If you've been watching TV with any regularity over the last several years, you've no doubt come across actress Jessalyn Gilsig, even if you didn't know her by name. She's been a series regular on a variety of big shows -- it's kind of wild how much she's done -- from "NYPD Blue" and" CSI" to "Boston Public," "Heroes," and "Friday Night Lights." As xoJane's resident fan of "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee" (two of the more recent shows to showcase Jessalyn's talents), it was a no-brainer that I'd do the interview.
I gave Jessalyn a ring to hear what's been going on in her post-Glee life, and found out she's just wrapped up a new film: "Somewhere Slow," an "unconventional love story" involving convenience store robberies, murderous dads, and an affair with a teen runaway (!). We chatted about staying creative throughout the different stages of your life, the crime spree she may or may not have been involved in, and sleazy directors.
First off, what pills do you take every day?
Jessalyn: I take one pill every day, called Oracea. I take it because ever since I hit puberty, I have had the WORST skin. Nobody believes me, but I mean REALLY bad. I can't tell you how many dermatologists I went to over my lifetime who were like "What side of your face do you hold the phone on? What side do you sleep on?" and finally I was like "Listen, people, I'm 38 years old," -- I think that's how old I was at the point when I started taking them -- "I'm pretty sure this isn't about what side I hold the phone on."
It's a low-grade antibiotic and I feel like I could have had an entirely different life if I'd had this pill the whole time because before I had it, when I'd go to bed at night before I went to work -- and I mean every single night -- I would say a little prayer that I wouldn't get a really bad breakout, because that would mean horrible, horrible cystic pimples. So I don't mind admitting I take this pill because I think it's changed my life. A little late -- I hope other people find it before they're 38 years old -- but I love this pill. I don't have to worry about my skin anymore, and I've been worrying about it since I hit puberty.
What is the most listened-to song on your iPod?
Jessalyn: Do you have kids? I have a little girl, and when you have a little girl you end up listening to a lot of Taylor Swift. We've gone back pretty far in her catalog…we listen to it in the car.
It leads to a lot of discussions about "What is romantic love? Is kissing gross?" -- I think it's good. But when I'm alone, working on a painting or something like that, I like listening to Fink, do you know them? I'll listen to them a lot. Or sometimes I can get Penelope to listen to Feist.
Have you ever faked an orgasm?
Jessalyn: Oh! You know…I did, once, but it was only for an audition. Can you imagine? Walking into a room and having a director ask you to sit there and fake an orgasm in front of them. I was young and naïve. And apparently I didn't fake it well enough, because he gave me notes on my performance! I didn't get the part.
That is so Hollywood! What's the grossest thing in your purse?
Jessalyn: Hmm…well obviously due to having a kid you're always going to have food crumbs or gum wrappers or things like that somewhere in there. But I also remember being at an important meeting, I'm all dressed up in a business dress, and I pulled out a pair of my little girl's underwear! You really try to give the impression when you're a parent that you've got it all together, but it can be a losing battle. Just give it up.
What's the closest you've come to being arrested?
Jessalyn: Oh, it was a long, long time ago and I really can't talk about it! I shouldn't talk about it. There may have been gun shots coming from somewhere, there might have been some running for the border…I should probably keep things vague…
You just produced and starred in your first indie, which sounds very tonally different from what I've known you for, so I was wondering if you could tell me about what led you into producing in particular?
Jessalyn: I forged a relationship with the writer, Jeremy O'Keefe, and he always said "If I ever make this film, I'd like you to play the role."
It was such a kind thing to say because it's the kind of role that'd be really hard for me to get. They don't write a lot of roles where a 40 year old woman is carrying the film! I always said to him that if somebody -- I don't even want to say who's 40 because I don't know who's 40 -- but if someone more famous than me wants to play the part, you have to go with it because this is your big opportunity. He said "No, no, no, I want you to play the part!" so I said I should produce it. I felt like I should take the risk with him in every sense.
And do you think it's a risk that you would have taken earlier in your career, or that you even would have been able to take?
Jessalyn: I think what happened, to be perfectly honest, is when I left Glee I had a real feeling of "I don't really know what I want to do!" There are so many things about Glee, of course, that made it a life-altering experience, and I probably couldn't have made this film if I hadn't been on it. With Glee, I did everything I'd never done before -- went to all the awards shows, I walked all those red carpets and wore all those gowns, and I'm glad I did all that -- but I just felt like "I need to do something harder. I need to be a little more scared." If I'm going to stay in this business, I want to feel more connected to what it is I'm putting out there, instead of really just walking around in a dress that I don't own, you know?
I'm going to use a sports term now, even though I don't understand anything about sports, but maybe you will since you're Canadian and it's a hockey term. That whole "hat trick" thing, where something is done in threes -- you've worked on two of Ryan Murphy's shows, Nip/Tuck and Glee, so is there any chance you'd ever end up doing a little something for his new show, American Horror Story?
Jessalyn: I would love to; I mean it's so good. But the amazing thing about Ryan Murphy is, to me he's that kind of guy you date, who you go through this really intense period with, and then you don't see him for the longest time and don't really call each other. But somehow, out of the blue, one of us reaches out and we're back on.
So, we're off right now -- but we'll see if we get back on.
Who is at the top of your "celebrities to make out with" list?
Jessalyn: Celebrities to make out with…you know, to be honest I'm not into celebrities. I'm much more likely to be attracted to a random bank teller or something. I'm more interested in the mystery, and wondering "Hmm, what's he like?"
When someone is always on a red carpet or on the cover of every magazine it's like you already know everything about them -- or you feel like you know them, anyway. I'm not really into that.
Okay, but what if you had to pick someone?
Jessalyn: If I had to pick? Well, I definitely wouldn't mind just sitting there listening to Javier Bardem read the phone book.