L7 Convention – Interview with Mei Melançon
Mei Melançon was born in the Philippines but grew up mainly in Japan. She began her acting career when she landed a role in “Rush Hour 2” and had guest starring roles on “CSI”, “Deadwood” and “Kitchen Confidential”. Later she was cast as the mutant Psylocke in “X-Men 3”, though Mei herself had admitted that her role was cut substantially and if you blink, you miss her.
Mei was mostly known to the convention attendees for her role as Jamie Chen in “The L Word”, so we began the interview with a few questions about her character and the show.
B&TF: Jamie was the third wheel at first and slowly Alice became the third wheel so why did Jamie choose Tasha? What qualities attracted her to Tasha instead of Alice?
MM: According to what was written I think that they had a lot in common and I agree with that. You know there is a fact that they both had the same kind of family situation, their upbringing was similar. Not exactly but they seemed to be able to connect through the family, their history, pain, that kind of thing. Even though their lives weren’t the same they could connect with what was going on in their past. They just found out a whole bunch of things, like they liked the same food and a lot of other things that seemed to connect them together and, I think I talked about this when I was up there on the stage, but sometimes you think, “Wow, this is love”, because you share the same things. That’s probably why Jamie ended up going with Tasha, I think.
B&TF: Was it you or Leisha who said that sometimes when people have too much in common it’s actually doesn’t work well?
MM: Yeah, I said that. There’s this play called “Fool for Love” and in it Sam Shepard talks about when he was giving an explanation that sometimes when you see the counterpoint in the other person and you think, “You are me and I’m you and we…wow,” but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s the opposite. It’s a little bit more work but maybe that will work better in the long run.
B&TF: So do you think that it’s why Tasha went back to Alice?
MM: Yes and I think that was actually Ilene’s and the other writers’ intention to do it like that, to show that that was the option. You know, in life we always get choices. We get choices who we want to be with and I think that Tasha made the right choice in that situation but she was given a choice and that’s very human. We get choices, we get tempted and my character was just that person that ended up being there to help her make that choice.
B&TF: All the cast members keep saying that there was a lot of improvisation during some scenes. I was an extra in episode 607 and witnessed the filming of a scene between you, Leisha and Jennifer Beals before the dances, talking about cameltoes and the outfits.
MM: Oh yeah, I remember.
B&TF: I was reading the script at the same time and some of the things were definitely improvised, so when you were working with Rose and Leisha, how often did you improvise your lines?
MM: It’s not as if they were completely changing everything but there were times when a word was changed or something thrown in that would be funnier. I noticed that Leisha and Rose would have a really good sense of humor. There was a scene when we were in the back and Leisha starts chickening out, saying, “I can’t do this.” And Rose was like, “Come on, you can…” whatever, I don’t remember what she said but I was like, “God, they are so clever,” and I just sat there quiet because I couldn’t think of anything. That was funny to say and I was just like, “Yeah,” I’m okay with them but since they’ve been working together so much they kind of know what will flow. There were many little one-liners that worked. Many times, it would be the script but there would be an addition or something switched around but they definitely made it better. No one was completely changing everything.
B&TF: You mostly worked with Leisha and Rose, so how much fun was it working with them as a newcomer?
MM: Yeah, I barely talked to anyone else except maybe in the baby shower scene or the dance when I talked to a few people. It was fun. I learned a lot. I learned about pacing too. As I was saying out there, film has a different pace. You can kind of take a lot of dramatic pauses and they will cut around it but in television, you have to shoot everything in like one day or two days that you’ll be shooting in a week in film. When I came, I did take notice of the fact that they kept the pace going and that kind of thing, so I learned a lot from them all the time.
B&TF: You talked a little bit about this at our table during Meet&Greet, about Season 6 and that it didn’t make sense to the cast members. What was the general mood on the set when you were filming the last few episodes and what was everyone’s reaction to the Season 6 storylines and the finale?
MM: I wouldn’t necessarily say that they didn’t approve but it’s a smart group of women and they wanted to be sure that it makes sense and if people will be happy with this outcome. Are our characters being treated in the right way? As an outsider, as someone coming in, I completely understand that. They’ve grown with their characters and they have a lot of respect and they want to see their characters say goodbye in the most respectful way. That might not have completely matched the way the story ended. In saying that, sometimes it’s a really big thing trying to end the series. I’m sure there are some people that are happy with that.
B&TF: Those who wanted Jenny to be dead.
B&TF: I guess people might like the end or not depending on who were their favorite characters but there must be some kind of closure with enough doors open for a movie or something. Have you heard anything about the movie? I guess all the cast wants to do it except for Mia since Jenny is dead.
MM: Well, you know, she can come back as a ghost or in flashbacks or something. Because I’m not part of the actual L Word history, not part of the legacy since I came in to support it, I don’t really know or can say much about that. I think even the way it ended, in life sometimes things don’t end perfectly so there’s always a way you can knit things together. Since I’m not really a part of that, they are probably better at saying what they think is going to happen with their movie.
B&TF: What was your overall experience with “The L Word”?
MM: I had a great time. Great time and a lot of fun people. You know, working with everyone, working with Showtime and Ilene, meeting new people. It was good, I liked it.
B&TF: You were talking about your family at Q&A’s, are any of your siblings interested in acting or any kind of entertainment?
