Actress Julia Stiles is best known for her breakout performance opposite Heath Ledger in “10 Things I Hate About You.” She’s also known for her role in the “Bourne” series of films as well as “Mona Lisa Smile”and David Mamet’s “State and Main.” She stopped by the SiriusXM studios this week to talk with Ron Bennington about two of her latest projects, the film “It’s a Disaster” and the upcoming second season of her YouTube web series, “Blue.” Excerpts of the interview appear below.
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Ron Bennington: I called it a TV show, but is it called a webisode? Is there a different…web series?
Julia Stiles: There’s no term for it that I really like. But yeah, web series. A show on the web.
Ron Bennington: Yeah, because it really is shot, for me, like a movie. The way that it’s laid out. And I caught the first year all together. So, I just watched it as if I was watching a movie.
Julia Stiles: Yeah, that’s how we designed it. I mean Rodrigo García who created the show, wrote it so you could watch…each episode is maybe 7 minutes long – so you can watch one or a bunch at a time if you don’t have that much time. But we wanted the story to hold up for the entire hour and a half that is an entire season.
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Ron Bennington: It’s a nice tense story because you play a prostitute who is keeping it a secret, so she’s living in this web of lies.
Julia Stiles: Yes. She’s tangled a complicated web for herself. I play this girl “Blue” who is a young mother. She has kind of a wild past. When she was a teenager, she partied a lot and she ended up accidentally getting pregnant, but she’s raised her teenage son and now to supplement her income on the side – is working as a call girl. She’s not like a streetwalker. She gets paid something like $800 an hour or whatever. But it’s all about her secret life and how she’s trying to manage it. And things get more and more complicated for her.
Ron Bennington: And I don’t know if anyone ever keeps a secret. I don’t know if it can be done.
Julia Stiles: There is a little bit about like wanting to get caught. So, she keeps pushing the envelope, so that on some level maybe she wants to get caught. And in season 2, she ends up having to see a therapist because her son has started acting out in school. He gets into a fight with one of the bullies there. And one of the conditions that he doesn’t get expelled is that he has to go to therapy. And the therapist kind of ropes her into doing that too. So, you could imagine like somebody who has a dark past and also is lying to everybody around them – the last place you want to be is in a therapist’s office.
Ron Bennington: And the kid knows that for some reason too that his mom’s lying. He doesn’t even know how. He just picks up on the fact.
Julia Stiles: He knows there’s something suspicious going on.
Ron Bennington: He knows something about her that isn’t up front. I think we do pick up on things like that.
Julia Stiles: Like she doesn’t answer her phone, but she calls him back right away. And actually the first scene of season 1, which is what hooked me on the show to begin and made me want to be part of it – is kind of in a nutshell, what we deal with throughout the whole show is like – she’s at work. She’s with a client. And just when things are getting hot and heavy, she keeps getting phone calls from her son asking for help with his math homework and she kind of has to go and deal with that in the bathroom. And then, it turns out that her client is someone she went to high school with too. So, it’s like she can never escape from what she’s set up for herself.
Ron Bennington: Which by the way, I just wanted to kill him during that thing. Because he knew and still was letting go and thought to himself, now is the time that I’ll tell her.
Julia Stiles: Yeah. It was a little bit mean.
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Ron Bennington: When you play this part, do you feel differently than when you’re playing a different part? Do you know like – I’m playing the prostitute, so does that put your mindset?
Julia Stiles: I’ve got to say that – for this, it’s the one thing that I can’t watch again. Like they offered to show me the episodes before they aired and I was like – nope, don’t want to watch it. And I want other people to watch it, but there’s something about like I get so wrapped up in the fiction of it all when we’re shooting because you have to, but when it was over, I was like – whoa, did I really give somebody a hand job in that scene. (laughs)
Ron Bennington: And yet, if you were playing a killer, you would be like watching it.
Julia Stiles: I could separate easier, yeah.
Ron Bennington: Yeah, you could separate it and act like – well, that would never happen. But even when it comes down to watching a sex scene, and I’ve talked this over with actors before, they would much rather…it’s much more comfortable to do a murder scene than it is to do a sex scene.
Julia Stiles: Sure. I also think largely like what we do in the series is, especially because it’s on the internet, we didn’t want to be super explicit in terms of nudity. We wanted to play with people’s imaginations more. And that’s actually even more powerful. Like the idea that you’re not actually really showing anything, but you can do some much with the power of the imagination.
Ron Bennington: Oh, absolutely. And I think the less you do, the imagination actually goes even further.
Julia Stiles: It could be even more provocative, right?
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Ron Bennington: It’s kind of a cool time for you. You’ve got a really great movie out On Demand, right now too, called “It’s a Disaster” which I just caught over the weekend.
Julia Stiles: Oh cool.
Ron Bennington: I think it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.
Julia Stiles: Oh thank you. Yeah. I’m glad you saw it.
Ron Bennington: And I did not even know that you were in this film.
