The actresses talk gay bars, ‘Frozen’ drag and waiting to marry until the LGBTQ community could too
By: Chris Azzopardi*/Special to TRT—
“Are there gays in Michigan? They made it all the way there?” deadpans Mila Kunis to native Michigander Kristen Bell, as if to jokingly say all the world’s queers migrated from her hometown of West Hollywood. Seated next to Kunis, 34, at a hotel conference room in The Peninsula Chicago, Bell, 37, replies plainly: “Well, yes.”
“I grew up with them in my theater community,” adds Bell, who was raised in suburban Detroit. “When I was there it wasn’t talked about, which, when I left, I felt very conflicted about. I hope that it’s a thriving community now.”
“You clearly did not grow up in West Hollywood!” Kunis retorts, after teasing Michigan gays that, “They should get out.”
Though Bell and Kunis come from varying places on the gay geographical grid, their queer-aligned acting catalogues – Bell’s roles in Veronica Mars and Burlesque, alongside Cher, as well as Frozen, as the voice of Anna; Kunis’ red-hot sex scene with Natalie Portman in Black Swan and her role in 2007’s indie film After Sex, featuring Kunis getting fingered by actress Zoe Saldana – have certainly reached LGBTQ audiences from Michigan to West Hollywood, and beyond.
The night before our hilariously revealing sit-down, Bell and Kunis were reaching a less-gay demographic: 700-ish drunk moms. The occasion? An advance screening for A Bad Moms Christmas, the sequel to 2016’s Bad Moms, which also stars Transparent fave Kathryn Hahn. To make the yuletide even gayer, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski and Susan Sarandon join the moms-gone-wild gaggle, respectively playing the original trifecta’s mommies dearest.
To talk about their raunchy new romp – more specifically, that hot taint-waxing scene featuring This Is Us actor Justin Hartley in, to many gay men, a very familiar position – LGBTQ allies Kunis and Bell met with me on a recent afternoon, looking more like glam moms than bad moms. But when the conversation turned to a diverse range of other topics – how Kunis wouldn’t be married to husband Ashton Kutcher if it weren’t for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and, for Bell, the satisfaction of knowing that queer Disney diehards dress up as Anna at gay parades – the bad-mom duo demonstrated what it means to be a good mom too.
Q: Mila, as someone who grew up in West Hollywood, you’ve been immersed in the gay community for a long time.
Mila Kunis: I do love me some gays.
Q: When’s the last time you went “bad mom” at a gay bar?
Kunis: Oh, it’s been a while. Micky’s (in West Hollywood) hadn’t burned down yet, and I used to go because I lived down the street, on Kings Road. I mean, Fubar, Micky’s, but before Micky’s burned down. But then it became hip. It was weird. I used to go out to gay bars because I lived in West Hollywood and it was always really easy, like the Abbey. But then when the gays became popular and “in” and fashionable, so did the bars, and it became very hip to go to gay bars. That made me crazy, because I was like, “This is not my intent. I just wanna go and dance to some fucking Madonna. I don’t care that it’s gay.” But it became very hip in LA to be the girl at the gay bar.
Kristen Bell: You invented the girl at the gay bar!
Q: Kristen, have you been the girl at the gay bar too?
Kunis: Every girl in LA has.
Bell: Yes, but not in a very long time – regretfully a very long. I went to college in New York and went to a ton of gay bars in college. The last time I remember (going to a gay bar) was when my best friend and I, before I had kids – probably six years ago – were sitting on the couch one night. (Veronica Mars co-star) Ryan Hansen and his wife, Amy (Russell), and my husband (Dax Shepard) and I were so lame, like “What are we doing? Let’s go on a bar crawl!” We went to four different bars in one night, and I can’t even remember the name of the bar we ended up in, but what I specifically remember is that Amy and I were splitting a martini. It was very dangerous. (Laughs)
Kunis: Wow, you guys were so exciting.
Bell: But she didn’t drink any of it! She was pretending to drink it! And then the next day she was like, “I’m pregnant.” Such a lame story, oh my god.
Kunis: No, that was really cute.
Bell: As I was saying it I could feel how lame it was.
