'L.A. Complex' Star Opens Pandora's Box
Jewel Staite is best known for playing the demure, delightful and daffy Kaylee -- first on Firefly, then in Serenity. But the sci-fi fans will have a tough time recognizing the actress as she digs into the bitchiest, bawdiest and baddest character of her career on The CW's deliciously addictive The L.A. Complex.
On the first worthy heir to Melrose Place's trash-tastic throne, Jewel plays Raquel -- a formerly famous actress who has fallen on tough times but is still determined to make it big ... no matter the cost! I caught up with the Canadian Jewel to talk all about this can't-miss guilty pleasure, why it's so fun to play bad and how her real-world experiences helped bring The LA Complex to life!
Insider.com: OK, I have to be honest for a second, I am obsessed with this show!
Jewel Staite: It's kind of like crack. Everyone who watches it says that, and when people talk about watching it, they kind of do it in a whisper. Like they're ashamed [laughs] – but I love that.
Insider: Given that, were you dubious upon first reading the script?
Jewel: I actually came upon the project in a weird way – I'm good friends with the creator and he was telling me all about this show, so I knew about it, but I hadn't read a script because he kept saying there was nothing in it for me. Then my manager found the script and told me to read it and I called Martin [Gero, creator] and was like, "What the hell! These are my stories, these are my jokes! You're writing me! How can there not be a role for me in this?!?" [laughs] Turns out he felt weird asking, but I loved it. He sent me all the scripts and it was so juicy, I wanted to read more, which is always a good sign.
Insider: Your words went into Raquel, or all of the characters?
Jewel: Just a bunch of the characters. When she gets fired from her agency, that happened to a good friend of ours, so there are all these echoes in our life in these stories. And that's what I love – this show is so damn real ... because a lot of it actually happened [laughs]. The Alicia storyline is sad and so true in Hollywood. I just loved that it's not this glamorous depiction of what we do.
Insider: So ... you puked on a piano during an audition?
Jewel: [laughs] No! Thank god! I swear that wasn’t me! I swear!
Insider: Now I'm going to watch the show with a whole new set of eyes, trying to figure out which plotpoints are based on you!
Jewel: Oh god, I probably just opened a Pandora's Box of trouble [laughs].
Insider: Obviously Raquel is very different from you, however. Was that part of the appeal?
Jewel: Absolutely. I had been looking for the right thing to do that wasn't in the sci-fi realm for a while. The fans I've picked up as a result of that genre have been so crazy good to me, but I wanted to stretch. And Raquel is unlike anyone I've ever played before. She's mean and it's always really fun to play mean [laughs]. What's funny is now that the show has aired in Canada, I'm starting to get recognized for this more than anything else I've done. Before this, the Firefly fans would come up to me and want a hug. But now, people kind of look at me and there's fear in their eyes. And I'll tell you, I love that. [laughs]
Insider: Professionally, Raquel is in a bad place -- how dark does her journey get?
Jewel: She starts to unravel. She's reached a breaking point. Raquel's so desperate that she'll literally do anything to get back to the top. So she starts to use and manipulate people in order to get there, but she does it in a way that is more sad than anything else. I was afraid when I read the show that people wouldn’t like her. There had to be some balance to the character to make people like her a little bit and I think we found it with her sadness and her desperation. She's ready to snap and she does kind of fall apart as things get worse for her this season.
Insider: There's lots of talk about how "old" Raquel is -- did it feel like that on set too?
Jewel: I definitely felt like the oldest person on set, for sure [laughs]. They were all so excited and talking about next season on day one, and I had to shut that down. Like, let's not talk about season two just yet. This isn't my first rodeo – this would be the eighth show I was on that got canceled after season one, so just chill out [laughs]. But their enthusiasm is infectious. They had stars in their eyes, that's for sure.
Insider: What are you excited for people to see over the course of season one?
Jewel: What I love about all of that is that no one makes a big deal about these scandalous things. No one acts like these scandalous things need to be addressed for the kids that are watching this show. These characters are screw-ups and that's all there is to it. The show is just shameful and fun and so exciting. Things only get dirtier and dirtier. Every week you're going to be screaming at the television like, "Oh my god!!!" [laughs]
The L.A. Complex premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on The CW.