Connect with us

a&e features

Golden Globes announces diverse slate of nominees

But is it diverse enough to quell controversy?

Published

on

HOLLYWOOD – If any doubt remained that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has fallen spectacularly out of favor, it was summarily erased by the fact that the sole celebrity on hand to help announce the list of nominations for its 2021 Golden Globe Awards was Snoop Dogg.

That’s not a dig against Snoop Dogg. The eminently lovable rapper is an icon who manages to float effortlessly between worlds within the entertainment industry, thanks to a reputation for enthusiastic self-parody and a proven tendency to be pretty much game for anything – and frankly, watching him read the service manual for a vintage sewing machine would likely be more entertaining than sitting through a list of award nominees being recited (with perfunctory reverence, of course) by even the most accomplished of screen thespians.

Still, the glaring absence of any representative from the industry which the HFPA exists to honor is proof that the organization is still a long way from recovering from the scandal that broke in the wake of a Los Angeles Times investigative report earlier this year, which revealed that its nearly 90-person membership included no people of color and provided damning details about its long-alleged unethical practices – including the influence over its voting process by gifts, paid travel, and other perks from studios and networks behind the potential nominees and winners.

The bombshell report, which was published mere days before the Golden Globes presentation last February, led to an embarrassing award show in which the revelation of the winners was eclipsed by the organization’s scramble to do damage control.

Leaning into a too-little-too-late show of diversity among the ceremony’s performers and presenters, and sending some of the HFPA’s high-level representatives to the podium in a desperate effort to spin the situation with a not-quite-apology for its previous shortcomings (followed by an unconvincing promise to do better), the organization seemed only to have dug itself deeper into the hole of bad publicity that threatened to put an end to the awards body’s 78-year existence, once and for all.

Proposed reforms to the structure and practices of the HFPA were announced, and were promptly dismissed by Time’s Up as “window-dressing platitudes.” Major players in the industry announced intentions to boycott the Golden Globes; more than a hundred PR firms threatened to cut off the HFPA from access to their clients; high-profile talent publicly denounced the organization, with three-time winner Tom Cruise even returning his trophies. Perhaps most disastrous of all, NBC – the network which had been home to the Golden Globes broadcast – announced it would not be airing another one until at least 2023, saying that “change of this magnitude takes time and work” and that “the HFPA needs time to do it right”.

Despite all this, the beleaguered organization declared its intention to continue with its annual awards presentation, and following months of restructuring – in which the HFPA has attempted to diversify its ranks by adding new members, rewritten its bylaws, forbidden the acceptance of gifts, restricted compensated travel, and undertaken an effort to revamp itself from bottom to top – has tenaciously clung to relevance by announcing the nominees for this year’s crop of films and television shows in an early morning press conference marked by the non-participation of any of the potential recipients of those honors.

This means, of course, that it’s time to start gearing up for another awards season in which the dramatic changes wrought by the Covid pandemic upon the entertainment industry are sure to have a still-unpredictable effect on the outcomes, and to engage in a game of “armchair quarterbacking” as we attempt to predict how the honors bestowed by other awards bodies will impact the winners’ circle for the most coveted industry prize of all: the Oscars.

Traditionally, the Golden Globes have been seen as a bellwether for Academy Award inclusion, with many of the nominees and winners going on to eventual Oscar glory – but given the current still-ongoing boycott of the HFPA by so many of the industry’s most influential power-players, it remains to be seen if that long-standing assumption will hold true this year.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at the nominees – with an eye to the diversity among the choices, particularly the inclusion of LGBTQ-relevant nominees among the contenders.

For television, Black actors Billy Porter (“Pose”) and Omar Sy (“Lupin”), as well as South Korean actor Lee Jung-jae (“Squid Game”), received nominations as Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series, while the equivalent Lead Actress category included Black actress Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”) and Black/Puerto Rican actress Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (“Pose”) – who also makes history by becoming the first transgender performer to be nominated in this category, a feat she also accomplished at the 2021 Emmys. In the Comedy division, Black actor Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”) picked up a nod as Best Lead Actor, with Black actresses Issa Rae (“Insecure”) and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”) included among the nominees for Best Lead Actress.

In the supporting categories (which are not divided into comedy and drama division), O Yeong-su (“Squid Game”) got a nod for Best Supporting Actor, with no nominees of color named within the Supporting Actress slate.

For performances in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or Motion Picture Made for Television, Latino actor Oscar Isaac (“Scenes From a Marriage”) and French-Algerian actor Tahar Rahim (“The Serpent”) made the cut for Best Actor, while Black actress Cynthia Erivo (“Genius: Aretha”) was nominated for Best Actress.

The big screen acting categories also included several nominees of color. Though there were no performers of color in the running for Best Lead Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, the Lead Actor slate includes three Black actors – Mahershala Ali (“Swan Song”), Will Smith (“King Richard”), and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) – among its contenders. In the Musical or Comedy division, Latino actor Anthony Ramos (“In the Heights”) scored a nomination for Lead Actor, with Latino/Polish newcomer Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”) earning a nod for Lead Actress.

In the Supporting categories (which again, are not separated into Drama and Comedy divisions), Black performers Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) and Ruth Negga (“Passing”) joined Black/Puerto Rican performer Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) on the list of Actress nominees, and while the Actor category contained no performers of color, deaf actor Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) made the cut, in a rare show of representation for people with disabilities.

When it comes to LGBTQ representation, however, the nominations fall considerably shorter. Among all the acting nominees, the only out members of the community are Porter and Rodriguez (each in their respective Lead Performance categories for “Pose”), Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) and Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) for Lead Actress in a Motion Picture Drama, and Hannah Einbender (“Hacks”) for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Television Comedy. In addition to these, Udo Azuba (nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama for“In Treatment”), Andrew Garfield (nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for “tick, tick… Boom!”) and Erivo are noted for their vocal LGBTQ advocacy as allies. 

While nominees Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee (nominated for Lead and Supporting Actor, respectively, in a Motion Picture Drama for “The Power of the Dog”) play queer characters, both identify as straight in real life. The same is true for Ewan McGregor, nominated as Best Actor in a Limited Series for his star turn as the title character in “Halston”.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Best Director of a Motion Picture category, long dominated exclusively by men, this year includes two women: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) and Maggie Gyllenhall (“The Lost Daughter”)

Whether or not these nominees – or any of the others, for that matter – end up following up their recognition today with nods or wins on Oscar night remains to be seen. In the meantime, we can find out who takes home the HFPA’s prizes (as well as who actually shows up to claim a prize from an organization now relegated to pariah status by most of Hollywood) on January 9, when the ceremony can be seen on the Golden Globes’ You Tube channel.

A complete list of nominations is below.

Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy

“The Great” (Hulu) 
“Hacks” (HBO/HBO Max)

“Only Murders in the Building” (Hulu)

“Reservation Dogs” (FX on Hulu) 

“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama

Brian Cox (“Succession”)

Lee Jung-jae (“Squid Game”)

Billy Porter (“Pose”)

Jeremy Strong (“Succession”)

Omar Sy (“Lupin)

Best Performance by an Actress, Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television

Jessica Chastain (“Scenes From a Marriage”)

Cynthia Erivo (“Genius: Aretha”) 
Elizabeth Olsen (“WandaVision“) 
Margaret Qualley (“Maid”) 
Kate Winslet (“Mare of Easttown”)

Best Director, Motion Picture

Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) 

Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)

Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”)

Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) 

Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”) 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Marion Cotillard (“Annette”)

Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”) 

Jennifer Lawrence (“Don’t Look Up”) 

Emma Stone (“Cruella”)

Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Mahershala Ali (“Swan Song”)

Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”)

Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”) 

Will Smith (“King Richard”) 

Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) 

Best Television Series, Drama

“Lupin” (Netflix)

“The Morning Show” (Apple TV Plus)

“Pose” (FX)

“Squid Game” (Netflix)

“Succession” (HBO/HBO Max)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama

Uzo Aduba (“In Treatment”)

Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”)

Christine Baranski (“The Good Fight)

Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaid’s Tale”)

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez (“Pose”)

Best Performance by an Actor, Limited Series, Anthology Series or Motion Picture made for Television

Paul Bettany (“WandaVision”)

Oscar Isaac (“Scenes From a Marriage”)

Michael Keaton (“Dopesick”)

Ewan McGregor (“Halston”)

Tahar Rahim (“The Serpent”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Leonardo DiCaprio (“Don’t Look Up”) 

Peter Dinklage (“Cyrano”) 

Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick … Boom!”) 