Q: But still, you know: gays and pregnancy.
Kunis: Hey, if you’re transgender, it could happen.
Q: You really are up on your LGBTQ-everything, Mila.
Kunis: LGBTQ and Q. I learned there’s a secondary Q.
Bell: What’s the second Q?
Kunis: Don’t ask me, but I know someone corrected me when I went LGBTQ, and they went, “and Q.” Ashton and I, when we saw a sign for LGBTQ, had a whole conversation. “What’s the Q for?” And he was like, “Queer.” And I was like, “You can’t say that.” And he goes, “I think it’s for queer.” And I go, “No, it would never be for queer. Queer is considered derogatory.” But it’s for fucking queer! I don’t even understand this! But I don’t know the second Q. (Kunis asks her assistant, seated nearby, to look up the second Q.)
Bell: My nieces are talking a lot about – is it pansexual? Shouldn’t they be adding a P?
Kunis: It’s too much. This is all becoming too much.
Kunis’ assistant: It’s questioning.
Kunis: See! LGBTQ…Q. Literally, it’s never-ending letters.
Q: If you’ve worked with Cher and you’ve voiced a Disney princess, does that make you a gay icon?
Bell: You tell me.
Bell: I know better than to put myself in the position of claiming to know what the gay community respects and enjoys… but they seem to enjoy it. (Laughs)
Kunis: If you’re a costume at the gay parade, you’re an icon. You’re a costume at a gay parade, girl! You’re an icon.
Q: What does it feel like knowing the LGBTQ community is dressing up as Anna at gay parades?
Bell: That someone is having a joyful experience and celebrating with an outfit that I somehow had a part in creating feels amazing. It feels like you’re spreading joy. To make anyone else happy feels wonderful. And if someone will wear that costume and smile and feel like they can relate to that character, then I’ve done a good job on Earth.
Q: Mila, with After Sex and Black Swan …
Kunis: (Looks perplexed) I was like what’s After Sex? But yes. Correct. These are my two lesbian parts. Or pansexual. What’s the term?
Q: Are we saying your role in Black Swan is lesbian now?
Kunis: We don’t know. Pansexual!
Q: When did you know you had a following in the LGBTQ-and-now-P community?
Kunis: When I was, like, 12, because I lived in West Hollywood, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. Always, my whole life!
Bell: I was on Broadway when I was 21 and I had gone to musical-theater school, so you know, the gays love Broadway. Can you believe it? (Laughs)
Kunis: (Sarcastically) They like theater? Wow.
Bell: As do a lot of straight people and a lot of cool people and some nerds! It’s just a wonderful community. So, I think when I was working in New York on Broadway was when I was like, “This is a very chic group of people and they’re mostly gay guys and I love it.”
Q: What did your gay friends think of the first Bad Moms?
Kunis: The gay community is so wonderful and has always been so amazing in empowering women, and I think the reason why you have the icons – be it Cher, be it Madonna, be it Britney Spears – is because the rest of the world will be like, “They’re such a bitch,” and the gay community is like, “Fuck yeah they are.” They embrace the powerful woman. Always have. That’s just the way the gays have been about it, and I’ve always loved that about them. Because anytime someone is like (pointing to herself), “She’s a bitch,” my roommate who was gay was always like, “Yeah, she is!” And he’d turn it around. So, I think the gays have always loved any woman on screen that represents power or strength or something that they have overcome – anything that’s positive. Because I feel like being gay is not fucking easy, and I say this because I was raised with the gays my entire life.
It’s always frustrated me when people are like, “It’s a choice.” I never think that people choose to live a life that’s hard. I do think being gay was a challenge for many decades. For our entire life history, being gay was always considered a challenge because, “You chose that, right?” That’s what the world said. And so, I think when they watch women on film who embrace imperfections and embrace challenges and overcome them, and empower themselves and do the opposite of what society tells them to do, they gravitate toward that. To this day, my friends who are gay will always gravitate toward a woman who empowers her strengths and weaknesses.
Q: You both have made major statements about the gay community throughout your career, and Kristen, you even went as far as to not marry Dax until same-sex marriage was legalized.
