Sammy Nickalls
August 31, 2015 1:12 pm

Ellen Page is crazy talented. The 28-year-old has been making waves in the film industry ever since she was a teen, when she won an award from the Austin Film Critics Assocation Award for Best Actress for 2005’s Hard Candy. And, of course, she totally blew us away with her fresh, raw, and hilarious performance in Juno two years later. Since then, she’s been totally kicking ass and taking names in amazing roles, with her latest being alongside Julianne Moore and Steve Carell in Freeheld about the challenges and inner life of a lesbian couple. But when it comes right down to it, what wows us about Ellen most of all isn’t who she is on camera, but off.

Recently, Ellen just spoke to TIME about role in Freeheld as well as her role as an LGBTQ advocate. It’s tempting to use the word “brave” to describe someone who is fighting to start a conversation about things that matter (but that society doesn’t yet seem willing to face), but it’s actually a word that Ellen feels is “borderline offensive” — especially if it’s used in reference to the portrayal of her character in Freeheld.

“When people are [called] brave in regards to playing LGBTQ people, that’s borderline offensive,” the actress told TIME. “I’m never going to be considered brave for playing a straight person, and nor should I be.”

Ellen has an amazing point. Celebrating diversity, especially in an industry that sorely needs it, is understandable, but certain words and phrases can belittle the very thing you’re celebrating. Playing a character from the LGBTQ community is no more “brave” than playing a straight character. Ellen went on to express what the role meant to her personally.

“It’s hard to say this, because the context of the film is so deeply tragic, but for me there was a deep sense of peace on set that I had not felt in a really long time, potentially since I was a teenager and first having these really beautiful, fortunate moments in films,” Ellen explained.

Ellen came out recently — early last year at a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference. “There was something about being out, getting to play a gay character, and getting to play a woman who is so inspiring to me — it was such an amazing experience for me,” she continued. When she initially signed on to be a part of the movie, she was “very, very, very closeted.”

Though the majority of the reason she chose to come out when she did was her “own internal journey,” she did explain that her role as Stacie in Freeheld definitely made her think. “. . .when you read Stacie and Laurel’s story, and you know you’re going to tell it, you think, ‘There’s no way you cannot be an actively out gay person if you make this film,'” Ellen told TIME. “. . . It’s become kind of a moral imperative to speak up. I know there’s been so much progress, but there’s still so much suffering in America, in Canada, and all over the world.”

Ellen also opened up about her struggles with depression — and explained that the movie star life, like red carpets and award shows, don’t make you immune to it. “People are working, it’s a business, you get your hair and makeup done, you go, and you push the project you’re working on, because that’s a huge part of your job which I’m happy to do,” she told TIME. “But for the most part, people, whether they’re gay and closeted and struggling, or trans and struggling, or just human and having a hard time, that’s not going to get reflected.”

With this film, Ellen hopes to send a message, even to those who she doesn’t believe will see the film — homophobic people. “First, just do not treat people like second-class citizens,” she said. “Please do not devalue our love. Do not make us compromise on how we share our love with another person.”

As always, Ellen is smart and articulate in expressing herself. Her words have made us think about very important issues in an entirely new light. Thank you, Ellen, for your wisdom and your perspective, and for standing up for millions everywhere. We’re striking “brave” out of our vocabulary in this context.

(Images via Instagram.)

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