Seeing Deborah Stewart
Star of The Seer and Maple Palm, Deborah Stewart talks breaking into showbiz, playing a psychic lesbian cop and seducing Angie Harmon
Photo: gina glass/ Wonky Girl Productions
When Deborah Stewart was a little girl, she would sneak out of her room late at night to watch television. Her face inches away from the screen and the volume on low so her mother wouldn’t hear; Stewart found what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“I was just so fascinated by it and I said, I want to do that. I want to pretend like these people pretend,” Stewart remembers.
With several independent gay films under her belt, a television pilot that has blossomed into a mini-franchise and a role in the upcoming episode of TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles, Stewart is living the dream that began in front of her family’s television.
The actress got her first gig in high school when she auditioned for a part as a cheerleader in a commercial—her first chance to be someone completely different from herself.
“I moved around a lot so I went to different schools and I was not the popular one,” Stewart says. “I was sort of the one roaming the halls themselves, you know that person. I was pretty shy.”
Stewart recalls going to the audition and all the popular cheerleaders were there. She didn’t even have a cheerleading costume, but her acting skills set her apart. After that first commercial Stewart continued acting and graduated from UC Davis’ acclaimed Theatre Department. When she starred in the jarring film, Maple Palm, which centers around the relationship of two women, one an illegal immigrant secretly living in America, Stewart decided it was time for her to officially come out. She had hesitated because she feared being type-casted, but it was unmistakably the right decision for her, one that she says kept her “being true to who I really am and that just helps everything.”
The blonde-haired, raspy-voiced actress starred in The Seer, a web series about a cop turned psychic investigator, Guin Marcus, who has visions of the criminals she helps police track down. The 2008 pilot, which ended in a tense cliffhanger, has since branched out to include an upcoming full-length film, InSight and a book series written by the creator and director, Linda Andersson. Stewart’s character is steeped in the drama of the crimes she helps to solve, and she also harbors a secret about the real reason she left the police force—she had a steamy affair with her partner, April, played by Michelle Tomlinson.
Stewart’s portrayal of Guin is genuine and proves that the character is not defined by the fact that she often has creepy visions about murderers—she’s got girlfriend drama to deal with too, just like everybody else. But Stewart is proud of the fact that this character has depth, something that she says isn't always found in lesbian roles.
“I love it because I am a big proponent of lesbian content that’s not all about having sex and cheating,” she said. “It’s just so not realistic. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t often have sex three times a day with different girls.”
Fortunately, Stewart's character does have some sex (she shares a few sultry scenes with Tomlinson and Patricia Melone) but the investigator's life is ruled more by her desire to bring evil-doers to justice through her visions.
Stewart herself is undeniably in touch with her spirituality, something that helps her to own the psychic character with such determination. She not only firmly believes in people that have psychic abilities, she also has a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
“We explored all different types of energies and the possibilities that are out there and our untapped potential,” Stewart explains. “Included in that is what we sometimes don’t know we’re capable of but other people might tap into it easier.”
Stewart most recently shared the screen with Angie Harmon on the new show Rizzoli & Isles, in an episode called "I Kissed A Girl" which premiered on Aug. 16.
"Let’s just say it was wonderful because I got to hit on Angie Harmon and I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that?" Stewart says, followed by her raspy laugh.
The show centers around not just one but two females: a detective and medical examiner (played by Harmon and Sasha Alexander) who carry the show each episode by working together to solve crimes. Both women are strong and intelligent – traits that you see in other female characters on cable, just not often in the top two starring roles. Stewart believes that strong female characters like the ones in Rizzoli & Isles are becoming more of the norm; and that there are more roles that aren’t limited to twenty-something actresses.
“I love it when you see mature women who have had life experience involved in (television shows). The whole blonde, big boobs thing, that’s just so boring,” Stewart says. “And now I see on every mainstream show so many different looking types of people, so many age ranges, and I just love it.”
Stewart is now in pre-production for an upcoming feature film where she plays a lesbian vampire.
“Don’t you think that’s hot? Lesbian vampires?” she asks. “It’s about time. What’s next, lesbian aliens?” We can’t wait to see that.