EXCLUSIVE: Megan Follows talks about her new lesbian role and Anne with an “e”

Mention Megan Follow’s name to almost any woman who had access to a TV around 1985 or thereafter and you’ll no doubt hear a squeal of delight. And that squeal will go something like, “Oh my God, Anne of Green Gables? I love her!”

Credit: Photo by Mike McPhaden

In the more than 25 years that have passed since Follows played that precocious red-head orphan Anne Shirley, she has kept busy both on screen and stage. And now, in what will undoubtedly grant a major case of wish fulfillment to her lesbian fans everywhere, the 44-year-old actress is appearing as a gay woman in a short film which debuted at Outfest in Los Angeles over the weekend.

Follows stars in Where Are the Dolls, a short film about a woman on a late-night odyssey through the streets of Toronto and herself. Out lesbian filmmaker Cassandra Nicolaou based the piece on the Elizabeth Bishop poem “Where are the dolls who loved me so…” The resulting 7-minute and 37-second short is more of a moody poem in the form of a movie, with sparse dialogue and dreamy visuals.

Credit: Photo by Mike McPhaden

Shot over two days last October in the streets and lesbian clubs of Toronto, Where Are the Dolls has Follows dance and, yes, make out with a woman. Nicolaou first worked with Follows on a documentary on the stage production of Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls in 2010. She said thought of Follows for her short as soon as she saw a picture of Bishop and noticed a resemblance.

Follows spoke with AfterEllen.com last week about the short film, her career and that beloved “Anne with an e.”

Credit: Photo by Mike McPhaden

AfterEllen.com: I’ve had a chance to watch the short, and I liked it quite a bit. It’s dreamy and interesting. What attracted you to the project in the first place?
Megan Follows: Really, my friendship with Cassandra. She had asked me to participate and it was a little bit of a leap of faith in terms of what it was going to be. As you can see it’s somewhat conceptual, based on the poem. The poem is obviously very beautiful. I had known Cassandra through work. She had done a documentary on a theater project I had been involved in.

AE: Where you familiar with the Elizabeth Bishop poem it is based on?
MF: Not the whole poem, by any means. I certainly knew of Elizabeth Bishop and bits of pieces of her work. It was more through Cassandra’s interest in this piece and wanting to explore it that I became aware of it. It’s also kind of amazing because it is a very personal interpretation for Cassandra.

AE: Because it is such a dreamy, non-formed piece, how did you get yourself in the mindset of that character, E? What interested you about her journey?
MF: You know, it was somewhat guerilla filmmaking for sure. What is interesting is when we shot in the club, the club was live and it was just really a club that was happening. There were some signs that said there might be a film crew walking around and we used a very subtle camera. So we just went into that club and started to dance.

It was pretty funny because it was very, very loud in there. And we couldn’t hear each other over the sound of the music. We had to devise hand signals. So often times my character was dancing with her eyes closed. I would no idea if the camera was still rolling or if they’d moved on to a different shot. A couple of times I got pretty intimate with people who were dancing who had nothing to do with the film. And then I’d be like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I guess we’re not rolling. If you could please get off of me, I have to go find my crew.” [Laughs] So, we had some fun.

AE: Well some people in that club certainly had a good night then.
MF: Yes, they did.

Credit: Photo by Mike McPhaden

AE: This is also, of course, a lesbian role. How did that play into, if at all, how you prepared for and approached the role?
MF: It seems like there is something holding the woman back. She is inhibited and not fully realizing something of herself. I think that is universal, or at least something I can identify with. Trying to figure out who you are and reaching out for intimacy. It’s an interesting piece because obviously for something that is very intimate – like a sexual encounter in a bathroom – it is also with a stranger so it is complex. She is searching for intimacy and connectedness and doing it in a way where that’s not actually what is happening. It is and it isn’t.

It seems to be in a state of disease with herself, trying to find something and not able to find it yet. And being alone, the piece is about that and the need for connection. I am curious for you, what did you get from the piece?

AE: Yeah, kind of similar. She is obviously searching. She feels held back in certain ways – looking for a connection that she hasn’t had before or maybe had in the past. It is interesting, there’s not very much dialogue. I’ll have to watch it again. It was beautiful, really beautifully shot.
MF: Yeah, the cinematographers did a beautiful job. We shot all throughout the night. We’d start at 8 at night wandering the streets in Toronto and in this club until 4 in the morning and then going down to the lake. So it was a journey we all went on.

Credit: Photo by Mike McPhaden