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In the years since Ellen Page came to wide attention at 20 for her “overnight” success in Juno, a lot has changed in the world, but maybe not enough when it comes to how our increasingly diverse culture is reflected by Hollywood. A lot has certainly changed for Page, who very publicly came out as gay in February 2014 and hopes to see a more realistic and holistic on-screen portrayal of all the groups that comprise our society – including LGBT and other minority communities. No one can accuse her of not doing her part to move that along; she’s currently starring in and co-producing a string of films with gay characters at their center, including the excellent Freeheld.
Still closeted when she began work on Freeheld, Page says she didn’t feel compelled to come out by the project’s impending release. The mandate came from a more personal tipping point; she simply could no longer handle living in a way that wasn’t true to her. Though the decision wasn’t an easy one, the personal and artistic benefits were more than worth it. Page is not only happier than she’s been in years, but also doing her best work in years, Freeheld being a case in point. While it largely avoids hitting the audience over the head with moral messages, it does deliver a blow to the heart, showing the us sad compromise required of a closeted relationship, and reminding us that as humans, the things we cherish the most unite us the most.
In this episode, Page talks about the benefits of missing her “sitcom years” while enjoying a pre-fame career in Halifax with all of the ambition but none of the delusions that can derail a young actor in Hollywood. She did leave home at 15 to act and study, but did not “get up to shenanigans.” Maybe that’s just not done in Canada. We discuss her concerns about playing a real-life character for the first time, her conflicted feelings about being closeted and depressed while at the same time enjoying the privileges of being a successful actress, and the best film experience she’s ever had – though we’re still not clear if asking Julianne Moore for her phone number in a parking lot beats 10-hour days shooting a motion-capture French video game.
“Brave” is often the first compliment you hear paid to straight actors who take on gay roles in Hollywood. How about actually coming out in real life when you have no idea how it will affect your ability to continue doing what you love more than anything else? Now that takes some cojones, but as an artist, do you really have any choice but to be true to yourself? Page isn’t naïve about the consequences of her choice, but she is hopeful, both for herself and the industry she works in. One certain outcome is that we’re about to watch one of the most exciting careers in the business unfold.