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Rose Rollins Dishes Her Secrets


Photo: Tony Donaldson

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She’s got a classic Hollywood backstory (discovered in a mall in Yonkers, N.Y.), a dream job (“I was really into The L Word before I got the role. I watched every episode. It’s one of my favorite shows.”) and rock-hard abs, but actor Rose Rollins is more than just the tough girl she plays on Showtime’s smash hit. After a successful, albeit unfulfilling, turn as a model, Rollins made her acting debut as C.J.’s assistant on The West Wing. A smattering of films followed, including Undisputed, 13 Moons and Mission: Impossible 3, but it was her role as Tasha Williams on The L Word that brought her instant fame. Well, almost instant fame. (“I don’t think I’m any comparison to Shane,” she laughs.) Just back from Iraq, the sexy soldier who won Alice’s heart and caused a scandal by bucking the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is now among the most popular lesbians on television and one of the few of color. (“I’m very aware of not allowing her to fall into any stereotypes.”) Tasha was one of the almost 10,000 troops discharged in the last decade or so for being queer, and Rollins played her with a brave butch authenticity rarely found on TV. Now, she’s showing us both sides of herself—the strong silent one found in jeans and dog tags, and the sexy siren vamping it up in curls—and talking frankly about the most important role of her life.

The L Word did a great job dealing with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in a humane way. Talk to me about your research.
I had spoken with probably around 10 different soldiers and just listened to their stories, and they all were so different. Some people were relieved to be removed from the military and others still wanted to fight it out. Many felt betrayed and…basically abandoned because they fought so hard and then were under review for something like, so simple as sexual orientation. But all the women, they were just so strong, and I definitely commend them for just even being out there and fighting for our country, especially in this state that our country’s in right now today.

Do you have newfound respect for military women?
Oh absolutely. One hundred percent. To this day there are women who approach me and show me their military badge. They’re just really proud. And I just feel honored that I can even represent them in any way, shape or form. I’m just one little voice on such a small scale, and I just feel so honored because I have so much respect for them.

How do they feel about your character?
They love it. And I’m so relieved because it’s such a serious issue, and I was definitely intimidated. I just wanted to make…them proud.

I was shocked to read that up to $363 million has been spent training replacements for the almost 10,000 people who’ve been discharged in essentially the last decade.
Wow, huge number.

Is our next president going to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”
Absolutely. I think the policy kind of backfired. I absolutely think when Barack is president [laughs] there’ll definitely be a lot of changes. I have a strong feeling about that.

So you’re a Barack Obama supporter?
Oh, yeah. Definitely.

I think it’s amazing we’re at this point where we’re choosing between an African American man and a white woman as the Democratic candidate.
Yeah, exactly. Who would have thought that it would be in our generation? I’ve noticed that there are just so many more people out there now that are voting for Democrat. [Obama] won Mississippi last night and I guess there were 400,000 people who voted for Democrats and 130,000 voted for Republicans. There’s definitely going to be a Democrat in the office.

Do you think that has a lot to do with the war in Iraq?
Yeah, absolutely. I think people are ready for the troops to come home. I think we don’t even know at this point what we’re fighting for. But so many more of our people are dying. And for what? I feel like we can’t even trust who’s representing us right now. We don’t even know [President Bush’s] truth.

This season you actually got to play off Kelly McGillis, who I thought had a really great role as your military prosecutor. In the ’80s when Top Gun was out I don’t think there was a lesbian alive who didn’t fall in love with Kelly McGillis.
[Laughs.] Yeah, definitely. She’s really on top of her stuff, and we had a great rapport. She’s very serious about her role…she had a smaller arc, but she took it very seriously. It’s great to work with her.

So in the end do you feel Tasha chose love over duty?
I think there were more variables involved, but, at the end of the day, yeah, I do. But I don’t want anyone to think that she chose Alice over her career. There’s a difference. I think she finally realized what it is she was initially fighting for. Just kind of like the war going on now. In the beginning, yes, we were fighting for this. But now, what am I really fighting for? I’ve come to a crossroads and now I’m having to lie about who I am and it’s just getting too ugly and—you know what—if they don’t want me, I don’t want them. And I want to continue my life and maybe choose another path as to where I can be happy and also be proud of who I am and not have to hide any longer. I think my character was just tired of hiding. Tired of denying her life and everything about her. It was hard.

It’s amazing people do manage to do that for decades, because that seems so psychologically difficult to do.
Yeah, even preparing for it is. Especially when you’re simultaneously just a proud individual; you stick to your morals, but then having to hide who you are totally contradicts everything you stand for.

So it sounds like you would have come to the same decision Tasha did?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely.

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