Photograph by Robert Zuckerman/Sygma/Corbis
Got a minute? The L Word's Mia Kirshner opens up about working on her latest project, I Live Here, a collection of the stories of refugees from four countries (the proceeds from which go to Amnesty International), while playing a less-than-philanthropic character on TV.
Q: What made you want to create the book?
A: A feeling of being creatively disconnected. I've always written, but the acting happened to come first. Putting books together should have been my job. The L Word was funding the book, but eventually I had to get a bank loan to finish. It was hard to choose the locations we covered here, but this is the beginning of a series. Iran, Pakistan, and Colombia are also really interesting to me.
Q: You included dozens of stories, from Burma, Mexico, Malawi, and Chechnya. What surprised you the most?
A: The way people treat each other is shocking. The migrant workers from Burma stay in refugee camps in Thailand and can't get working papers there. They're exploited by their employers—women raped—and they can't go to the police because they're there illegally. The most beautiful thing, though, was the humanity in these refugees. There was a dignity and a kindness that you don't see on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Was it hard to get people to share their stories?
A: They've been hounded by journalists, and the families feel pretty raw. It helped that I wasn't a journalist.
Q: You've made it clear that you don't want to be the next Sally Struthers, though.
A: I never wanted to actually write for the book, I never wanted my name to be on the cover—or anybody's name, really. I didn't want to wreck the reader's experience with a Western voice. When I met with my publisher, they told me, "You're not 'the Western voice'—you did the work."
Q: Jenny Schecter, your character on The L Word, has been called a sociopath. Has it been hard to play someone so uncharitable?
A: That is such an unfortunate coincidence. And people on the street still think I'm her. I've had people get mad at me. One day in a club, someone was pretty rude to me. I pulled her outside and asked her, "Why do you work?" She said, "To pay for my apartment." Well, that's why I work too. Ryan Wenzel