Cooper Hoffman (“Licorice Pizza”)

Anthony Ramos (“In the Heights”)

Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture

Ben Affleck (“The Tender Bar”) 

Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”) 

Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”) 

Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) 

Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

“The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures) — Alexandre Desplat 

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Germaine Franco

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) — Jonny Greenwood 

“Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classic) — Alberto Iglesias 

“Dune” (Warner Bros.) — Hans Zimmer

Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy

Hannah Einbinder (“Hacks”)

Elle Fanning (“The Great”)

Issa Rae (“Insecure”)

Tracee Ellis Ross (“Black-ish”)

Jean Smart (“Hacks”)

Best Limited Series, Anthology Series or a Motion Picture made for Television

“Dopesick” (Hulu)

“Impeachment: American Crime Story” (FX)

“Maid” (Netflix) 

“Mare of Easttown” (HBO/HBO Max)

“The Underground Railroad” (Amazon Prime Video)

Best Supporting Actor, Television

Billy Crudup (“The Morning Show”)

Kieran Culkin (“Succession”)

Mark Duplass (“The Morning Show”)

Brett Goldstein (“Ted Lasso”)

O Yeong-su (“Squid Game”)

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy

“Cyrano” (MGM)

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) 

“Licorice Pizza” (MGM) 

“Tick, Tick … Boom!” (Netflix) 

“West Side Story” (20th Century Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Best Supporting Actress, Motion Picture

Caitríona Balfe (“Belfast”) 

Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”) 

Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) 

Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) 

Ruth Negga (“Passing”)

Best Picture, Foreign Language

“Compartment No. 6” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Finland, Russia, Germany

“Drive My Car” (Janus Films) — Japan

“The Hand of God” (Netflix) — Italy

“A Hero” (Amazon Studios) — France, Iran

“Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics) — Spain

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture

Paul Thomas Anderson — “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) 

Kenneth Branagh — “Belfast” (Focus Features) 

Jane Campion — “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) 

Adam McKay — “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)

Aaron Sorkin — “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) 

Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)

Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) 

Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) 

Best Motion Picture, Drama

“Belfast” (Focus Features) 

“CODA” (Apple) 

“Dune” (Warner Bros.) 

“King Richard” (Warner Bros.) 

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) 

Best Television Actor, Musical / Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”)

Nicholas Hoult (“The Great”)

Steve Martin (“Only Murders in the Building”)

Martin Short (“Only Murders in the Building”)

Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”)

Best Supporting Actress, Television

Jennifer Coolidge (“White Lotus”)

Kaitlyn Dever (“Dopesick”)

Andie MacDowell (“Maid”)

Sarah Snook (“Succession”)

Hannah Waddingham (“Ted Lasso”)

Best Original Song, Motion Picture

“Be Alive” from “King Richard” (Warner Bros.) — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Dixson 

“Dos Orugitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Lin-Manuel Miranda 

“Down to Joy” from “Belfast” (Focus Features) — Van Morrison 

“Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” from “Respect” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) — Jamie Hartman, Jennifer Hudson, Carole King 

“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) — Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell 

Best Motion Picture, Animated

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

“Flee” (Neon) 

“Luca” (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures) 

“My Sunny Maad” (Totem Films)

“Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Studios)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

a&e features

Daisy Edgar-Jones knows why ‘the Crawdads sing’

Actress on process, perfecting a southern accent, and her queer following

Published

on

Daisy Edgar-Jones as Kya Clark. (Photo courtesy Sony/Columbia)

Daisy Edgar-Jones is an actor whose career is blossoming like her namesake. In recent years, she seems to be everywhere. LGBTQ viewers may recognize Edgar-Jones from her role as Delia Rawson in the recently canceled queer HBO series “Gentleman Jack.” She also played memorable parts in a pair of popular Hulu series, “Normal People” and “Under the Banner of Heaven.” Earlier this year, Edgar-Jones was seen as Noa in the black comedy/horror flick “Fresh” alongside Sebastian Stan. 

With her new movie, “Where the Crawdads Sing” (Sony/Columbia), she officially becomes a lead actress. Based on Delia Owens’ popular book club title of the same name, the movie spans a considerable period of time, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama. She was kind enough to answer a few questions for the Blade.

BLADE: Daisy, had you read Delia Owens’s novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” before signing on to play Kya?

DAISY EDGAR-JONES: I read it during my audition process, as I was auditioning for the part. So, the two went hand in hand.

