By Eleanor Capaldi
Following successful niche shows like ‘Being Human’ and ‘Him and Her’, BBC Three’s most recent offbeat offering was the well received ‘Lip Service’. This late night show focussed on the dramatic and often comic goings on of lesbian life in the city of Glasgow.
Leading actress Ruta Gedmintas starred as Frankie. A lothario of sorts, Frankie embodies a hurt soul playing it tough. The series stars, including Scottish actress Laura Fraser, decamped to Glasgow to shoot the show in the autumn of 2009. Eleanor Capaldi caught up with Ruta to chat about filming ‘Lip Service’, getting into character, and meeting the girls on Glasgow’s gay scene.
People made their own assumptions about your character, and branded her the ‘Shane’ of the show, after the popular heart breaker of the ‘L Word’; how would you describe her?
“As Frankie, in her own entity… well, she’s incredibly confident and a bit of a troublemaker, but underneath she’s a really vulnerable damaged little girl who has a ‘I have to hurt someone else before they hurt me’ attitude to life. If you compare her to Shane, she’s quite a bit darker.”
The cast filmed in Glasgow, what was the experience like filming and living up here for a while?
“I love Glasgow, I think it’s a really great city, it’s really vibrant, and there’s so much culture, the people are so friendly. I didn’t get to go out much, the only experience I had was when I was filming on location or the odd night out. From what I did see I really liked it. I’ve worked in Glasgow a few times, I really enjoyed it.”
Which places did you go on your night out, do you remember?
“We went to a couple of the main gay bars, but I can’t remember what they’re called. If you list a few I’d probably recognise the name . . . do you know them?”
What about the Polo Lounge?
“We went there, I think we went there on our wrap party. Which was great actually, we already had girls coming up to us asking us about the show, which was really quite bizarre for us and really very lovely. It’s very warming to know you’re doing a show people really are interested in.”
There was an extras call locally; did you get to chat to everyone on set?
“That was great as well, in a few of the scenes we were shooting, we shot in a place called Bunker, which is turned into bar called Ruby’s in the show, we had extras then, and in between takes we just had a little chat with everyone. Everyone seemed really excited about it, that was really nice, that was good.”
Did it feel like a fresh start, for a new character?
“Absolutely. With Frankie, I have to adopt a bit of a different style, different walk, slightly different talk, having my hair cut helped a lot. The reactions I get from people are different as well. Suddenly I stop getting the unwanted male attention; it was quite brash a lot of the time. It was quite nice to sort of have really short showers in the morning (laughs). To not have to deal with anything, just wake up and go, not have to do anything with my hair, it was really nice. And more suited to my character as a person.”
Do you think that featuring lesbians on television isn’t as big a deal any more, and is that a good thing, or do you think this is still ground breaking, to have a show like this about women on a mainstream youth channel like BBC Three?
“I’m not sure if it’s ground breaking, because we’ve had the ‘L Word’ and I think it was the first ground breaking show. But I certainly think there was a need for higher representation of the lesbian community on TV. I think having a show where women are the main characters is refreshing. If I looked back throughout my jobs, I’ve hardly worked with women at all, it’s always men, I’ve always played the girlfriend or the daughter. When I got Lip Service, I wondered, what’s it going to be like working with women, will it be really hormonal (laughs)? It turned out to be one of best experiences I’ve ever had. Having this show on TV, can be a benefit not only to the lesbian community, but also to young girls, and the straight community. Just having a bunch of strong role models, seeing strong women up there is a good thing I think.”
Do you think viewers can identify with the characters?
“I think you can identify with all of the characters in some kind of way. What you strive for as an actor, whatever character it is you’re doing, you want some kind of empathy there. With Jess, she has a really haphazard nature, a lot of people can identify with that. What Fiona Button is brilliant at doing as Jess, is bringing a comic character with this tragedy to her. It’s the same with Cat.. And with Frankie and her very vulnerable ‘I can’t quite deal with things’ side, I think in all three of those girls, you can identify with something in them, and their relationships. Of course you’ve got two male characters as well; it’s really lovely to have that in the mix as well, to see the dynamics between gay women and straight men.”
Lip Service is out on DVD now, you can catch Ruta in the film Zerosome which will be out in 2011.