Kelly Lynch: When Mitch created the show, there were a lot of different ideas about it. One was that it would be a movie, one was that it would be a miniseries, and then that it would be a series. At one point, there was talk that it was going to be a broadcast-network TV show, but then all the powers that be said they couldn’t actually tell the story that Mitch wanted to tell. It was more of a premium-cable story. And then [Starz CEO] Chris Albrecht read it when he went over to Starz and went crazy for it. After that, there were two different characters that he was interested for me to play. Of course, I had to sleep with the showrunner to get the part, but… [Laughs.] Anyway, it was either the Miramar Playa house photographer who was also sort of a spy for Ike [Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character] as well a gal-Friday/best-friend kind of thing, or Meg Bannock. And the more we talked about it, Meg just seemed to be the part.
KL: I was really, really proud of that part, and, quite honestly, I felt… I’ve played a few lesbian characters in my career, and I’m always happy to do so. It’s always a challenge, and I always learn something. But Connie I liked because at that point… It’s hard to even believe, because we have so many gay characters integrated into TV shows—Modern Family, The New Normal, whatever—but back then the main gay characters were in films like Philadelphia. Or Basic Instinct, which is a movie I turned down right around that same time. I turned down millions of dollars to do Basic Instinct and instead did this little movie for basically nothing, because I thought, “We can’t have gay and lesbian characters on prime-time television or in films where they’re just dying of AIDS or killing people. It’s just too hideous.” And the character in Basic Instinct… I didn’t like her, for one thing, but then the whole crossing and uncrossing my legs? I have a kid. I was like, “I don’t think so.” But I would’ve done something like Body Heat. I just thought Basic Instinct was really cheesy.
KL: You know, someone asked me the first time I was on film, and I said, “I can’t remember!” I would’ve thought it was The Hitchhiker. But now that you’ve mentioned it, I do remember that I was on The Equalizer, and, yes, it was my first job. But in my head, I don’t think I was even counting it as a real job, because I had, like, a couple of lines and I was completely terrified. I started in theater, so working in front of a camera was something I had no idea about. The one thing I remember is that the sound department kept having to come over and tell me to stop projecting. [Laughs.] Because I was just enunciating and projecting as if I was talking to the balcony. And they’re like, “You know, you’ve got a little microphone right here, so we can hear everything.” At which point I got completely paranoid, going, “Oh, my God, they can hear everything. They can probably hear my internal organs working!” It was like I was completely out of body. It was hilarious. But I had totally forgotten about it until you brought it up.
AVC: You were just saying that The Equalizer was the first time you were on film, but didn’t you appear in the movie Portfolio a few years before that?
KL: That was such an interesting experience. I learned so much from that movie. First of all, the Denzel Washington part was a role that written for Mel Gibson, and it was a romantic role. He played a character who was in prison for many years, and he gets out and hooks up with this computer forensic specialist who finds bad guys on the Internet, and they pursue this guy who’s a virtual-reality kind of creation. And Denzel decided… Well, we all had to audition with him, which they rarely do anymore. They just usually put the two biggest actors available for a part in the movie together, whether or not they really have any chemistry, and if you find out on day one that they don’t, then it’s like, “Whoops!” But for Denzel and I, it was very charged. It was really great. We really connected. It was really sexual, funny, we connected intellectually… Everything was working. They were thrilled. And it was a wonderful script. But when we showed up for rehearsal, Denzel… [Hesitates.]
KL: That was really fun. My husband is an uncredited writer of that Charlie’s Angels movie. He was brought on and calls himself Writer No. 21. I think that’s the number he was. I’ve never seen so much money spent on the writing of an action movie about three girls, but… They wanted Bill Murray to come in, and Bill said, “Look, I’ll do it, but this script isn’t really very funny. I like working with Mitch Glazer. If Mitch can do it, then I’ll come on.” And I was kind of the same way. I was kind of interested, because they were talking to me about the role of Vivian, but once Mitch was there, Bill and I both knew we’d be protected and that we’d have something fun to do. And Sam Rockwell was really thrilled, too, since Mitch gave him some moves. [Laughs.] Sam was hilarious.
KL: That was another movie that started out as one movie and ended up being another movie entirely. But a great experience. I had a little girl at the time, one who’s now a woman in her mid-20s, but she’d never seen my work at the time, so I thought, “Well, I’ll go to Chicago.” It was like a throwback to one of those Depression-era movies that you’d seen Jean Harlow in: A rich lady ends up taking in this little orphan. I thought it was very sweet, and I thought, “Well, she can finally see what I do for a living.” As opposed to showing her, say, Drugstore Cowboy, which, uh, wouldn’t really be appropriate. [Laughs.]
