A new web series, with the tagline “A new generation searching for love and belonging in the post-9/11 age,” explores what it’s like to be an out teen these days. The show, Anyone But Me, follows the lives of a diverse group of teenagers in New York City, some of whom are gay or lesbian, and all of whom have one thing in common – their lives are largely out of their control.
Susan Miller, who wrote for The L Word and is one of the creators of Anyone But Me -- along with Tina Cesa Ward -- explains the show’s concept as, “a show of ‘this moment.’ Anyone But Me is a way to explore the relationships between gay and straight teens, black and white teens, a diverse group of people who I walk the streets with in New York every day. We don’t exist alone – we are a part of one another, and Tina and I wanted to show that.”
SheWired talked to Nicole Pacent this week about her role as ‘Aster,’ one half of Anyone But Me’s beautiful and in-love long-distance lesbian couple. Check back next week for an interview with Rachael Hip-Flores, who plays, Vivian, Aster's on-screen love.
SC: Your character is enormously popular, for all of the obvious reasons. Tell me about Aster.
NP: Well, when I first started with the character I got caught up in “type.” I think it’s really easy, especially when it comes to lesbians, to look at characters as “the Shane type” or “the so-and-so type”…The L Word definitely helps with that. I wanted to know, is she femme? Is she the “take-charge” type? But, I let go of that after the first episode because I just felt myself worrying about it too much. Since then I’ve been able to do more justice to her in terms of making her this person who cannot be categorized. So, I’ve gotten to like her more since I stopped worrying about the rest so much. I think she’s really cool because of the ambiguity.
SC: Well it sounds like you know a lot about the different types of categories and stereotypes on The L Word…so does this mean you are an L Word fan?
NP: Yes, it does (laughing). And it also means I am a lady-loving-lady. I’ve followed The L Word from the time that it aired. I remember being at Gay Pride in New York, summer of 2003, and there was a big float advertising it and I remember going, ‘What is that?!’ The only thing that was out was Queer as Folk at that point. So when this new lesbian show was coming about, it was very exciting. I’ve definitely been following it since the beginning.
SC: So how is it for you to now be on a gay-themed show now? What is that transition like?
NP: It’s incredibly exciting. When I first saw the breakdown of the characters and the idea of this alternative teen drama, I loved it. And having been a queer youth, I know I wanted anything I could find to attach to that culture, especially in the suburbs. So the idea of bringing that into my daily life was really exciting. I see the potential in this show. And I think there are a lot of people out there who do as well, which is awesome.
SC: So now that you’ve been working on it for a little while and your “dream” has come to fruition, what has the response been from people close you? Your own friends? Your own family?
NP: Well, my aunt is gay, so she and her partner of 25 years, and their friends, are all ecstatic about it. My parents are really excited about it too, but my mom always prefaces any conversation about the show with, “But just so you know, there are girls kissing in this. Just so you know…”
And she puts it out there like that, which is interesting because I just got out of a three-year relationship with a woman. It’s funny that after three years of being around it, my mom could still be uncomfortable with the physical element between two women, but she totally is. My friends have been overwhelmingly supportive. I’ve had so many people contact me who I haven’t talked to in years saying that they watch the show and they really like it.
SC: How are the other cast members? What are they like to work with?
NP: I enjoy just being around them. We have a great, dynamic cast and crew. I’ve become, obviously, very close with Rachael, who plays Vivian. And, in the beginning I was actually more awkward about the kissing and stuff than she was.
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SC: Why was that?
NP: I got all self-conscious. I actually sat down with her one day in the park when we were going over scenes and said, “By the way, I know I’m this confident, ‘out’ person on the outside, but there’s still part of me that’s like this 16-year-old scared girl who is in the locker room and doesn’t want to look up for fear that the other girls will think she’s looking at them…”
I told her, “Just so you know, everything I do in our scenes is acting and I never want you to feel uncomfortable.” And she couldn’t have been cooler about it. She made me more comfortable, which is fantastic. And when we broke through that barrier, which was even before the first episode, it was totally smooth sailing after that. I couldn’t possibly hope to be working with better people.
SC: That’s great. You’re playing a high school character, so what is that like? Clearly, you’re past high school and college, so what is it like to go back and revisit that time?
NP: When I think about the scenarios, I can directly relate to them. I remember it so well. There will be times -- like little bits of dialogue between Aster and Vivian -- that are so reminiscent of me and my high school girlfriend and it will bring me right back there. It’s nostalgic in that way. I hope that high school kids will pick it up and will be able to relate to it. In a lot of ways, I feel very removed from that time in my life. Of course, a lot has happened since then. But at the same time, in other ways, it feels like yesterday.
SC: And after high school, you moved on to Tisch at NYU. Did you grow up in the New York area?
NP: Yes, I grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, which is right over the New York border. And I just fell in love with the city when I was younger. Forever, to me, it was Broadway. I was very enamored with all of that. But when I got older, especially after I came to grips with my sexuality, it became this place of freedom and this liberal hub. It ended up representing so much of what I wanted in my life and what I wanted to be surrounded by. Not only with the arts, but with my lifestyle in general.
SC: How old were you when you came out?
NP: I was in high school, probably about 15. It was a slow process, of course. The seed that was planted, I guess I’ll say, was the summer going into my sophomore year of high school. And then I kind of sat on it for a couple of months and then started telling people after I had wrapped my head around it. And when I came out, it was as bisexual. And technically, that is how I still identify, but after this most recent relationship, I realize that in my adult life, that’s what I want.
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SC: Being with a woman, you mean?
NP: Yeah, I’m more drawn to that. I’m not really sure what that means for me, I guess I’m just trying not to play the label game anymore.
SC: If the show continues to grow and they were able to bring on some guest stars…who would you like to work with?
NP: Hmmm, that depends if I’d be making out with them or not…
SC: You would be.
NP: (laughing) Ok, I would love for them to go to a Pink concert. That would make me so happy. I totally have a thing for her.
SC: Ok, putting making out aside, who do you look up to?
NP: Cliché as this might sound, I totally admire Kate Moennig (Shane on The L Word). I think she’s an awesome actor and she has something really intriguing about her. I like her a lot. I love Rachel McAdams too. I think she is so cute. I love watching her and I love the roles she picks. She never just plays one type. She’s very versatile.
SC: Where do you want your career to go from here?
NP: I definitely want to act, but I totally have a need for control and I like to have some creative say. So, later on, I’d maybe like to do some producing and directing. I’ve always done more of that in theater, but since working on this show, I’ve become more familiar with the different jobs on set. So, yeah, I can definitely see myself doing more than acting down the road.
To watch Anyone But Me, go to http://www.anyonebutmeseries.com/