Bell: Bet your ass.
Kunis: (Looks to Bell, surprised)
Bell: Yeah, we didn’t get married until same-sex marriage was legal.
Kunis: Neither did I!
Bell: You didn’t?
Kunis: No, my dad talked about it on my wedding day. His whole speech was about when I was 14, I told my parents I’m never getting married and they were like, “OK, let’s talk about this.” I was like, “I’m not getting married because the gays can’t get married, and so I’m never getting married.” Never thinking that the gays were ever gonna get married! So, I was just like, “It is what it is.”
Bell: It just felt gross. What are we gonna do? Have a party and be like, “Look at us celebrating this thing you can’t do?” That’s fucking putrid. Like, 90 percent of our friends are gay!
Kunis: I didn’t have that much awareness at 14. I don’t know what it was.
Bell: But you knew instinctually. You knew it felt gross, and it _did_ feel gross.
Kunis: It just didn’t feel equal, so why would I? It just didn’t feel like it made sense to me. The concept of marriage didn’t make sense to me because my friends couldn’t do it, and I found nothing wrong with what they wanted. So, I was like, “Well, then it’s not sacred, then it’s not what it’s supposed to be, so I don’t want it.”
Then when marriage became legal, the second that it happened I was doing a stunt in London. I was 35 feet in the air and I got a text from my roommate who was married to his husband now of 19 years in London. So they lived a life where they couldn’t be together for six years because marriage wasn’t technically legal, federally speaking, so they were a cross-continental couple. It was the saddest fucking story ever. So, I got a text that said it was legal, and I’m in the middle of a stunt and there’s fire blowing everywhere, and I just start bawling – literally bawling. Because something that I thought was never gonna happen – ever! – happened. The next text was my husband and he was like, “Now what?” And I went, “OK.”
Q: “OK,” as in we can get married now?
Q: I didn’t know that about you, Mila.
Kunis: I never said it, but then hearing that (about Kristen), I was like, “Fuck it. If you’re saying it, then I’ll fucking say it.”
Bell: I remember (Dax and I) watched the DOMA reading. It was 7:30 in the morning and he was on the East Coast and I was on the West Coast, and at 7:31 I proposed to him on Twitter to make a fucking point of it. To be like, “Now it’s OK, but before, it was not cool.”
Q: I love that your men were on the same page about waiting to marry till everyone could marry too.
Kunis: My husband’s assistant is a gay guy.
Bell: My husband is the most masculine pro-gay man that you would ever meet.
Kunis: I married a gay man! (Laughs)
Bell: In high school (Dax) would snuggle and spoon with his best friend and his mom would walk into the living room and be like, “Well, OK, anytime you want to talk…,” thinking, like, is this opening the door to something? And he was like, “No, I like snuggling! He’s my best friend!” And they would just be spooning.
Kunis: Awwww! (Laughs)
Bell: He’s so open.
Q: Wait, is cuddling gay?
Bell: (Laughs) No, but you have to be very, very open and aware and sensitive to snuggle another man, straight or gay, as a guy.
There are sometimes I’d rather just snuggle –
Kunis: A dog!
Q: How have you been describing the NSFW scene featuring Kathryn Hahn waxing This Is Us heartthrob Justin Hartley’s junk to your gay friends?
Bell: If you’re wondering, “Should I see Bad Moms?” and if you’ve ever seen This Is Us and thought, “I wonder what that guy looks like naked,” then this is the movie for you.
Q: Is that the Bad Moms Christmas scene that you hope becomes gay famous?
Bell: The waxing scene is gonna become famous in the gay and straight and comedy communities, without question. The waxing scene, I think, is gonna go down in history next to the When Harry Met Sally scene. When I first saw it, my jaw was on the ground. It’s incredible.
Q: It’s just what 2017 needs, if you ask me.
Bell: It’s gonna start –
Kunis: A revolution.
Bell: And 2018 off right. Guys, is it gonna fix it? Is it gonna fix 2017? Maybe this waxing scene is gonna fix 2017.
Kunis: It won’t, you guys, but I like this wishful thinking.
*As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).