Exclusive Interview: Catching Up with Kristanna Loken
At its core, acting is really just a grand lie told in the name of entertainment. It’s a bit incongruous, then, that when actors walk off the stage, we expect the opposite from them: the truth. We want to know who they are and what they stand for — and Kristanna Loken is one of the few actors who tells us.
Loken, who publicly came out as bisexual four years ago, has appeared in T3: Rise of the Machines, Painkiller Jane and The L Word. She also starred in Lime Salted Love, an independent film that became available on DVD last month.
In this exclusive interview with AfterEllen.com, Loken opens up for the first time about her separation from husband Noah Danby and about the new love in her life.
AfterEllen.com: I understand a lot has changed in your personal life in the nearly two years since we last spoke.
Kristanna Loken: Yeah, it’s definitely been a whirlwind. I was in a relationship with a woman for a few years, and then I met Noah and had a relationship with him that lasted about two and a half years. We planned a wedding, and I had this very conventional lifestyle all of a sudden, with the house and the marriage. And then I went from that to ending my relationship with Noah and now being with a woman for the last seven months or so.
AE: The change must have been so dramatic for you, from having all the comforts of a traditional marriage, to now being with a woman again.
KL: Definitely. I told my mother, and I think because my sister’s a lesbian, there was a certain amount of underlying pressure that I have to be the one who has the big wedding and the picket fence and the whole thing. So my mom said, “I want things to be easy for you,” and I thought, “easy for you” — what does that even mean?
But then the more I felt myself breaking up with Noah and being with this woman and looking at something long term, I understood what my mom meant, just with discrimination and the fight for marriage equality. It is the road less traveled, absolutely, and everybody’s not going to be OK with the choices you make in your life, but they’re your choices, and you’re not making them for anybody else. That was one of the important things for me to understand and come to terms with.
AE: Unfortunately, your relationships come under greater scrutiny because you’re one of the few out bisexual actresses.
KL: I think for me, really, everybody is so quick to attach a label. If you’re with a man, now you’re considered straight. If I’m with a woman, I’m a lesbian. I think labels are very confining and restrictive, and I think people should just be able to be happy with the person they choose, regardless of the gender and the title.
AE: And you simply fell in love with a woman.
KL: Yeah, that was pretty much it. It was pretty hard to avoid. I guess you could say it was love at first sight.
AE: Is she willing to be in the public eye?
KL: I don’t think she’s looking for that, but I don’t think she has a problem with it. She’s very comfortable with her sexuality and came out at a very young age and has been with women ever since, so there’s really not a question of her shying away from it — which is really nice for me. I’m very comfortable with who I am and in my own skin, so that helps me a lot, being with someone who is also OK with that. I don’t think I could — actually, I know I couldn’t be with someone who wasn’t OK with that.
AE: You’ve had that problem before, haven’t you?
KL: Yeah, I’ve had problems with people I’ve been with who haven’t necessarily fully accepted themselves or have been afraid of what the public would think. I think that just breeds contempt and discrimination from others who might have issues.
I mean, Harvey Milk really said it best: If you identify within yourself as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — whatever — and those people around you already love you, tell them, because they won’t care.
I think it’s up to us to give voice to that, no matter what job you have or what you do. You don’t have to stand on a rooftop and sing it, but you should do things in a way that makes other people proud of who you are and what you stand for, and not be afraid of that.
AE: Do you think there’s a legitimate fear, let’s say for actresses in particular, that if they come out they’ll lose roles?
KL: I don’t know. For me, I don’t really think of that because some people are going to like who I am and what I’m about, and other people aren’t. And that’s OK. I think people can look at me and identify with me being with a woman or a man, so I don’t think it’s going to be limiting.
If you live in that fear, it’s going to show in your performance, because you’re going to be held back and you’re not going to be able to express yourself. I think you’re really shortchanging yourself at the end of the day.
AE: What made you decide to go public with this very private news?
KL: This time? Or other times? (laughs)
AE: This time.
KL: This time, I just wanted to be honest and set the record straight. I didn’t think it was fair to anybody if people were asking me about my marriage, and I wasn’t honest. I wanted to be forthright rather than have someone see my girlfriend and I together and make some cheap, backhanded comment.
AE: Is your girlfriend in the entertainment industry?
KL: No, she’s not.
AE: Is there anything else you’d like to say about her?
KL: Sure, I mean, I don’t want to mention her name, but she’s a personal trainer and that’s how I met her.
AE: (laughs) Of course she’s a trainer. Of course you met at the gym.
KL: I was on the rowing machine. (laughs) That’s how the whole thing started. She started training me, and she’s still training me. I’m a very outdoorsy, physical, active person, and I enjoy the gym as well, and that was something we had in common, and it just kind of went from there.
AE: It was something you mentioned about Noah that you really connected with, that you could go on long hikes and enjoy that part of life together. It sounds like you’ve found somebody else you can connect to that way.
KL: Absolutely, you’re right. That’s a very important part of my lifestyle. I think I get along with men really well; I have a lot of the same interests as men, and that’s one reason it was very easy for me to get along with Noah. Generally, it’s a little trickier finding women who are as daring as I am when it comes to crazy travel and things like that. She enjoys a lot of those same things too, so it’s nice we have that in common.
AE: When we last spoke, you said you were really looking forward to having a life partner. Are you still hopeful about that?