BLADE: What was it about the character of Kya that appealed to you as an actress?

EDGAR-JONES: There was so much about her that appealed to me. I think the fact that she is a very complicated woman. She’s a mixture of things. She’s gentle and she’s curious. She’s strong and she’s resilient. She felt like a real person. I love real character studies and it felt like a character I haven’t had a chance to delve into. It felt different from anyone I’ve played before. Her resilience was one that I really admired. So, I really wanted to spend some time with her.

BLADE: While Kya is in jail, accused of killing the character Chase, she is visited by a cat in her cell. Are you a cat person or do you prefer dogs?

EDGAR-JONES: I like both! I think I like the fact that dogs unconditionally love you. While a cat’s love can feel a bit conditional. I do think both are very cute. Probably, if I had to choose, it would be dogs.

BLADE: I’m a dog person, so I’m glad you said that.

EDGAR-JONES: [Laughs]

BLADE: Kya lives on the marsh and spends a lot of time on and in the water. Are you a swimmer or do you prefer to be on dry land?

EDGAR-JONES: I like swimming, I do. I grew up swimming a lot. If I’m ever on holidays, I like it to be by the sea or by a nice pool.

BLADE: Kya is also a gifted artist, and it is the thing that brings her great joy. Do you draw or paint?

EDGAR-JONES: I always doodle. I’m an avid doodler. I do love to draw and paint. I loved it at school. I wouldn’t say I was anywhere near as skilled as Kya. But I do love drawing if I get the chance to do it.

BLADE: Kya was born and raised in North Carolina. What can you tell me about your process when it comes to doing a southern accent or an American accent in general?

EDGAR-JONES: It’s obviously quite different from mine. I’ve been lucky that I’ve spent a lot of time working on various accents for different parts for a few years now, so I feel like I’m developed an ear for, I guess, the difference in tone and vowel sounds [laughs]. When it came to this, it was really important to get it right, of course. Kya has a very lyrical, gentle voice, which I think that North Carolina kind of sound really helped me to access. I worked with a brilliant accent coach who helped me out and I just listened and listened.

BLADE: While I was watching “Where the Crawdads Sing” I thought about how Kya could easily be a character from the LGBTQ community because she is considered an outsider, is shunned and ridiculed, and experiences physical and emotional harm. Do you also see the parallels?

EDGAR-JONES: I certainly do. I think that aspect of being an outsider is there, and this film does a really good job of showing how important it is to be kind to everyone. I think this film celebrates the goodness you can give to each other if you choose to be kind. Yes, I definitely see the parallels.

BLADE: Do you have an awareness of an LGBTQ following for your acting career?

EDGAR-JONES: I tend to stay off social media and am honestly not really aware of who follows me, but I do really hope the projects I’ve worked on resonate with everyone.

BLADE: Are there any upcoming acting projects that you’d like to mention?

EDGAR-JONES: None that I can talk of quite yet. But there are a few things that are coming up next year, so I’m really excited.

Continue Reading

a&e features

CAMP Rehoboth’s president talks pandemic, planning, and the future

Wesley Combs marks six months in new role

Published

on

Wesley Combs took over as president of CAMP Rehoboth six months ago and is now focused on searching for a new permanent executive director. (Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

June marks half a year since Wesley Combs stepped into his role as president of CAMP Rehoboth. In a conversation with the Blade, Combs recounted his first six months in the position — a time he said was characterized by transition and learning.

Since 1991, CAMP Rehoboth has worked to develop programming “inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities” in the Rehoboth Beach, Del. area, according to the nonprofit’s website. As president, Combs oversees the organization’s board of directors and executive director, helping determine areas of focus and ensure programming meets community needs.

For Combs, his more than three decades of involvement with CAMP Rehoboth have shaped the course of his life. In the summer of 1989 — just before the organization’s creation — he met his now-husband, who was then living in a beach house with Steve Elkins and Murray Archibald, CAMP Rehoboth’s founders.

Since then, he has served as a financial supporter of the organization, noting that it has been crucial to fostering understanding that works against an “undercurrent of anti-LGBTQ sentiment” in Rehoboth Beach’s history that has, at times, propagated violence against LGBTQ community members.

In 2019, after Elkins passed away, Combs was called upon by CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors to serve on a search committee for the organization’s next executive director. Later that year, he was invited to become a board member and, this past November, was elected president.