MM: Everyone’s very artistic, everyone sings or plays guitar. I have a younger brother, Lance, who’s done some theater and my little sister, Cat, who directed a lot of home videos that are quite brilliant, I have to say because she edits stuff together brilliantly and I keep telling her, “You need to pursue that.” I don’t know if she will. And she also sings and she’s in a band but when it comes to the acting thing, I’ve tried to get a couple of them into that but it’s so tough that people have to want to do it. You can’t just say, “Oh, I want to act.” It’s not a pleasure cruise. It’s difficult and you have to be up for that. No one can push you into that.
B&TF: When I was behind the scenes, I saw how many takes they would do for a scene that lasts just a few seconds. And I heard there’s a lot of waiting between the scenes. What were you doing in your spare time or between the takes?
MM: There were a lot of jokes. I think everyone takes their turn when someone’s in a good mood that day. On all sets, one person’s kind of the joker. Many times, I would just go back to my trailer to watch DVDs and read. It’s great when you have to concentrate and you want to finish a book so you just sit down and you can finish the book.
B&TF: Someone had asked you at Q&A session what people you would invite to a dinner party and you mentioned two writers, Hemingway and Tolstoy. Why them and what would you talk about?
MM: My favorite Hemingway book is “A Moveable Feast.” Have you read that? It’s about a lot of artists, mainly writers, and it’s kind of an autobiographical work.
B&TF: It’s not one of his most famous books.
MM: No, it’s not but it spoke to me because I love writing and the way he discusses writers and his relationship with writers back in the time. It was so refreshing. It’s the most refreshing book and there are little parts when I’d say, “Oh, I understand that feeling.” It was sweet and innocent. And then there was Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”.
B&TF: I had to read it in High school. I read all the peace parts and skipped the war.
MM: The war stuff was the most intricate.
B&TF: Well, I also had to take history classes and there was plenty of war stuff there already. I preferred to read the peace stuff, romance and such.
MM: “War and Peace” speaks to me because when I was growing up I was raised very religious and wasn’t allowed to read a lot of books. A lot of people were always watching me and I wasn’t allowed to read it. I would actually snick it and read it and it just really fed me. I kind of related to her. She made a lot of mistakes.
MM: Yeah, Natasha. How she was growing up and things that happened when you are growing up. I love that book. It’s my favorite novel and Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” because it’s about writing and I love writing. So I’ll be asking about writing and I would also be asking Tolstoy about his novella “The Devil.” It’s a little novella but it’s cool.
B&TF: They just made a movie “The Last Station” about his life.
MM: Yes, I need to watch that. It was playing on a plane and I wanted to watch that.
B&TF: On mine too but I decided to watch “Alice in Wonderland”. I didn’t want to pay for it because I heard it wasn’t that good. So “The Last Station” will be my movie on a way home.
MM: I want to watch it, too.
B&T: How would you describe yourself: likes, dislikes, your fears, your hopes? Describe yourself in a few words.
MM: I would describe myself as moody (laughing). Like one of those people who are happy a lot of the time and then I get in moods where I feel I can be a little suspicious. Yet I have to keep myself in check because I think I’m very sensitive so it’s easy for me to get paranoid. Not paranoid like I’m crazy, like there are some people out to get me. It’s not it. It’s more like that I’m not making people happy. I want to please so I have to keep that in check. I was talking to my sister about this and we were both laughing because she’s the same way and she’ll be like, “I noticed it in you.” So that would be a part of me that I’m always working on but I’d say, in a few words, I have a lot of energy. I’m optimistic. I can be very aggressive. A little bit domineering and that’s it.
B&TF: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
MM: (whispers) Guilty pleasures…wow.
B&TF: I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.
MM: Tell me yours.
B&TF: Dark chocolate and lesbian romance.
MM: Ha-ha-ha. Oh, mine’s anime. Yeah, I used to play war games. I used to love playing it but I kind of stopped doing that.
B&TF: You and Janina would get on very well.
MM: Oh, does she do that too?
B&TF: Yes, she admitted to being a geek and playing all kinds of computer games.
MM: Yeah, I recognize that. That’s funny. There’s this Japanese anime called “Bleach” that I really like. That’s my pleasure.
B&TF: You said in Q&A’s that you prefer honesty in any relationship or friendships. You’d rather people tell you the truth even if it hurts. How do you cope with that hurt?
MM: I’m in no way perfect. I strive for honesty and I think the most important place when the honesty is important is when you are in a relationship. If you are not happy, you need to figure it out within yourself and make changes as soon as you can so the other person is protected in a way. So I almost feel like what do I do when someone does that to me? I can say that in the past I didn’t react well. I’ve reacted really badly. I get hurt. I do trust but once I’ve been betrayed it’s hard to trust again so I want to make sure that it doesn’t happen by saying, “Let’s just be honest.” I think it’s a struggle to continue to be open so I hope I’m learning to deal with it and I don’t want to get hardened.
B&TF: What are your goals in your life and your career? Where do you see yourself in like ten years?
MM: I’d like to continue with acting and I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m doing something that I don’t feel that I don’t believe in. So it’s hard for me to say where I will be. You know, I’m willing to let whatever happens, happen because it’s been so many times in the past that I’ve made all these plans, like I’m going to do this and that and then things turned out differently but they turned out better. So I just want to be open and just continue to work on my craft and continue working on acting and live as much as I can to feed my acting. I want to be happy so whatever makes me happy at the time, it’s hard for me to say now. Yeah, I want to be happy.