Q&A with Seeking Simone's Renée Olbert
The web starlet talks about how the series was created, her favorite episode and the secrets behind the love scenes.
Geeky lesbians prepare to swoon because Renée Olbert, star and co-creator of the hilariously brilliant Seeking Simone is the gal you've been waiting for. The self-professed Buffy fanatic and Harry Potter enthusiast gives us the low down on her geek-tastic obessions, how she created Seeking Simone and peek behind the curtain of those oh-so-sexy sapphic love scenes.
I read on the Seeking Simone website that you went to school to go to law school and instead you switched to acting and moved to Toronto to pursue your dream—which is very similar the character you play. Is there a parallel between you and Simone?
Well (laughter), I love Simone, so I'm going to say yes. There are, for sure, some similarities. With regards to me, most of my high school career I told my parents that I had intentions of going to law school. And then quickly, when I got into university I went into theater, much to their chagrin, although they're very proud of me now. There are certain similarities. I hope I have a bit more panache in my life than Simone does, or just a little less crazy, but there are, for sure, a ton of similarities between her and I. I can't deny it.
I see a lot of Buffy references on your show with the fan fiction, the comics and the Joss Whedon shrine. Are those all of your personal props?
Well, between myself, and my co-creator Rosemary Rowe, we are proud to say that most of that is from our private collections, if you could believe it. One of the things that bonds the two of us together in life and in art is our huge huge love of Buffy. And as a matter of fact, Rosemary was the one who got me hooked originally on Buffy. And my life has never been the same.
What was the process like of creating a web series and how did you guys get it started?
Originally, we had devised that we would come together and create a pilot that we would shop to networks in Canada. And after thinking about that for some time and with the advent of new media, Rose said, 'I really think we should consider doing this as a web series.' And that idea for me was like a light bulb that went off over both of our heads because it accomplished two goals. Number one, we didn't have to wait any longer for someone to give us permission to create art and I think that, for artists, is the biggest thing. It is so challenging to always have to wait for someone else to give you that permission to be able to do what you want to do. By deciding to create it on our own, we took all of that authority into our own hands and were able to create the product that we wanted to create. And also as it grows, we have the build-in ability to show people that there is an audience for a show like this. And I am so grateful for the internet (laughter). Thank you internet (laughter). And also the other folks who are out there who are trying to create shows because the community that is being built online is only going to help all of us. And I think it’s a really wonderful space to show people that they can be creative and interesting, and that they don’t have to wait for someone to say yes. You can say yes to yourself, and if you have enough determination and dedication, you can really create something that can be quite special and unique.
Seeking Simone, is it a big team effort, like a collaboration with getting directors, photographers, getting your website up — was that all collaboration and people donating their time and effort?
Yeah, actually that's probably the biggest lesson we learned through all of this. If you ask people for help, 99.99 percent of the time they are going to give you that help. And I think that was a huge huge lesson for us to learn because I think often, also as an artist, when you're trying to create something, you don't want to ask your friends for help and you don't want to reach out into the community. And Rose and I, when we first sat down to do this, we realized that we were going to have to do outreaches to a whole bunch of different aspects of the community, both in the film industry and outside of that, in our own community in Toronto to get this done. And the outpouring of support was mind blowing. We had people donate their spaces for free so we could shoot in them. We had equipment donated to us. It was very humbling and really inspiring to have so many people just jump on board and be so excited about the concept and the idea, and just be so thrilled to be apart of something creative like this.
How has it been with fans? Have you had any "wow" moments?
Yeah, we get a lot of feedback from fans, and I think every time it happens, and this might sound really trite, but every time it happens it's sort of like a wow moment for me because film, as opposed to other mediums, say live music or theater, it is very insular and you feel very isolated when you do it. And you sort of do it in a bubble and then it's out there. And then there isn't that immediate connection to your audience any longer. So, for me, whenever I get someone who follows me on Twitter or when I get a really heartfelt tweet or when we have people write on our website, it's always a really sunny moment for me that it is touching people in that way. And I'm really really proud of that and it's really exciting.
Do you have a favorite episode?
That's a tough question. Do I have a favorite episode? I have to say, I do love them all (laughter). I know that's a cop out answer, but what else am I supposed to say? More specifically, I do really love — I think one of the ones closest to my heart is Free Tibette, which is the first episode of the second season where I have my L Word stalker. When we were conceiving of the idea, it was a riot. And mining all of that L Word territory was just a joy for me because I was a huge L Word fan, of course, but also it drove me nuts too. So I think it was a fun way for me to voice a lot of opinions that people do have on how that show turned out. So I think that was really one of my favorites.
I read in SheWired that you had a real stalker?
Well, somehow that was accredited to me, but it was actually Rosemary who had the stalker. It was sadly near and dear to our hearts. I remember I vicariously lived through that with Rose. I do remember all of that incident in her life (laughter) and so, it certainly came from a real place and then we were able to mine some comedy gold from it.
What is it like to shoot the make out and sex scenes?
Well, it's a challenge I think, and I think any actor would say that. The gals that I've had the pleasure of smooching are all very easy on the eyes, so it's certainly not that. But it's very awkward [laughs]. In general, at times, it's the first time you're in a room together and then you have people staring at you and have a boom over your head. And it's not as exciting as it seems from the outside. It's our job to make it look really good, but on the insides you're like, 'Did my nipple just pop out of my boobs? Is it in my bra still?' So, there are a lot of technical issues that as an actor that you're thinking about, and you know, 'Do I have lipstick on my teeth?' These are the things that are going through our minds, 'Does my hair look weird?' So hopefully that doesn't translate to when people watch it, but the girls that I have had an opportunity to smooch are all pretty fantastic. So it's not the worst thing in the world to have to do, for sure.
I saw your It Gets Better video on YouTube and read online about your thoughts on how there's not a lot of lesbian content around. How does it feel to contribute to that and be apart of that now?
It feels really good. I think that was one of our main intentions of creating Seeking Simone. We certainly wanted to create a show that had a universality in terms of themes, like love and comedy and heartache. But it was very important for us to create a show that dealt with our community because there is such a durse entertainment out there for us. And I think it’s so important as a community and as a culture to have representations of ourselves out there. And so Rose and I are really committed to the notion of contributing to that and I'm really proud that we have been able to do that and that it has caught on with our community. Because although we are proud that people from outside of our community really get this show, we are certainly most proud that people from within our community get it and appreciate it and think it's funny.
Episode four of season two just came out (of the closet). Watch the latest Seeking Simone episode, "Dread Carpet," right here.