Samantha "Sam" Sutliff plays the adorable spaghetti friend, Jen, in The Leslie. A current graduate student at the University of San Diego, The Leslie is Sutliff's first web series and surely not her last! Read more on her experience playing the "straight-girl crush" and what it means to be part of a diverse and queer-allied cast.
netTVnow: How did you get involved in the series?
Samantha Sutliff: About a year ago I was submitting to as many casting calls online as I could. The Leslie was one of them. I got a response to my profile from Kate (Johnson) and ended up doing a self-tape audition in my kitchen with my sister feeding me lines and manning the camera for me. I didn't hear from Kate for a while, but I was one of the few people cast in the first round who actually ended up being in the show. I actually didn't even meet Kate until two days before we shot the season finale! We became very close very fast, obviously.
netTVnow: What attracted you to the role of Jen?
SS: I remember looking at the script and being so excited to play with this character. I may have in the past been a bit of a Jen myself, inadvertently, so she felt like someone who I could really relate to, or at least someone who I knew in my real life. The real draw wasn't just Jen, however, it was the whole piece was so well put together. I thought, even if I'm in a relatively few number of these episodes, I needed to be a part of this project. Thankfully, Kate agreed! Beyond that, I had done two super depressing projects in a row and my mother was begging me to be in a comedy!
netTVnow: What was it like playing the typical "straight girl crush"?
SS: Like I said before, I have been accused of being a bit of a "Jen" before in my life, so playing her was like being me, except for a much, much sweeter version of myself, Slytherin represent! Jen also is far more touchy-feely than my waspy upbringing allows, so it was very freeing to be able to play someone who didn't seem to have any barriers with her very best girlfriends, regardless of sexual preference. Long story short, playing Jen, as with playing any character in this series was, I assume, a freaking blast.
netTVnow: Does Jen have a crush on Leslie?
netTVnow: Why does Jen freak out after sleeping with Leslie even though she initiated it?
SS: Kate's answer to this might be different than mine, but for me I feel as though it was just too much for her too soon. She didn't have any sort of wading into the lady pond, just dove headfirst. The implications of sleeping with Leslie aren't something that she thought of beforehand. She's obviously attracted to Leslie, she wants her, and I think she unfortunately let her vagina do the thinking for her. Not only is this her first time having sex with a woman, but it's with one of her best friends, so who knows how this would affect their friendship, even if she hadn't freaked out.
Beyond that I think Jen probably enjoyed it a little too much, so much so that she begins to question how to define herself. These are not feelings that one usually wants to work out with the person they just slept with, it would be too awkward. Jen always wants things to be happy, calm, and just so, and the lack of that in any situation, but especially this one, would be way too much for her.
netTVnow: Where do you hope Jen will be in season two?
SS: I already know exactly where Jen will be in season two! No spoilers!
netTVnow: Was this your first web series? If so how was the prep like compared to other projects you've done?
SS: This was my first series! When I started The Leslie, I had just come off of two very large film sets and far before that came from a strong theater background. This project was a way lower budget and almost had a guerrilla, improvisational feel, but in that same way it felt like theater. We didn't worry so much about getting a ton of different angles and getting that one beautiful frame. It was more about telling the story and getting compelling performances out of the actors.
netTVnow: What was it like to be part of a web series that has such a strong queer focus and portrays such strong allies?
SS: Absolutely, this was an incredible feeling. When you work as an actor in Los Angeles, you often are handed projects that are trite or melodramatic or just not well written, and The Leslie had none of those problems. This is especially true for female actors. I can't tell you how many auditions I've gone on for the hero's girlfriend/wife who doesn't seem to have any real thoughts or motivations for doing what she does. Whenever I see a project that actually has female roles where they are considered to be human beings, I get excited. The Leslie also makes sure to tackle queer issues without making you feel like you are being lectured to. Leslie's story is not a coming out story, she's already been there, done that, bought that t- shirt. Its about what comes after that, how to live life as a gay woman and that is something exciting and new that I personally had never seen before.
netTVnow: What did you love most about filming?
SS: The cast! Hands down. The cast and crew were such wonderful people and I think all of us had the same experience. We clicked, instantly, it was unbelievable I have never felt that close to a group of people that quickly. It's strange to think that I didn't even know these people a year ago, because now they are my very best friends in Los Angeles. We all love and support each other and wholeheartedly believed in this project. It was exciting to get to set early early in the morning and just get to play with these amazing actors every day.
netTVnow: Any upcoming projects we can share?
SS: I'm currently in graduate school at University of San Diego and have a small part in The Old Globe Theatre's, Two Gentlemen of Verona. For another big project, you'll have to wait until November 16th!