Evan Rachel Wood has spent her career playing strong women. She became known for her role in the coming-of-age film Thirteen (2003), directed by Catherine Hardwicke and written by a teenage Nikki Reed, and has since starred in Across the Universe (2007) and The Wrestler (2008). This summer, she stars opposite Ellen Page in Into the Forest, a drama about two sisters in the aftermath of a continent-wide blackout.
In recent years, Wood has become an advocate for the LGBT community. The Westworld star came out as bisexual on Twitter in 2012 (after saying she dated women in a 2011 interview with Esquire; she was previously married to actor Jamie Bell) and has been speaking up for bisexual awareness ever since. Most recently, she posted a video on Youtube in honor of Pride Month, discussing the mental health issues that bisexual people face and opening up about her own challenges with depression and identity.
Motto spoke with Wood about her new film, women in Hollywood and other timely topics.
Motto: It was exciting to see another female-led film with Into the Forest. But given the backlash around Ghostbusters, why do you think people seem to have a problem with female-driven movies?
Evan Rachel Wood: Well the funny thing is, I don’t think people have a problem. I think it’s assumed because it’s a male-driven world and lot of entertainment decisions are made mainly by men. We’re getting better about it but the misconception that if it’s female-driven, you’re gonna alienate people—that does men a disservice because you’re not letting them into that world and to really see women as people …We just have to give people a chance and give these films a chance and let the audience decide. Stop assuming that men are things incapable of empathy. It’s almost insulting to men!
Read more: The Most Apt Metaphor for Women in Hollywood
In this film you and Ellen Page play sisters. Is your relationship sisterly in real life?
Absolutely. And we were lucky enough to be attached to the film a year before it started filming. We made it a point to hang out as much as possible before shooting so by the time we got to set, we were really close. The shooting experience was intense and emotional and it seemed really real when we were doing it. When the shoot ended, we were absolutely in tears.
When I see the film now, I get a little choked up, like “Oh, I miss my sister!” I consider her one of my closest friends. She’s an extraordinary human being with one of the biggest hearts.
You’ve said that you received a lot of hate for coming out as bisexual. What are people still getting wrong about bisexuality, and what do you want them to know?
I think because we’re usually erased, people just don’t have the information. There’s so many negative connotations with that label. I understand the argument about labels and the desire to do away with them altogether. I think that’s a great idea. But before that we have to give people a chance to identify with somebody or a group in some way. That helped me. It’s so confusing, especially when there’s not a lot of information out there … Erasure is causing people harm and diminishing self-esteem and putting people in harm’s way. It’s a real need. I want people to know that it’s ok, [bisexuality] is valid, and their stories matter.
How do you think that can change?
Sharing stories is a good start. It’s time to be vulnerable and honest and to not be ashamed. For so long, I was ashamed. You’re dealing with the shame that the world has imposed upon you and then on top of that the shame of identifying that way. You’re totally looked down upon in and out of the LGBT community. A good way to combat that and the stereotypes is to be vocal.
That’s why I felt the need to do that video. It was very personal and I shared a lot of things friends don’t know about. I was worried and scared about being that vulnerable but we’re living in a world where you just have to be honest and show the humanity of it. Just to say, “This is hard and I’m in pain.” Stand up against the eye rolls and to not let it put you back. You come out of the closet, you shouldn’t have to go back into another one. When I was looking at the health stats about bisexuality it was like reading an autobiography. I was like, “Oh my god, it isn’t just me.”
My experience [coming out] was such a self-esteem issue. You’re made to feel so small … I thought, “Am I crazy for wanting to put this out there?” But the response has been amazing and people have been really kind and understanding. I’ve heard from so many people that identified as bi. I was really moved to see that so many could related to what I said. It validates that it’s a universal feeling.
You’ve tweeted support for your friend Amber Heard. Why do you think people have been perceiving her and her experience in such a negative way?
People associate [bisexuality] with deviant behavior and it somehow justifies someone not being worthy … It’s bulls—t! And just there for headlines and it does not help the problem. Especially because when people refer to [Heard] they didn’t use that word until it was necessary. It was an easy target and it was unfair.
Many actresses have been speaking out about the persistent wage gap in Hollywood. Is pay disparity something that you’ve experienced in your career? What can we do about it?
Oh my God, so many times. I’ve dated and was married to an actor, and there was transparency there in our salaries. It was staggering, the difference. Even with people I feel like I’m on par with, the difference is miles away from each other.
There was one specific role that I won’t mention by name, but I was the lead and they wanted me and another actor who didn’t have any credits. There’s me working consistently since I was three or five years old, and I work hard, and yet they weren’t going to give me top billing because I wasn’t a man. I’ve had to start turning down roles because they won’t pay me enough. It’s funny because the people who don’t believe me are usually men and I’m like, “What would you know about it?!”
This interview was edited and condensed.