KL: That’s a very good question. I just turned 30 last month, and I think the older you get the more you plan for the future, and the less it becomes about wanting to be with someone just to be with someone, to enjoy the ride. It’s more of a commitment long term, and I definitely think that’s what I went into with Noah. And I definitely still want to have a family and share my life with someone for the long term, absolutely.
AE: I’m guessing you found an adventurous way to celebrate your 30th?
KL: Well, you know, you’ve really got to go all out when you turn 30.
AE: I had a feeling you would.
KL: Yeah, first we went to one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. We packed a picnic and went on an awesome seven-mile hike to a deserted beach and picnicked on the beach, and it was really beautiful. And then we rented this huge, 32-foot RV with some friends, and we drove out to the desert and went to this weekend-long music festival and just had a blast. It was great.
AE: Are you the kind of person to make resolutions or promises to yourself about your 30s?
KL: I wouldn’t say I set resolutions, but there’s definitely an underlying goal. I feel like, finally, I’m 30; I felt like I should be turning 40. People have this weird idea of being afraid to turn 30, and I was really excited at the prospect. I think the 30s are going to be better than my 20s in the sense of knowing myself a little more and being more sure of myself and more knowledgeable about my craft.
All of these wonderful things I learned about myself in my 20s will really manifest themselves in my 30s. I’m really excited, and there are a lot of things I want to accomplish in this next decade.
AE: Can you give me a specific example?
KL: I think there are a few things. I think my best work is yet to come career-wise. I definitely want to do more with my charity work, and within the next five years or so, I’d like to start a family.
AE: Meaning having children?
KL: Yeah, I would like to adopt, and I would also like to have one. I don’t know in what order, but I’d like to have that experience.
AE: I wonder, are there any celebrities who inspire you with how they manage their private lives while being in the spotlight?
KL: That’s a good question. I’d have to say there are two women I really admire. My all-time favorite actress is Helen Mirren. I think she has this amazing body of work and diversity of work. They tried to pigeonhole her as a blonde bombshell, and she really held her own.
She was very strong and wanted to be looked at as a great artist and actress and not just an object, and in that day and age, that was really hard because women were always the girlfriends or the wives or the sex symbols. She continues to have a great career today, and she’s also relatively private, which is intriguing and kind of dignified.
AE: Who was the other person who came to mind?
KL: I was thinking of Meryl Streep. She also is very private; you don’t really know who her husband is, she has some kids but I don’t know how many or what they look like, she lives somewhere on the East Coast — and that’s about all I know about her personal life. She’s one of the absolute best actresses of all time, and yet she has this beautiful private life, and I think you can do that if you work at it.
AE: Though I think it may be easier for someone like Meryl Streep, who has a traditional marriage, to maintain her privacy.
KL: Yeah, I think there are definitely more questions and intrigue on a different level, which is fine. Why not give a certain amount of information and answers so there’s just the truth to deal with, and less speculation and gossip?
AE: Are you ever pigeonholed as the blonde bombshell — as someone who should play a certain type of role?
KL: I’ve worked very hard not to be viewed that way because I think it could have been a very easy route to go down, but it’s one I definitely didn’t want. I don’t want to turn 40 and be put out to pasture. I want to have a long career, and in doing so you have to hone your craft and grow as an actress and take your work seriously. And I do. I love what I do. It’s the number one passion in my life, and has been — I’ve been doing this for 17 years professionally.
Of course you have to do all different types of work, and you have to play up the sex because sex sells. Everybody wants to see sex; I want to see sex. So you’ve got to give a certain level of that too, but you have to find the right balance.
AE: Speaking of which, the movie you recently completed, which is now called Darfur [formerly Janjaweed], seems to be the type of project you get most excited about.
KL: Yeah, Darfur was a labor of love and passion, and it was made out of a real need for awareness to be raised, especially in America. It’s just staggering to think that so many people don’t know where or even what Darfur is. They don’t know it’s a region in Sudan where mass genocide is taking place; they don’t know anything about the conflict.
So this was a very important film that we made to educate people about the conflict, and it’s all based on true events. It’s in the vein of Hotel Rwanda — difficult to watch, but it absolutely should be seen. It will be at film festivals next year, and you can watch the trailer now on the official website.
AE: And what else do you have coming up?
KL: I have two films I’ll be doing early in the new year. One is a very cool script — one of the best scripts I’ve ever read — called Tribes of October. It’s done all in CGI like Sin City, in a parallel universe, and it’s with James Caan and Robert Duvall.
The other one I’m going to be doing is the sequel of BloodRayne, which is more along the lines of the original video game. I’m going to be hunting Nazis, so there’ll be more blood. I think the lesbian community will definitely be interested in watching that one.
AE: I want to end by asking if there’s anything you’d like to say to the AfterEllen.com community.
KL: I’d like to thank people for their support in my career, and their interest in sexuality because I think it’s a very important topic. AfterEllen.com is, I think, a great springboard for people who are interested in reading about the truth.
And I should say I have to thank my sister who is outspoken and has really helped me; she’s 16 years older than me so it’s like having another mother.
AE: I’m sure she’ll appreciate hearing that.
KL: Well, she knows. She was like the alternative mother; I had two. (laughs) She is very active in the LGBT community, and has always taught me that you love the person you choose. She just wants me to be happy, she supports me regardless of who I’m with, and she encourages me to talk about it — to be open about who I am