when Rodrigo was talking to me about a second season of Blue we were discussing story ideas. I said, "Would you guys be open to the idea of me directing something?" and they said, "Yeah. Absolutely. Go write it." And I thought should I write something really political and intellectual and meaningful, and instead I-I mean I think the story is meaningful but I decided to write something that I would want to watch, and I also wrote it very specifically for the channel. I don't know. I guess it's as simple as I wrote something that I would want to watch. It was very much on my mind like questioning the idea of love and romantic love and how delicate that can be, and then a lot of it was just from my imagination. I knew that I had the opportunity to direct and so I just let my imagination kind of run wild.
I was curious how you watch your television and film - on your computer? on your phone? And has being on this show affected the way that you watch your film and television?
Well, I'm still trying to figure that out; meaning where and how to watch things. I actually cancelled my cable a few months ago because I thought-well, first of all I was traveling but I also thought like there are so many channels and so many things out there that I just felt like there was a lot of white noise. I thought I can just watch everything on the Internet, but I still like the bigger screen so I don't think-I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it out, and I still go to the movies. I like to sit in a dark theatre, and I enjoy the projection of film.
But as technology gets better and better I do think if you can really focus your attention on your computer screen then-that's really the big challenge to me but luckily what we've been able to do with WIGS and Blue in particular is like you can watch one episode at a time or you can watch a bunch of episodes. If you watch them all the way through the story of ... actually about the length of a movie, but we've made sure that in telling the story that it holds for The Hour and a half that is the first season.
Could you talk a little bit just about your reaction when you found out Blue would be coming back and that you would get to do more episodes?
Oh I was really excited. It was really fun to talk to Rodrigo about story ideas, but then also one thing that's really, really lovely about the WIG channel is it's like the first time I felt like I'm part of a community. A lot of times when you work on a movie or a TV show you get very, very close to the people that you're working with, and then you may or may not keep in touch with them. But particularly because I got to work on Blue twice and then work on Paloma with the same crew and the same Production Office I feel like I've developed a real wonderful closeness with Rodrigo Garcia and Jon Avnet. They were wonderful mentors to me but also even just seeing the same crew members every day is really comforting and nice.
Is there anything that you can share with us about some of the upcoming episodes? Any spoilers or things to get people excited?
Julia Well, if you can imagine that Blue has to go to therapy I think that's such a-when Rodrigo suggested that we have Blue and her son see a therapist I thought that was really interesting because obviously most people choose to go to therapy, but because Blue is forced to go there the idea that somebody who is leading a double life and trying to keep so many secrets that she would be asked lots of questions about her past I think is a perfect setup for tension.
A lot of roles of the roles that you chose seem to be about female empowerment, for example, Ten Things I Hate about You. How do you go about choosing certain roles?
It's interesting you say that because I don't think that Blue is very empowered but how do I choose? You know the platform doesn't really matter to me whether it's stage or theatre or even a web series. I just am more interested in like if it's a story that I would want to watch and if it's a character that I feel like I can contribute something to then that's really what gets me. I mean it starts with good writing but I also like to-I've learned more and more that especially with film and TV it has a lot to do with who the director is and if I like the director's vision.
Now that you're directing Paloma what was that experience like and has that always been kind of a goal of yours? Would you like to direct more in the future whether it be YouTube, TV, or film?
Yes. I had directed a short film many years ago that ... is in and I got hooked. I think the biggest trick is finding ways to practice, and I thought it was too big of a leap to jump in to like a feature and plus it's very hard to get feature films made. But when I started working with Jon and Rodrigo I thought this is a great platform and a great opportunity to try my hand at directing again.
I think yeah I just saw an opportunity there, and also it's a question of having a story that you're interested in exploring for a good amount of time because directing is a real time commitment. But yeah I think it's one of the most joyous things that I've experience while I was making Paloma was watching something that was in your imagination when you're sitting alone at a computer come to life, and then kind of take on a life of its own.
Caryn Robbins is a features editor for BroadwayWorld, covering TV, flm and the best of Broadway theater. |