Julia Stiles holds a degree in English literature from Columbia University and has taken the stage in plays written by David Mamet and some guy named Shakespeare.
Despite that pedigree, the cynical teen from “10 Things I Hate About You” and secret agent from the Bourne movies wants to spend her Monday talking about female escorts.
Well, whether she wants to or not, Stiles must talk about the subject. She is the star of “Blue,” the latest series from Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia’s YouTube Channel, Wigs.
In “Blue,” Stiles stars as the title character, part-working mom, part-escort, making extra money to make ends meet.
With a gun to our head, TheWrap obliged, talking with Stiles about Hollywood’s fascination with escorts, getting her boyfriend to pay her for sex while doing the show for free and the real problem with online video – it doesn’t pay.
TheWrap: You did “The Today Show” today and seem to have a lot of interviews lined up. I’m sure everyone has been asking you about why you did this show and what you think of working for a web show.
Yeah, I’m scared of the internet kind of. It just turned out that when I read the script, the first episode hooked me. It’s a great premise for a story, a girl who is living a secret life and going to drown in the lies she has to tell. There’s a reason there are lots of movies and TV shows about escorts. What happens when people pay for sex?
The downside of web content — scripted web content – is that there is no money involved. No one is earning a living. The upside is there is a lot of creative freedom.
And it's a pretty quick shoot, no? You can do a show for two weeks and be done.
We shoot one episode a day and it’s 12 episodes. Sometimes I get worried that our attention spans are getting short. We only watch content that can be downloaded. What we're trying to do with "Blue," and what they are trying to do with whole channel, is tell a story that builds to a longer story. Each one is a brick that builds a house. A 7-minute episode is an interesting chapter in a large book. Ultimately 12 episodes amounts to the length of a movie.
Long-form content for the attention deficit generation? Is that what they call it?
Have you watched the other shows on “Wigs”? Having spoken with Jon and Rodrigo before, they describe this as a channel for women. Do you agree with that as a unifying element?
They say that it’s for women. To me, the link is each central character is a woman. What’s refreshing about having Rodrigo Garcia and Jon Avnet driving this is it’s a little more well-rounded than just for women. For me with “Blue,” one of the most interesting questions proposed is she asks one of her clients ‘Why are you paying for sex? What happens when people pay for sex?’
Now, your first client on the show is your real-life boyfriend [David Harbour]?
Yeah. It happened because I read the script and we had worked together a few times and knew it wouldn’t be weird. He’s a really good actor.
I knew the Cooper part was interesting and luckily he got on board. It made my life easier because it’s one of the more intimate scenes. Honestly he’s a good actor and we try to work together as much as we can. Plus, I was asking him to do this for free. Everyone is working for free.
Do you sense actors are more open to online video? It seems like a lot more recognizable names are participating?
For me it’s very specific to this one project. If Rodrigo hadn’t been involved, if he hadn’t written it, I wouldn’t have been as keen.
Why was Rodrigo’s involvement so critical?
Whether or not I want to work on something stems from writing. He’s a really, really good writer; I knew I would be in good hands, especially with this kind of subject matter. His interests are in keeping with mine.
Well, he wasn’t trying to make “The Red Shoe Diaries.” He’s interested in characters. It’s character-driven. I could go for plot and character, but in terms of work I am more interested in character driven.
If this is really successful, would you come back for another season or are you one and done?
We’re waiting to see how people respond. If Rodrigo wanted to write more I’d certainly be interested. But they have to figure out a way to make a living, to pay the crew. These things have a way of righting themselves.
The people at the top have to find a way to share wealth. Nobody knows where the ad revenue is going. Once we figure out where that’s going, we can spread it around with the crew. The pitfall of that is the more money involved, the less freedom you have.
It almost makes movie studios look like benefactors.
Like the Medicis [laughs]. In fairness, it’s a reasonable schedule. One episode a day. We can’t work more than 10-12 hours. It’s pretty civilized compared to some movie schedules. I don’t know where it’s going. It’s the question with any industry. As a journalist you are experiencing this too. The music industry went through a crisis. These things have a way of righting themselves.
There are so many ads on the Internet now you actually can’t watch anything without watching an ad. People will get sick of that. They’ll make you subscribe to skip all the ads. I just show up and say my lines.
Here's an episode of the show: