Ellen Page attended SXSW in Austin, Texas at the weekend to talk about her latest project, Gaycation, a Viceland series in which Page and her best friend Ian Daniel explore LGBTQIA cultures all over the world.
Wanting "more representation" for the LGBTQIA community, Page explained that she was asked by longtime friend Spike Jonze if she had any ideas for his new network, Viceland, and Gaycation was born.
"I know how much it meant to me at 14 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to be stumbling through the TV and find But I’m A Cheerleader," she said.
"When Natasha Lyonne’s like, 'I don’t get it', about French kissing that guy, I was like, 'Neither do I!' That meant something to me, and I do think there can be such loneliness and isolation when you’re living in a society that has this view of you’re different, or something’s wrong, or you’re sinful."
The journey of self-discovery that Gaycation enabled Page to go on is not one that she takes for granted. Telling the audience many times over that she was grateful for the chance to make the series, she took time to check her privilege.
"I’m a privileged person. I live in Los Angeles. I have done a job that has given me money and I can walk down the street and kiss my girlfriend."
Acknowledging that this is not the case for everyone, she continued: "I think a lot about those who are much more vulnerable than me all around the world and in the United States. And here’s an opportunity to go make something that allows voices to be heard that you sometimes never hear, and hopefully reflect struggles that a lot of people go through and I think a lot of people simply don’t know about."
While taking questions, the moderator, NPR's Laura Sydell asked Page if she'd noticed a difference in how people had treated her since coming out, and whether she felt like there were roles she wasn't getting now that she would've been considered for in the past.
Page responded that it's hard for her to tell, as she's "not in rooms where people are making decisions of who to send what to".
"Being in the closet hurt my career way more than being out and being happy and feeling inspired again."
"The truth is," she continued, "I’m absolutely not focusing on it, because being in the closet hurt my career way more than being out and being happy and feeling inspired again, being able to fuse my authentic self with creative interests, and that wasn’t something I could do, and now I can make Gaycation, I can produce something like Freeheld. I mean, I’m producing other movies — they don’t all have to have LGBT characters. I’m producing a movie with Kate Mara and Christine Vachon, it’s a love story between Kate and myself."
Page also pointed out the double standards queer actors face.
"The differences I see are, 'Oh, you’re doing this thing that’s gay and this thing that’s gay …' And you would never even bring that up with a straight person. You would not say, 'Oh, you’re doing another movie where you play a straight person, are you a little worried about it?'"
Page also took time to acknowledge that her coming out was a lot easier than it was for people in the entertainment industry in the past who paved the way for her and other queer celebs.
"Let’s be real, what Ellen Degeneres did at that time was extraordinary," said Page. "I don’t think of myself as 'ooh' [special] because I came out, and that’s because of, needless to say, all of the people that have made that possible. And now I do have the opportunity to do all these things that a lot of people just don’t get, and that’s the reality of the world we live in and the industry we’re working in."