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  WINDY CITY TIMES

MOVIES Elisabeth Rohm on other side of the law in new LGBT movie
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2016-12-20

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Many might recognize Elisabeth Rohm from her role as Assistant District Attorney ( ADA ) Serena Southerlyn in four seasons of the TV show Law & Order. ( Southerlyn as revealed to be a lesbian in Rohm's last appearance on the show. )

However, in the LGBT film Love Is All You Need? ( in which heterosexuals are the minority ), Rohm does a 180 as Reverend Rachel, who enforces her maxim that "mankind shall not lie with womankind" to devastating effect. She talked with Windy City Times about the movie, being in the film American Hustle and Southerlyn's sign-off.

Windy City Times: How are you?

Elisabeth Rohm: I'm OK. I just flew in from Oklahoma, and the holidays are chaotic, of course. [Laughs]

WCT: You wouldn't believe it but, over the weekend, both of the Christmas Kiss movies ran [on the Ion network]. [Note: Rohm co-starred in both.]

ER: Oh, my gosh—that's awesome! That's funny; I love it. Those were fun to do.

WCT: Love Is All You Need? turns things around, and becomes a really moving experience.

ER: It's one of the most favorite things I've ever done. I'm so proud of that movie! I'm so proud to be associated with Rocco [director K. Rocco Shields]; I commend her bravery.

First of all, this is a topic piece, so it's important and necessary. Then there's also the artistic fulfillment of a challenging character, and the artistic challenge of the reversal of the world. But more importantly, it's an opportunity to hold a mirror up to those who are intolerant and judgmental. Imagine what the world would be like if it was the other way around? [Shields] pulls it off beautifully. I believe it and buy into it. And there's this incredible love story—it all feels so real.

WCT: The world in this movie is mind-bending, with the women football players...

ER: Yeah! [Laughs] One of the most exciting things about meeting her [Shields] was that she had this viral short. I tell you there is not a movie set I go on that is gay that did not see that short. When she said she was making this film, I said, "I'm on the journey with you 100 percent."

The movie is an elevated version of the short. Jeremy Sisto is great, and [Leonard Robers] is great as his lover. The love story for both couples is great, and then there are the two villains: my character and Blake [Cooper Griffin's] character. They're based on very specific people, for Rocco.

WCT: Is Reverend Rachel evil, or just misunderstood?

ER: I think she's evil. I'm not sure how she's misunderstood. Maybe she's misinterpreted, but there's the scene with her anger and rage at [lead character Jude] coming out as straight—and asking her nephew, "Are you going to do God's work?" [Rachel's] rage, narcissism and ego—Rocco wanted me to watch some evangelical ministers, and that was the character we crafted. She's selling an evil message through positivity and charisma.

WCT: And I wanted to give a shout-out to the kid actors in this movie as well.

ER: Kyla Kenedy [who plays Emily]—I am just her biggest fan. I think this child is so special. How a young person can access her emotions just boggles my mind.

And I think there are big things ahead for Rocco. She understands that [Rachel] had to be an approachable character—the one who drives the ethics and morals of the town.

WCT: And considering how divisive this country is, this film certainly resonates.

ER: Well, I think the timing of this movie is extremely important, considering that we've come so far with equal rights and gay marriage—but it could be reversed so quickly. It's important to stay on point with all these subjects that mean so much to us personally.

WCT: What do you ultimately want viewers to take away from this movie?

ER: I want people to realize that love is love, and that anything that's anti-love is shameful. There's people crave or need more than love—so if you are blessed enough to find it, everyone should honor that, no matter what shape or size it comes in.

WCT: I'm going to switch gears, and discuss Serena. When did you know that her character was lesbian? Did you know going into the series, or was it the last episode?

ER: Well, first of all, Law & Order doesn't really develop characters' backstories, so you really don't know anything, except maybe that Jack McCoy struggles with drinking.

But Serena was coming on the heels of other ADAs who either had friction or chemistry with Jack—and I felt that it was just very archaic. Why must a woman either have friction with someone or they have the hots for each other?

As we went through my years on the show, every show that dealt with gay marriage struck a chord with me because I was raised a single mother with many gay female friends who were in loving relationships. I was the maid of honor to my best friend from high school's wedding to her partner, and there were many other friends as well. Those episodes may have been some of my better episodes.

When I left the show, [creator] Dick Wolf asked me if I wanted a splashy or typical Law & Order departure, and I said, "Splashy, of course!" So he wrote that scene and I laughed out loud. I asked him, "Did you pick up my bread crumbs?" He said, "We just saw that it was her secret." It's a shame that was the last episode because it would've been really cool to explore that sort of character in that type of show.

WCT: And I didn't initially realize you were in the movie American Hustle [as Jeremy Renner's wife]. You totally disappeared into that role.

ER: [Laughs] Thank you. That was a great opportunity, too. I like doing TV features, indie movies and bigger movie. I really struck gold with David [director David O. Russell] because when I auditioned for that character, Dolly Polito, I looked more like Sharon Stone in Casino. [Laughs] He really had this vision of her, and this incredible journey began with David, because I learned how to build a character with absolute freedom. [Note: Rohm was also in Russell's Joy, as Peggy.] I really am grateful to him.


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