Actor Kelly McGillis, who first came out to SheWired in 2009, has had a lifetime of experiences since her days as the blonde bombshell in Top Gun and The Accused. After taking off several years to raise her children, McGillis is now playing character parts in a couple new indie films out this year. SheWired's Diane Anderson-Minshall caught up with the star to talk about her new film, We Are What We Are, aging in Hollywood, and whether this summer's Supreme Court rulings in favor of marriage equality impact the 57-year-old lesbian living in North Carolina.
SheWired: We Are What We Are is a fascinating little film. I'm wondering what drew you to it.
Kelly McGillis: Well, you know [director Jim Mickle] had called me and asked me if I'd be willing to do a little part in his movie and he talked to me about it. And I thought that the premise was really interesting, and then I read the script and thought it was good. Of course, I would go anywhere to work with Jim because he's just such a great guy.
One of the things that the film is about is keeping family traditions alive through generations. Do you think people will see allegories to their own religious traditions or do you think that it's just too far outside viewers' comfort zones?
No, I hope that they do. That was one of the selling points that Jim made for me in that it was not poking fun at [evangelism] — I hate to use that word because that's not true, but allowing people to take a harder look at their own traditions.
You can see that. It feels like a little social commentary, but without hitting you over the head with it.
Yeah. And that was how Jim explained it to me and thats what I really liked about the movie.
Your character here is essentially the nice, older lady next door and you spend a good chunk with your hair in rollers and in your night gown. And for me, its a kick, because I'm old enough to think, Look, it's Kelly McGillis with her hair in rollers! But it made me wonder how it feels to have grown into these middle-aged roles after having once been considered one of Hollywood's most desirable actresses?
[Laughs] I'm glad. I mean, I really like small character parts. I really like them, they're more fun, and you don't have to carry a whole friggin' movie, and you have a lot more leeway. And you don't have to worry about trying to look good.
You really couldn't play character roles when you were quite younger. The parts didn't come to you, did they?
No. No. I mean, you know, I think for women, too, in this industry, it's kind of harder to play character roles… There aren't as many written. They're usually like the romantic lead. So I'm really grateful that I'm getting older and I can play all those little fun parts.
You have another film out this year, right? Tio Papi.
Yes, it's coming out in September.
It's a very different film, but it's also about family.
Yeah, it is. It's a very Latino-themed movie, and that's what I really liked about the movie, that it's all about Latin culture. And I just love all that. It's just such a huge part of our country today and so I was really happy when they asked me to do it.
It's nice to Latino roles that are not just maids and gang members and such.
Yes, definitely! I don't play a very nice part. But that's why I took the movie, that's why I did it — just because I really liked what the movie had to say.
Since both of your films so far this year are about family, it made me think of your own family. I know your kids are grown, but in the last couple of years you've had a very different post-out life. I was wondering what your kids think of all that?
Well, you know my kids live with me for goodness sake. They know who I was. I mean, hello? It's not something we ever talked about publicly. It's nobody's friggin' business, but yeah, both of my kids are okay with it.
Since you came out three years ago, has it impacted your work or ability to get work at all? Or the roles you've taken?
I wouldn't know because I don't work all that often. It's like I took all that time off to raise my kids — and to get older, to be a character actress because that's what I want to do. So it's like starting over. For me, it's completely starting over. So I can't say whether it's been affected by that or not.
Thats a role a lot of women are in — taking off a decade or two to raise kids and then having to basically start over with their careers.
Well, it's just part of my life today. I mean just starting over, that's exactly what I'm doing.
How does that feel to be starting over at your age?
I don't know, it's okay. [Laughs] It doesn't feel bad. I think it's kind of good actually because I don't want to do plastic surgery and all this other stuff to try to keep working. I want to be able to be who I am and to embrace that, as opposed to trying to hide that aspect of myself. Because I think that with age comes wisdom.
And now that you're playing character roles, is there a role out there that you'd just love to have? Do you have one of those back-pocket dreams?
No, I can't think of anything that I'd love to have. My mind doesn't quite work that way, I think. My mind kind of just deals with what's in front of me.
I'm sure that you've heard about the recent Supreme Court rulings on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. I was wondering how they impacted you, if you feel that they've impacted you at all?
I'm not sure they have impacted me. It's a great thing, but for me, I live in North Carolina and it's an exceedingly conservative state, so I don't think I'll be hearing anything about gay marriage in North Carolina for quite some time. [Laughs]
Watch the trailer for We Are What We Are below.