Combs noted that CAMP Rehoboth is also still recovering from the pandemic, and is working to restart programming paused in the switch to remote operations. In his first six months, he has sought to ensure that people feel “comfortable” visiting and engaging with CAMP Rehoboth again, and wants to ensure all community members can access its programming, including those from rural parts of Delaware and those without a means of getting downtown.

Still, Combs’s first six months were not without unexpected turns: On May 31, David Mariner stepped down from his role as CAMP Rehoboth executive director, necessitating a search for his replacement. Combs noted that he would help facilitate the search for an interim director to serve for the remainder of the year and ensure that there is “a stable transition of power.” CAMP Rehoboth last week announced it has named Lisa Evans to the interim director role.

Chris Beagle, whose term as president of CAMP Rehoboth preceded Combs’s own, noted that the experience of participating in a search committee with the organization will “better enable him to lead the process this time.”

Before completing his term, Beagle helped prepare Combs for the new role, noting that the “combination of his professional background, his executive leadership (and) his passion for the organization” make Combs a strong president. Regarding the results of the election, “I was extremely confident, and I remain extremely confident,” Beagle said.

Bob Witeck, a pioneer in LGBTQ marketing and communications, has known Combs for nearly four decades. The two founded a public relations firm together in 1993 and went on to work together for 20 years, with clients ranging from major businesses like Ford Motor Company to celebrities including Chaz Bono and Christopher Reeve. According to Witeck, Combs’s work in the firm is a testament to his commitment to LGBTQ advocacy.

“Our firm was the first founded primarily to work on issues specific to LGBTQ identities, because we wanted to counsel corporations about their marketing and media strategies and working in the LGBTQ market,” he explained. By helping develop communications strategies inclusive of those with LGBTQ identities, Combs established a background of LGBTQ advocacy that truly “made a mark,” Witeck said.

Witeck emphasized that, in his new position, Combs brings both business experience and a renewed focus on historically underrepresented in LGBTQ advocacy — including people with disabilities, trans people and people of color.

Looking to the rest of the year, CAMP Rehoboth hopes to host a larger-scale event during Labor Day weekend. In addition, the organization will revisit its strategic plan — first developed in 2019 but delayed due to the pandemic — and ensure it still meets the needs of the local community, Combs said. He added that he intends to reexamine the plan and other programming to ensure inclusivity for trans community members.

“CAMP Rehoboth continues to be a vital resource in the community,” he said. “The focus for the next two years is to make sure we’re doing and delivering services that meet the needs of everyone in our community.”

Wesley Combs, gay news, Washington Blade
Wesley Combs (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)
Continue Reading

a&e features

Melissa Etheridge shares Q&A in advance of April 26 Tysons tour stop

Rock pioneer finds inspiration in the past — from revisiting old demos to reconnecting with celeb pals like Ellen

Published

on

Melissa Etheridge brings her ‘One Way Out Tour’ to the D.C. region next week with a show at the new Capital One Hall in Tysons. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

Melissa Etheridge
‘One Way Out Tour’
Tuesday, April 26
Capital One Hall
7750 Capital One Tower Rd.
Tysons, VA
7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $55
ticketmaster.com
capitalonehall.com
melissaetheridge.com

We caught up with rock legend Melissa Etheridge on April 8 by phone from Snoqualmie, Wash. — it’s about 26 miles east of Seattle —where she was playing the Snoqualmie Casino on her “One Way Out Tour,” which plays our region on Tuesday, April 26. 

It’s named after her latest album, released last fall, which found Etheridge, who’s been out since ’93, revisiting demos from early in her career.

Her comments have been slightly edited for length.

WASHINGTON BLADE: “One Way Out” sounds like such a cool project. Was it all re-recorded stuff of old songs or were some of those vintage takes on the record as well?

MELISSA ETHERIDGE: The last two songs, the live songs, were from where? From 2002? OK, but the other songs were newly recorded. 

BLADE: And how many of them did you remember?

ETHERIDGE: You know, when I found them again, they all came back very clearly. And I was like, “Oh, this is — why did I throw that away? That’s weird.” And I really enjoyed, you know, hearing them, they were just old demos. I’d never done full-blown recordings. So I thought, “This is great, I want to do these songs.”

BLADE: We have a relatively new venue you’re going to be playing, Capital One Hall. I’ve only been there once. You excited?

