We Love Soaps: I’m sitting here with Rachael Hip-Flores, nominee for Best Leading Actress in the 1st Annual Indie Soap Awards.
Rachael Hip-Flores: Thank you! I saw that and thought, "Oh my God, this is awesome!"
We Love Soaps: I am typically not a big fan of teen dramas. But I was so drawn into ANYONE BUT ME in the first five minutes. A large part of the emotional success of the show and the investment of the viewer has to do with you and that first episode. We see everything through Vivian’s eyes, we’re entering this world through your character.
Rachael Hip-Flores: That’s very flattering. I think the first thing that has to be in place is good writing and directing. Anytime I’m talking on film I’m just saying other people’s words. I think that’s where the heart of it lies.
We Love Soaps: However, we have seen many times on soaps that good writing doesn’t go very far if you don’t have good acting. So much of the relevance of this show depends on seeing Vivian’s face as she is torn away from her girlfriend. Was that a lot of pressure on you to lead this ensemble piece?
Rachael Hip-Flores: In retrospect I probably “should” have felt that. I went into the whole project embarrassingly blind. I didn’t really know what medium I was going to be in for the first audition. I remember thinking, “I think it’s a TV show, maybe it’s a play.” So I didn’t have the preconceptions of, “Oh my God, it’s a lead.” It was more like, “Here’s a great project, I’ve got a great script, and I trust my director.” Nicole [Pacent] and I met at our callbacks. We got along really well then so it didn’t feel like it was all on me. So, no, it wasn’t scary or pressured. If anything, I felt responsibility to the wonderful talent we already had there.
We Love Soaps: It can be hard to begin a continuing story format, and wisely Vivian is chosen to narrate. When Vivian cares about these characters, we care about these characters. Tell me about some of your experience before working on this show.
Rachael Hip-Flores: I got the show pretty quickly out of college. It was a great experience, but incredibly out of the blue. I spent most of my life just trying to be an awesome student. I was really academic. I realized midway through senior year of high school that the only thing I’m going to miss about this place is going to rehearsals and being in plays. On a whim I applied to Rutgers and the conservatory there. I didn’t have any expectations of making it in, but then I did. That was my lead into acting. When I graduated I was lucky enough to get an agent out of the showcase that our school put on.
We Love Soaps: What was the audition like for ANYONE BUT ME?
Rachael Hip-Flores: I was embarrassingly blind. I was in China visiting family when I heard about the audition. A friend of mine who I worked with at Barnes & Noble. On MySpace he told me, “There’s an audition, they’re looking for teenage girls.” Everyone had always teased me about looking twelve. I was like alright, I can clearly play a teenage girl. The rest of the message said, “The catch is that she’s a lesbian so you might have to kiss girls.” And I said, “Well that’s clearly not a problem!”
We Love Soaps: Was that clearly not a problem?
Rachael Hip-Flores: No, I don’t know why. I grew up doing community plays, high school plays...
We Love Soaps: Were you kissing girls in those?
Rachael Hip-Flores: I was not kissing girls in those. But that community, the theater community, is fairly open and accepting of alternative lifestyles. I grew up around that, it wasn’t like a scandal to see people kissing each other of the same sex.
We Love Soaps: Did it ever occur to you that taking the role of a lesbian it could hurt your chances of getting other roles someday?
Rachael Hip-Flores: If anything it’s helped me get roles. Granted, a lot of those roles are lesbians, but they are interesting deep characters. I’ve been really fortunate that way. Again, it should have crossed my mind that this might hurt my career. But it didn’t. Because you know what? I read the script, it was good. I was vaguely worried that the script wouldn’t be good and it would be exploitive. That was something that obviously one tries to avoid. But it was heartfelt and deeply touching. I didn’t worry about it because it was a good project.
We Love Soaps: What kind of responses have you gotten from doing ANYONE BUT ME?
Rachael Hip-Flores: Wonderful responses! The fans have been unbelievably supportive. I was a little worried because I’m not gay, and I was worried there might be backlash, like, “Why are you hiring a straight actor when there are clearly a lot of not straight actresses that can do this?” But that hasn’t been the case at all. They’ve been incredibly open with their stories, and how much the show means to them, and how much they like Vivian. A lot of the comments I get are, “I wish I had had this when I was a teenager, when I was coming out.” It’s so humbling to receive that. It’s an honor, it’s a joy.
We Love Soaps: Are you finding that people are helped by the series?
Rachael Hip-Flores: I hope so.
We Love Soaps: Are they telling you that?
Rachael Hip-Flores: They are. A lot of them say, “I don’t feel as alone as I used to,” or “I feel a little less scared.”
We Love Soaps: What does that mean to you to read that?
Rachael Hip-Flores: That’s why you do it. I got into acting originally because it was fun and I liked doing it. After it starts being work and you take on more responsibility, you have to find the reason for it. And the reason for it is just to help people feel less alone.
We Love Soaps: That is a gift.
Rachael Hip-Flores: I’m happy I can give it, I’m happy it’s being received that way.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for Part Two where we discuss more of Rachael's perspective on diversity in the media, adjusting to responses from fans, and what she has learned by playing Vivian.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.