Interview: Cathy DeBuono
Cathy DeBuono is one of the stars of "Out At The Wedding" , directed by Lee Friedlander, and one of the films being showcased at this year’s Reel Pride here in Fresno. Cathy, a west coast transplant from New York, started her adult life as a much sought after athlete before stepping into acting with a variety of television and film roles. Another shift in her life led her to earn a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and open her own practice before being courted by the entertainment industry to return. She’s now made acting her focus, and besides “Out At The Wedding” she also has a role on the upcoming LOGO series, “Exe’s & Oh’s” as well as film projects in the works. I sat down to speak to her about her career.
Chris Jarvis: Can you tell me about the film you’re coming to Fresno with, “Out at The Wedding”?
Cathy DeBuono: At the beginning of the story we see Alex, played by Andrea Marcellus, getting engaged to her bi-racial boyfriend. She then leaves for New York City and then travels back to South Carolina with her best gay boyfriend from high school to attend her sister’s wedding. She’s reluctant to tell anybody about her new boyfriend because he’s bi-racial and with their southern sensibilities she’s pretty sure they’re not going to accept it. Then at the reception some old friend from high school misunderstands something that Jonathan, her gay friend, says, saying that he’s gay, and he thinks he’s hearing that Alex is gay. The sister becomes upset and says things like how could you come out at my wedding and ruin my wedding and Alex, who doesn’t know how to tell them the truth, just goes with it. So after the wedding the sister decides she’s going to go on her honeymoon and then fly out to New York to meet her sister’s girlfriend and make peace with her sister. So Jonathan comes up with the idea to hire her a girlfriend and when your sister leaves you break up with her and now you’re back with men.
CJ: And you’re the one they hire?
CD: And I’m the one they hire.
CJ: I’ve read some of your reviews and they were great. How was it working on the film?
CD: We had so much fun. From the time I read the script I started laughing out loud. Paula Goldberg wrote the script and I thought it was really well written. It was one of those times where you show up to work and everybody is fun to be around and gets along and had great chemistry with each other. It was a really good time, doing this movie.
CJ: And you have a long working relationship with the director, don’t you?
CD: Yeah, Lee and I had met about 5 years prior on a short film that never happened because the producer lost her funding and Lee got a job with a studio, so we never ended up doing that film but that’s how we met. Then when she was reading the script for Out At The Wedding she decided to look me up and told me she’d been seeing me in her mind’s eye as Risa while she was reading the script and she really wanted me to come and audition.
CJ: Are you touring all over with this film?
CD: I’ve been to a bunch of them. I’ve been to Seattle, Philadelphia, LA for Outfest. I think we just won the audience award for best feature in Colorado.
CJ: Have you traveled on the circuit with other films?
CD: No, this is my first one.
CJ: And what’s your experience been like, traveling and talking to people about it?
CD: It’s been a really good experience because people are having so much fun watching this movie. And we get to take that ride with them every time we go and watch the film. Everybody has so much fun that afterwards, meeting people is a good time, too, because they’re in such a good mood and you’ve made them laugh. It’s been such a good time.
CJ: Looking at your history is interesting, because you’ve been a star athlete, then you had an injury and got into acting and you also have a Masters in Clinical Psychology?
CD: Yeah, when I met Lee the second time, when she looked me up for Out At The Wedding, I had actually walked away from acting. I went back to school, got my Masters in Clinical Psychology and I was working in a private practice as a psychotherapist. When she looked me up I was actually reluctant to walk away from what I was doing. She sent me the script and I let it sit on my desk for a couple of weeks because I didn’t want to look at it, I didn’t want to get de-railed from what I was doing. After I read the script I was pulled back in. I loved it so much I just wanted to do it.
CJ: You closed your practice when you decided to do the film?
CD: I was still building my practice. It was still in it’s infancy. So I moved my schedule around so I could keep my clients on weekends and do the film. When the film was over I had in the meantime stopped building the practice so that as time went by and clients terminated for various reasons, they were done with their course of therapy or they moved out of town, and I just sort of allowed that to happen. Then I did the show for LOGO, which is also directed by Lee.
CJ: What made you initially leave acting for psychology?
CD: I was making a living acting. I wasn’t getting rich or famous, but I was working. But I’m from New York and my dad was diagnosed with cancer so I dropped everything and went back to be with him. When I came back to LA everything looked different to me. I had a need for more, to be of service more, to go deeper into myself.
CJ: Did the experience with your father make LA look more shallow?
CD: I don’t know if it was necessarily making it look shallow. When people are doing their art, whether it’s acting or writing there’s always room for you to go deeper, you know, that’s up to you. But a lot of people who are acting, and I fell into this category, didn’t have those opportunities. We were the peripheral actors with one line or one scene. We were sort of cogs in the machine of a greater story. You know, there’s a handful of actors who get to work with deeper characters. I wasn’t so much getting to do much of that.
CJ: So there was a wall between you and what you wanted to achieve.
CD: Yeah, and you know when I walked away from acting there wasn’t this whole world of gay entertainment that there is now. There wasn’t LOGO or HERE, and gay movies and production companies were really just starting to pop up. When I came back in I realized that there was a world of characters being created that I just completely identified with, that I cared about, that I could play.
CJ: And how is it being gay in Hollywood as it relates to more mainstream stuff? Is it a problem?
CD: If it is, it’s happened behind my back in a way that I didn’t notice. My experience has kind of been just the opposite. Now there is a lot of gay entertainment, a lot of gay characters, and being an out actor is working in my favor. There’s a world of my own community that I can participate in.
CJ: And explore better roles.
CD: Yeah, definitely.
CJ: Tell me about this project on LOGO, “Exe’s and Oh’s”. Is it a full blown series?
CD: It’s a full blown series. They’re calling it a “dramedy” now. It started out as a comedy. It’s a show about five girlfriends living in Seattle and their dating follies. In the pilot I’m dating one of the main characters. I haven’t had a chance to see it yet but I’m excited to. It’s coming out on Monday, October 8th.
CJ: You’re in the pilot, but is there a possibility of you coming back for more shows?
CD: I had a role in the pilot. I guess there’s always a possibility. My door is completely open to it if they want me back. I think that would be a lot of fun.
CJ: What’s coming up for you in the future?
CD: A few things have come up. There’s a feature called Again Comes Lola that I have a supporting lead role in. We’re shooting that in San Francisco in October and November. I’ll be working with Jill Bennett who’s on Dante’s Cove and Ashlee Sumner who is playing Lola and I just think she’s adorable and people are going to love her.
CJ: I saw a film called "Tremble & Spark" when I was reading about you.
CD: The idea is it’s going to be a trilogy of shorts. It’s more like lesbian film noir, sort of detective and villain versus each other in Philadelphia. I’m playing the detective and Jessica Graham is playing the villain.
CJ: Is it set in modern day?
CD: It’s set in modern day but when I read the script and I talk to Kelly Berkhart who’s creating these characters and these stories, I tell her I get a very 1940’s feel from it and she says that’s exactly right, that’s exactly her vision, but it’s set in present day.
CJ: Well, from reading up on you and watching some clips I can tell you’re a good actress, and you’re certainly gorgeous. I have to ask you about this list online of the Hottest Lesbians of 2007. You’re at number 5, girl. You’re beating out Jodie Foster and Portia de Rossi.
CD: (laughter) Yeah, exactly, which really raises my suspicions about who is running that and who is paying attention, I don’t know.
CJ: You don’t know where this came from, huh?
CD: No, I don’t know who started it or where it came from. Doria Biddle, a talk show/radio host on Sirius Satellite for OUT-Q 109, found it and emailed it to me.
CJ: Have you been to Fresno before?
CD: I haven’t, but I’m hearing great things about it. I’m looking forward to it.
CJ: Great. And your film, Out At The Wedding shows at Reel Pride this Sunday at 7:30. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me.
CD: Thank you so much for making the time for me, Chris, I do appreciate it.