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it’s always fun. I love the D.C.-area crowd. It’s just really, really nice.

BLADE: And how do you decide where you’ll be? Or do you have any say in it? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, it’s not necessarily me. I do have a say in it, in what I want the whole tour to look like. But it is really up to William Morris, my agent, to find the right venue that understands what we need and the kind of atmosphere we’re looking for that and the amount of people and, you know, that sort of thing.

BLADE: Tell me about Etheridge TV. I just wonder, when we were in that acute phase of the pandemic, wasn’t it even remotely tempting to you to just take a break?

ETHERIDGE: No, because since I was 12 years old, I sang all the time for people, like five days a week and it’s just been what I do. And so when it was like, I was looking at a massive, cavernous amount of time that I was going to be home, I still needed a way to pay the bills, so we put our heads together — I’ve got one of the greatest television minds with me, you know, my wife (TV producer Linda Wallem), so I had the space and I had the equipment, and I was like, “Let’s do it.” And it was really fun to learn new things. It was fun to learn about computers and sound and streaming and lights and cameras and all these things that I didn’t know. … I feel a little smarter.

BLADE: When did you start back on the road?

ETHERIDGE: We went out last fall. We went out September, October, right around there. And you know, it was a little different, Now things are things are loosening up … but some places still require masks. But people are starting to get back out and it feels good. It’s not the overwhelming thing that it was a few months ago.

BLADE: And what was it like being on ‘Ellen’ again for her final season?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, I love her. She’s such an old friend. You know, I say that about myself, too. (chuckles) But, you know, she’s just a relationship in my life that I have treasured. We’ve watched each other grow and the changes we’ve made and the successes and what we’ve gone through and I love that she had me on and just it was just a really — she’s a dear friend. And she showed an old photo there, and we both said, “Oh, that was before we were so busy.”

BLADE: Do you talk to her often?

ETHERIDGE: I would say we see each other socially once or twice a year. It just seemed like once we started having children, all my friends from my 20s and 30s when we were not as busy — it just gets harder to stay in touch and life got crazy. 

BLADE: So when you were hanging out back in the day with Ellen and Rosie and everybody, how was it that Brad Pitt was in that group too? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, my girlfriend (Julie Cypher) had been married to Lou Diamond Phillips and we were all very good friends with Dermot Mulroney and Catherine Keener and Catherine Keener did a movie with Brad, like a movie nobody saw, like Johnny Dangerously or something (1991’s “Johnny Suede”), some really weird movie. So I met Brad before he was terribly famous. He was a part of that group. There was a whole group of all of us that just hung out, and we were all totally different. We were just like young, hungry Hollywood and we’d talk about, “Oh, I had this audition,” or “I went and did this,” and we were just all trying to make it in that town. So we’d get together and have fun. 

BLADE: I was so terribly sorry to hear about Beckett (Etheridge’s son, who died in 2020 at age 21 after struggling with opioid addiction). How are you and the rest of the family, especially (Beckett’s twin) Bailey, dealing with it now?

ETHERIDGE: There are many, many families like us that deal with a loss like that. It just blows a family sideways. But we have a deep love and connection, all of us. We all knew he had a problem and it’s a problem that starts way before he actually passes, so it was not a surprise. So now we’re just living with the missing aspect. You try not to think about what could have been and you try to think about him in a happier place and that he’s out of pain, so that helps us.

BLADE: Had he and Bailey been as close in recent years?

ETHERIDGE: They were very close, but in the last couple of years as he made worse and worse choices, we couldn’t support that, so they were less close, but of course in her heart, it was her brother, he was very dear to her. 

BLADE: Did you watch the Grammys?  Was there anybody you were particularly rooting for?

ETHERIDGE: I watched bits and pieces of it. I had a show that night, so I didn’t get to see the main thing, but I have seen pieces and I just love the crazy diversity and you know, the TikTok people winning stuff, it’s like, “Wow, this is so not the Grammys I remember from the ’80s,” but that was what, 30 years ago? So it’s all good.

BLADE: You were such a perennial favorite back in the day in the best rock female category. Were you pissed when they eliminated it? 

ETHERIDGE: It’s sad because I felt like the criteria they were using to judge what is female rock, they just really dropped the ball. I still think there are some amazing musicians that could be considered, you know, rock, but it feels like we’re having a hard time even defining what rock and roll is now anyway. There’s a whole bunch of strong women out there playing, rocking, you know, playing guitar, being excellent musicians and songwriters. If you can’t call it best rock female, OK, call it something else. 