Julia Stiles: Yes, I am in it. It’s me and a bunch of friends of mine. And David Cross and America Ferrera are in it too, but it’s On Demand now and I think comes out in theaters around…like select theaters around the country in April.
Ron Bennington: Isn’t strange the way things happen now? I mean here we are trying to come up with a name for “webisodes” and you’re acting like it’s on TV before it goes to the theaters. No one knows how things work anymore.
Julia Stiles: Yeah. Exactly. The traditional ways of releasing stuff is changing. “It’s a Disaster” is about a couples brunch. A group of friends get together for Sunday brunch and they end up not being able to leave their house because they get news that a dirty bomb has gone off and that the world is ending. And they all are in denial and end up freaking out inside this house.
Ron Bennington: It’s really great too because it’s not played silly. It’s played where the dialogue is funny. The timing is funny. And I’m almost thinking – well, this reminds me of more of the old school traditional comedies than comedies today. Even though you have this really strange place that it goes, it’s back to that kind of Billy Wilder timing.
Julia Stiles: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks. I’m glad. I’m glad that you picked up on that. Todd Berger who wrote and directed it – that’s all his sense of humor. I mean it’s very much about like one-liners here and there and the timing…I almost think the movie gets funnier the second time that you watch it because there’s so many quick little one-liners in there that you could easily miss like a lot of dead pan.
Ron Bennington: Yeah, there’s plenty of stuff that’s really dry and with…I guess we call it “adult” now because so much of our comedy has gotten so silly and slapsticky and almost cartoony…
Julia Stiles: And broad, yeah.
Ron Bennington: To go back to where people are just having a conversation and being funny and things are coming out, it’s rare these days. And really funny things.
Julia Stiles: They get very easily distracted too. They’ll be talking about how they going to like survive or like if they have a radio or a survival kit in their garage and meanwhile they get distracted about like television shows and it’s a little bit of a commentary on our ADD.
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Ron Bennington: So, you’re in blockbuster films. You’re in smaller films. You’re in a web series. You’re on cable series. You were on “Dexter” a couple of years ago. We will be at the point with you where you’ll be like doing something that’s just going to come out on earrings. (Julia laughs) You’ll just be able see it.
Julia Stiles: I’m coming out with a rap album.
Ron Bennington: But is that still a thing where you know where your career is going or does something just interest you and you go off with it?
Julia Stiles: That’s one of the greatest things and the scariest things about what I do. It’s very unpredictable, but also for me, it really doesn’t matter what the platform is. It’s more of if it’s a story I want to tell and people that I want to work with. And something that I can contribute to. So to me, it doesn’t matter if it’s a big movie, a small movie, a web series, theater, whatever.
Ron Bennington: You just do these one at a time? You just make the decisions one at a time. You don’t really plot and plan.
Julia Stiles: Yeah. Sometimes it’s really just an instinct. Like even with “Blue”, I just read and go – oh, that’s cool. I want to do that.
Ron Bennington: And we were talking about this. So many great performers are on this web series with you as well.
Julia Stiles: Yeah. It was amazing to see some amazing actors show up in guest roles. Kathleen Quinlan plays my mom. Yeah, it was really great. It was like acting with a new person everyday was kind of wild.
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Ron Bennington: And then you’re on twitter @missjuliastiles.
Julia Stiles: M-I-S-S, yes. I just joined twitter. I was so reluctant for so long.
Ron Bennington: What made you do it?
Julia Stiles: Curiosity. Well, at first I was like – wow, you can follow Al Sharpton and you can follow bands that you like. And also all my friends talk about – oh, this was on twitter. And so, I felt left out. So, I decided to join.
Ron Bennington: Well, it’s also a great way if you get too drunk to ruin your career by saying something ridiculous.
Julia Stiles: That is probably the number one reason why I didn’t join for so long. Not because I would say something when I was drunk, but just impulsive, whatever little thoughts that pop into my brain – I don’t need to broadcast them immediately. So, I’ve had to learn how to be restrained in my twideos.
Ron Bennington: Right.
Julia Stiles: Also, I don’t want to be one of those people that’s constantly like – me, me, me, me. Look at this. Look at this. Look at this thing that I’m doing. But you can be a little more clever about it.
Ron Bennington: Yeah. And then you also have to remember that some of your fans are Republicans. (Julia laughs)
Julia Stiles: I have yet to offend…you know how people like get into fights over twitter?
Ron Bennington: Sure.
Julia Stiles: I have yet to have that happen to me.
Ron Bennington: So, it’s @missjuliastiles if anybody wants to tweet to you and “Blue” is out on watchwigs.com. Congratulations with that. And go over to On Demand and watch “It’s a Disaster”. It’s a very very funny film. Thank you so much for stopping by. I’ll see you next time coming through.
You can hear this interview in its entirety exclusively on SiriusXM satellite radio. Not yet a subscriber? Click here for a free trial subscription.
You can learn more about Ron Bennington’s two interview shows, Unmasked and Ron Bennington Interviews at RonBenningtonInterviews.com.