No one plays a queen bitch quite like Leslie Bibb, who sharpened her claws in the cult series Popular and GCB. Now starring as the mother of Satan’s spawn in Hell Baby, a sinfully funny horror comedy from the creators of Reno 911!, the former fashion model couldn’t be any sweeter as she chats about her popularity with gay men.
By Brandon Voss
The Advocate: Hell Baby takes place in New Orleans. I hope filming wasn’t all work and no play.
Leslie Bibb: Oh, there’s nothing more fun than shooting in New Orleans, especially with all the hilarious guys in this movie. On Friday nights they’d get these jugs of painkillers from the Rum House — it was a blast.
Did you make it to the gay end of Bourbon Street?
No, because I didn’t have any good gays to go with! I like to walk into a gay bar flanked by gay men. But one of my first jobs was a show called The Big Easy, which also filmed in New Orleans, and I had gay friends who took me to those clubs all the time.
What was your introduction to gay people?
I grew up in a tiny country town in Virginia. I’d go with my mom when she played tennis with her girlfriends, and sometimes these two men would play with them, and then they’d all drink wine afterward. I was 8 or 9, but I liked being around those guys because they were fabulous and they always made me laugh and feel pretty. Looking back, I told my mom, “They were gay!” She said, “Of course they were.” It wasn’t the normal attitude in a small Southern town, but my mom didn’t care who you slept with, as long as you were a good person. She instilled those values in me from a very young age, and I’m so appreciative of that.
How conscious are you of your gay fans?
Very. I did a play in New York this summer, Neil LaBute’s Reasons to Be Happy, and our theater was on Christopher Street, a gay mecca. All these sweet guys came to see me because they loved GCB and Popular. When the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage, I walked to the theater through the throngs of people celebrating in the streets, and it was wonderful to feel that energy and excitement. People handed me rainbow flags and equality stickers, and I told the other three people in the play, “You should take these to your kids. This is a big deal.”
Popular, Ryan Murphy’s first series, was a high school dramedy that ran from 1999 to 2001 on the WB and boldly dealt with sexual identity and antigay bullying. One student had a lesbian mother, and a teacher came out as transgender.
Yeah, Ryan wasn’t fucking around. It was like an early Glee, without the singing. He was so smart and provocative to tackle issues that kids were really dealing with. It wasn’t even that long ago, but people didn’t talk about those things on TV. Gay men and lesbians still come up and tell me how much the show meant to them. I’ll never fully understand it because I’m a straight girl who’s had a pretty charmed life — sure, people can be assholes to me too, but nobody calls me names or says I’m a bad person because of who I lay my head down with at night. I just feel so fortunate that I’ve been a part of two shows, Popular and GCB, with massive gay followings.
After Popular was canceled, Ryan Murphy revealed that, had the show been renewed, he planned to have Carly Pope’s character, Sam, come out as a lesbian. Did you know that was the plan?
Yeah, I had heard rumblings of that. As an actor, I just thought it was going to be a really fun and interesting arc for Carly to explore. I knew it would be provocative for that time.
You later reunited with Ryan on an episode of Nip/Tuck. Have you stayed in touch?
Yeah, I always run into him at the Chateau. Speaking of staying in touch, I actually helped organize a Popular cast reunion last year for us to do the AIDS Walk in West Hollywood. It was the first time we’d all been together since the show ended, and we raised something like $30,000 in two weeks. We kicked ass and took names. You know, a lot of people will show up to the opening ceremony and won't walk the walk, but not the Popular kids!
GCB was developed by gay Steel Magnolias scribe Robert Harling. Did you know it would appeal to the gay audience?
I knew from the get-go, especially with Blake and Cricket’s marriage. Blake was gay, so that marriage was the most quote-unquote unorthodox, but in a weird way it was also the most Christian, because they had so much love and respect for each other.
Your character, Amanda, knew Blake’s secret, and they had a special friendship.
I loved it, and I wished that had been explored even more. I understood their connection.
Following backlash from Christian groups, GCB was canceled after one season. Were you as crushed as I was?
I’m so proud of that show, so it was really sad. I’m still sad. It’s so absurd to me, but you see how powerful the religious right wing can be, especially when they start affecting the ad money. It’s scary. I thought Popular was way more provocative, but we got so much heat on GCB just for putting those three words together — Good Christian Bitches. Some people really missed the point. I’m really close to Bobby Harling, and I always tell him how many people all over the world still tweet and Facebook me to this day, asking why there wasn’t a second season.
Do you have a lot of close gay friends?
I do. I call them my gay husbands, because I do not have a husband. I’m actually working on a great movie, Take Care, written and directed by Liz Tuccillo, and one of my character’s best friends is a gay man. I just love showing that relationship, because every girl has a best gay friend. And if she doesn’t, she’s really missing out. I just love my boys. I wish I had more lesbian friends, but I don’t, really.
Didn't you attend an all-girls Catholic school?
I knew one of my close girlfriends was a lesbian, but she never came out. I would tell her, “You know I’m OK with anything you are.” It’s such a big thing for a young person to actually say the words “I’m gay,” but at 15, 16, what did I know? I just knew I loved my friends and that it didn’t matter to me. Oh, there were girls you knew were lesbians. I remember watching them talk about boys, knowing in my gut that it must’ve sucked for them. I’d love to go back and see who came out.
Katrina Ghent, your conniving character on the short-lived NBC series Kings, wanted to marry Jack, the closeted gay prince played by Sebastian Stan. At one point she said, “With me, Jack can be king by day, and a bad boy with whatever boy he wants at night. I might even join in.” Was Katrina just in it for the power, or did she secretly think she could flip him?
I think it was all about power. And it was probably nice to be with someone she didn’t have to use her sex on to get what she wanted, because that can be exhausting. But I’m always so interested in women who think they can flip. I know some women really believe that’s possible, but it’s as absurd to me as saying you change a gay person by sending them to a camp.
Have you ever played a lesbian or bisexual role?
I haven’t. I really need to get on that.
Well, Alicia Billington, your chilly fashionista character in Confessions of a Shopaholic, was practically a drag queen.
[Laughs] I know those bangs were a bold choice. I loved working with our costume designer Pat Field on that movie, and I told her, “You can put me in anything.” I could always walk in high heels, but I think Pat changed the arch of my foot. I really loved playing that character. Talk about a woman who uses her sex to get what she wants, but Alicia wasn’t really tuned into it because she was so emotionally guarded. You know what? Now that I think about it, I’ll bet she's probably a lesbian who hasn't come out yet.
You also shared a kiss with Jill Hennessy on an episode of Crossing Jordan.
I did. I don’t remember the reason behind it, but Jill’s really lovely, so I was totally down for it. I remember being so nervous — not nervous to kiss a woman but because I wanted to be a good kisser for her!
The Advocate, October/November 2013 issue; extended online version.