BLADE: I remember so vividly when you were on the Grammys in 2005, in the midst of chemo, when you sang “Piece of My Heart.” I remember you saying you were wondering how people would react to seeing you bald. Having been through that, any thoughts on the Will/Jada Oscars situation since her baldness, too, was due to a medical condition? 

ETHERIDGE: You know, it’s funny, I did feel a little remembrance of (thinking), “I just hope people don’t make fun of me.” That was kind of the first thing because to go out there bald, that was so different for me as an artist whose hair had kind of defined her. I was thinking, “How am I gonna rock without my hair?” I thought people might make fun of me, but I got over that. I just thought, “Well, if somebody makes fun of me, that just makes them look bad.” So I just walked through it. And you know, it’s hard to draw the line between what’s funny and what’s painful and how to look at something. I feel for all parties involved. 

BLADE: When you go on these cruises, do fans give you some space or do they swarm around the minute you walk out? Is it even enjoyable for you? 

ETHERIDGE: Yeah, it is. You know, we did our last one, now we’re doing Etheridge Island, we now have a destination in Mexico, outside of Cancun, it’s just this island that we’re going to that is really fantastic. But I do I make myself available, I don’t run away. When I have to be somewhere, I have a great company we work with called Sixthman that knows how to get me from point A to point B without being bogged down. But I do my make myself available. Everyone gets a picture with me. It’s my work, but I love it. I try to make myself available but also have some time just for myself too.

Melissa Etheridge says slowing down wasn’t an option for her when the pandemic hit. She’s glad to be back on the road now, she says. (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)

BLADE: You Tweeted a few nights ago about having a tight curfew of just 90 minutes at a casino but then it worked out and you got to do a full set. Why are the curfews so tight at casinos?  

ETHERIDGE: Why do you think? They want people at the tables. Like for tonight, we we settled on 100 minutes. They’re giving me 10 extra minutes. I don’t like it, but in some areas, the only really good venue is a casino, so if you want to reach your folks there, you kind of have to meet them half way. 

BLADE: Yeah, but it seems like in concert halls, the curfews can sometimes be really tight too. Even Madonna got her lights shut off a couple years ago. Of course, she’s notoriously late, but why are they so strict with these things nowadays? 

ETHERIDGE: There are all different situations — concert halls often have union crews that will absolutely shut you down if you go one second over. There are also sound curfews, noise curfews, mostly with outdoor venues, but sometimes indoor as well. They have an agreement with the neighborhood. So you have people in the neighborhood standing by with their phones ready to pounce the minute it goes over one minute, they’re gonna call the police. As a performer, you just realize, “OK, it’s not just about me.” When I don’t have a curfew, I usually land at about two hours and some change. That seems comfortable to everyone. Any longer and I think I’m wearing my audience out. When I’m at a place with a shorter show, I just do my best. 

BLADE: I know you’re a big Chiefs fan. Did you watch that game back in January all the way to the end? 

ETHERIDGE: Well, at the end of it, I was on the floor. My wife was like, “Honey, honey, there’s still 13 seconds,” and I was moaning and sort of getting my feet on the floor and, you know, laying down and throwing a fit. And she’s like, “No, there’s still 13 seconds.” I dragged myself back to the television. And I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Wait a minute. Did we just win?” You know, just really crazy, really crazy stuff. … When you’re a fan like that, it’s a ride you can’t fully explain.

BLADE: Are you in a cordial or good place with your exes? Does it get easier when the kids are starting to grow up?

ETHERIDGE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And you realize that it’s best for the kids if you can really get along and that any sort of conflict that can’t get resolved, that gets emotional, does no good for anyone. And absolutely, I have, I’ve gotten better at that as the years have gone by.

BLADE: Do you have the slightest inkling yet what the next studio album might be like?

ETHERIDGE: Well, I’ve got some interesting projects that I’m not ready to talk about just yet. But they have to do with my life story. There’s a lot of digging up of my past and really telling the story. So I imagine the next series of music you’ll get from me is going to be very focused on my journey. 

Melissa Etheridge, gay news, Washington Blade
Melissa Etheridge (Photo by Elizabeth Miranda; courtesy Primary Wave)
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]