KL: Well, there you go. I mean, what can you say? I got a call from my agent, and I had just done Drugstore Cowboy, which was a little different, but he said, “There’s this other movie.” I was actually one of the last contract players, I guess, but I had a two-picture deal with United Artists, which I don’t remember signing it, but apparently I had it, and that’s how Road House first came up. The actress who’d been cast first to play against Patrick Swayze was Annette Bening, but she was fired. Patrick just didn’t feel any chemistry with her or something. I don’t know what it was. But I didn’t know who she was, I didn’t know what this movie was, all I knew was who Patrick Swayze was, and that’s because he’d just done Dirty Dancing, which was a big movie. And I thought, “Man, he’s a really interesting guy,” so I took the script, but then I read it and I was like, “Okay, I don’t understand what this is. There’s a big-wheel truck, there’s a bad guy, there’s a doctor in a mini-dress, and there are bouncers.” It was just, like, a goulash. [Laughs.] So many elements were thrown into this movie that it just didn’t make any sense to me.
KL: Well, that was another amazing… I feel like not only have I worked with every leading man of a particular era, but I worked on movies that were just incredible experiences, if sometimes for some crazy reasons. But those were weird years, you know? The ’90s… There was a lot of money and not a lot of people running the store. And Michael Cimino is famous for making these grand, operatic, money-burning movies. He really pursued me. I loved the script, and I was aware that the story was based on… Well, the original movie was based on a case that Richard Nixon, as a young lawyer, presided over. I just loved the reality of the story about this lawyer, this public defender who fell in love with her client and gave up everything to be with him.
KL: Well, you know, that was really fun, because I realized that there’s a whole generation of kids who had no connection to me in a contemporary way. So I talked to my agent about doing something that would reach out to the younger audience, and this part came up, and I thought it’d be fun to do something on The CW. It also opened up a whole new cougar era for me. [Laughs.] I had no idea it was such a big character. It was only supposed to be, like, three episodes or something. It was challenging to do television like that. You get new pages in the morning that you’ve already memorized, and then they’re like, “Oh, no, that whole monologue is now this, and then you’re no longer there, you’ll be doing it like this instead. And your character won’t be in this scene, but now you’ve got this.” It was that fast. It certainly prepared me for the work I’m doing now on Magic City, although we’re a little bit more controlled. But doing television is not for sissies.
KL: The opportunity to work with Leslie Nielsen was one of those that I could not pass up. He delivered, as I would’ve thought. A little bit off-screen, a little bit onscreen, but he was a complete sweetheart and really funny. It was my first encounter with martial-arts filmmaking. We had a Hong Kong filmmaker and, again, I had a team of people working with me on kicks and stunts, and I always try to do as much of that as I can. Jennifer Garner had a couple of scenes in the movie, and I thought she was adorable. When she broke through with [Alias], I said, “I thought there was something about her.” And it was fun. I mean, I got a chance to spend most of a winter in Vancouver, and I’m a skier, so the opportunity to work and ski was great. And Leslie was amazing.
KL: Oh, wow. That was amazing. That was kind of my first real meaty TV role. I played a peepshow girl, the bad-girl sister of Penelope Ann Miller, and in real life she was kind of… Penelope’s a pretty sexy, kind of randy actress. She was kind of that girl. I’m kind of a good girl. [Laughs.] So in real life, our personalities are completely different, but I’m drawn the way I’m drawn and she’s drawn the way she’s drawn. She had several boyfriends in the crew and cast, and I was, like, shocked. But I spent time at real peepshow sex performers, watching what they did. It was such a weird world, these girls who would turn it off and on. A lot of them are gay. You always learn something from the characters you play, especially when you enter another world that in real life you might not ever be exposed to. Of course, it’s just a TV show, so they just told me to look like a sexy girl who’s beautiful but bad.
KL: Well, Quentin Tarantino… I’m one of Quentin’s girls that he likes. I don’t know if you know, but he has a type, and it’s tall blonde girls. [Laughs.] And he said, “Look, there’s this movie, I think it’s a really cool idea: What if all the black people were white people, and the dominant race was black, and you’d have all these white-trash people…” And I said, “Yeah, that could be pretty cool. But it’s pretty literal, though.” “Yeah, but I think the script is good, and I really want you to do it.” And Desmond Nakano was directing, and he’s a really bright guy, and then it had John Travolta, who I adore, and Harry Belafonte. But it didn’t quite deliver, you know? I don’t know why except that it’s so literal in the storytelling.
KL: My love affair with New Orleans began there. It was the first time I was in New Orleans for a film, and I knocked off my second of the Baldwin brothers. [Laughs.] I’ve still got Stephen to go, although I feel like I worked with him, because he came down there with Alec. When we were working on Lake Pontchartrain, I had a large houseboat as my dressing facility, and Alec decided he’d be really super-cool and get a cigarette boat, but he didn’t realize he wouldn’t really have a cabin or anywhere to go of significant space. My bitch barge, as I called it, had a pirate flag flying, and I pursued the cigarette boat and puttered along beside them and got them with water balloons so bad. Stephen made T-shirts and everything promising retribution, but I got ’em. It was a fun film to shoot, and great music. I just adore Alec. There was a scene where I was supposed to be crying hysterically, and Alec would suddenly go into a Captain Kirk impression. I was like, “You fucking asshole!” [Laughs.] Which reminds me: My family was so angry at me, because my character gets machined-gunned about a third of the way into the movie, but I didn’t tell my parents about it. I think my dad almost had a heart attack! But it was such a great experience being in New Orleans. It’s too bad that they weren’t able to make an ongoing series of Dave Robicheaux movies, because the books are great, but there was some sort of production mishap, and it just never happened.
KL: Thank you, one of my favorite characters of all time. The way it came to me is that I’d just finished something heavy and dramatic, and I called my agent up and said, “Look, I want to do something romantic. I never get to do that. I’m always, like, the bad, sexy girl, the one who breaks up the marriage, the evil whatever. I want something romantic, sweet, fun, sexy, light.” “Done.” And I literally got a call later in the day. “Look, something just came our way, and it’s really romantic.” I said, “Great!” “You don’t have to audition or anything, they really want you, they think you can do it. We’re not sure, though, so you might not be sure.” “Send me whatever you’ve got!” And I basically get the sides for what the part is, and I’m like, “Ivan…?” And I called, and I’m like, “What is this?” And they’re like, “You’re a drag king.” “A drag king?”
KL: My audition for that was wearing the many and various bikinis, which… I’d say they’re really just strings tied different ways. [Laughs.] No, that was actually a really complicated story about the ’80s and power and money, and it was really re-edited where they completely lost my character’s backstory—her low self-esteem, who her father was, why she was this person that she was—but it was obviously a really successful movie, if not as good as it could’ve been. It was written by the guy who wrote Fort Apache The Bronx [Heywood Gould], and it was a much darker movie, but Disney took it, reshot about a third of it, and turned it into flipping the bottles and this and that. But it was my first really big movie, and I’m making out with Tom Cruise, who is a really good kisser. [Laughs.] And we’re in Jamaica! Again, it was one of those things where I had to pinch myself. I couldn’t believe it. It was a great opportunity to me. And as embarrassed as I was with all those little bikinis, now I’m so glad. I’m all like, “Yep, that’s me. That’s me walking down those stairs with that butt hanging out right in Tom’s face. That is me.” But we had a really great time. And Tom was so much fun, just a ball to work with, both on and off camera. We’d go to bars in Jamaica, listen to music and hang out. Everybody was great. Bryan Brown was there, with his beautiful wife, Rachel Ward. It was a lot of fun with a great group of people, and it was a really successful movie.
KL: Osa was my very first movie, and I was picked on the streets of New York. At the time, I was still modeling. I was trying not to model, but… Look, I’m a girl from Minneapolis. Someone would call me up, my booker, and say, “You get this much money just to do this for this many hours,” and I would go. And I’d be missing an audition or a class or something I wanted to do for my acting, but I just couldn’t say no. I’ve always been a worker. I’m a union person. Some people feel like they’re artists, and I’ve felt that, but in my heart of hearts, I still feel like I’m a worker. I go to work. So I tried to sabotage myself as a model. I cut my hair really short, like Sting’s, and I dyed it almost white. And, of course, my modeling career took off. [Laughs.] And I was like, “Oh, great. Now I’m doing all sorts of other shit and I’m modeling night and day.” But I was walking around with this little Sting-y, short, androgynous haircut, and a Russian guy comes up to me and says, “Are you an actress?” And I was like, “Yeah…?” Just kind of thinking it would be funny to say that. And he said, “Good, because you’re the person.” And I’m going, “Oh, boy, what is it?” Thinking once again, “This is gonna be porn.” I get a card, and he says, “I want to meet with you. I want to talk to you about this little movie we’re doing in Guaymas, Mexico. It’s Mad Max themed, a futuristic thing.” I said, “Okay…”
KL: God, what can I say? I saw the script in my agent’s office—the words Drugstore Cowboy were written on the spine—and I said, “What a cool title! What is that?” And she looked at me and said, “Oh, please. They want Patti Smith. It’s a movie about the early ’70s and drugs, and it’s based on a true story, apparently.” And I said, “Cool! Can I read it?” And my agent rolled her eyes and said, “You’re wasting your time.” But I read it, and I said, “Okay, I’ve got to do this.” And she said, “Yeah, but they’re looking at Patti Smith and Bob Dylan. Do you feel like you’re like Patti Smith?” I was like, “I feel like I could be. I mean, I can be something different than I am.” But I met with one of the producers, and he said, “I think you could do this, and I think this could be good for you.” He seated me next to Gus [Van Sant] at this dinner, and Gus didn’t know he was meeting me, but he’d heard about my name in the mix of things, and we had a great time hanging out together. And then I came in to read for him, and I stayed up the night before all night because everyone was afraid I was way too pretty for this drug addict. But we’re young people. It’s not like drug addicts are exclusively ugly. They’re just… different. And when you’re young, the worst of what’s going to happen to you generally hasn’t happened yet. But we picked scenes and I read with them, but then I asked if I could do one more scene, which was the scene where Dianne comes back and Bob is kind of cleaned up, with that long walk down the hallway, that whole bit where you realize that she’s really in love with him, but she’s an addict. For me, that’s the character. That scene is who that character is. And that’s what got me the part.