Patricia Cage

Clea DuVall is a name moviegoers won't soon forget. The twentysomething actress has racked up an impressive number of film credits, and these days she's having a good time portraying a police officer who kicks some butt in John Carpenter's Ghost of Mars.
However, DuVall's latest film role -- a sexy tomboy named Graham -- will probably earn her a MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Kiss as she puckers up with good friend and co-star Natasha Lyonne in the romantic comedy But I'm A Cheerleader -- a film dealing with sexual disorientation.
When I entered the room at The Standard Hotel, the tiny-framed actress was sprawled on the couch barefooted and relieved to know that iCAST was her last interview for the day. I also noticed that the blonde-highlighted, freckle-faced actress has a truly angelic demeanor -- something you might not guess from her recent roles.

iCAST: Tell me a little bit about developing your character, Graham.

CD: She was originally a very stereotypical "butch" lesbian. But after talking to a lot of people, that kind of helped us mold her into somebody real -- a character that we had never seen before on screen. Usually in gay films, the people are more stereotypical, whether people want to believe it or not.
I don't know what I'm trying to say and I feel like I'm going to make somebody mad now.
But you never see two young, cute girls together onscreen. We wanted to change that.

iCAST: Do you feel proud that you're putting out a film on a subject that's almost always stereotyped? Do you feel proud knowing that you're representing gays and lesbians in a good light?

CD: Definitely. I think it's really important for kids to see this movie and to see that it is okay to be gay and that the most important thing is to just love somebody. Find somebody that you can care about that cares about you, because that's really, really hard to do. You don't find that often, and you should honor that kind of connection with somebody. And there's nothing wrong with it.

iCAST: You know the MTV Movie Awards are going to have you and Natasha nominated for "Best Kiss." You're right up there in the fine tradition of Cruel Intentions and Boys Don't Cry. Was doing that scene difficult for you?

CD: It was awkward, because Natasha and I are friends, and it's weird to all of a sudden just have to make out with one of your really good friends in front of a bunch of people. But we did it. I don't really remember it all that well. I just remember the first take of it, and being freaked out. And she was freaked out.
It's strange. How do you do that with anybody though, boy or girl? Just having to make out all of a sudden? It's not natural.

iCAST: How does it feel being an actress during a time when being young is a hot commodity?

CD: I feel really lucky and very fortunate that I get to do what I get to do. I really have a lot of respect for the filmmakers and other young actors. There are a lot of young people out there that are coming up right now that are just amazing. It feels good. It feels really good.
There are people that started when I started and we've all kind of grown up together and are all kind of in the same place. It's almost like having your graduating class in high school.

iCAST: When did you decide that you wanted to pursue acting?

CD: When I was about 13, I decided that's what I wanted. Then when I was 18, I sent out my head shots and my resume -- my resume that was non-existent -- to agencies, and one agent called me. He was a drunk and I was with him for a while. Then I met my manager and she introduced me to my current agent, and everything kind of happened from there.

iCAST: What's it like to hone your craft at such a young age?

CD: It's tough because they teach acting in a very technical kind of way. And acting is everything but scientific. It's not like math where there are formulas. Performing arts schools try to turn it into that and make so there's only one way to do something and if you don't do it like that, then you're not good and you deserve to fail.
It's not like English class.
Acting is something that is very individual and very personal and I don't think it should be graded. You can't give a test on it, because your tests happen in your work -- your call is 6:30 in the morning and you go and you work for 14 hours. That's your test.
The schools just didn't like me, because that's how I thought. Things were just so confining. There's no freedom in it; there's no fun in it. It's so rehearsed and so false that I just couldn't get into it. I couldn't even pretend. And they just didn't care for that. So, I didn't do very well in acting school.

iCAST: Is there anybody who inspired you to become an actress, anybody who really supported you?

CD: There was one teacher at that school that really actually did support me a lot and had a lot of faith in me. I think Penny Johnson's her stage name. But she's a really wonderful actress. She really supported me a lot. And my dad did. Those two were probably the people that helped me to make the decision to act.

iCAST: Do you ever think what you would be doing if you weren't an actress?

CD: No. I don't believe in having something to fall back on, because it's setting yourself up to fall back on it.

iCAST: What do you hope people will take with them when they leave But I'm A Cheerleader?

CD: I hope that it makes it easier for them to see homosexuality.
I hope that when they walk out of it, they have an understanding of what it's like to be gay. If there's a kid that's having doubts or whatever, I hope that they see that it's okay to be gay, and that it can be a beautiful thing and there's nothing wrong with it.
I hope other people will understand what it's like for people who have gone through that or are going through it. I just hope for an all-around understanding, I guess.