Actress Gina Gershon has tackled some interesting roles, from a camp diva in the 1995 film "Showgirls" to the butch lesbian in the 1996 movie "Bound." Her most recent film was 2011's "Killer Joe" with Matthew McConaughey. In the meantime, she published a book about her lost cat, "In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind." Currently the 51-year-old can be seen playing Donatella Versace in the Lifetime original movie "House of Versace" premiering Saturday.
Did you ever get to meet Donatella?
No, I never met her, which I think in this case was OK. I have played a couple of people now who I've met as I was playing them. Sometimes it's good, and sometimes it's bad. You know what I mean? This is based on the book "The House of Versace," and just from my impressions of that and her videos, I really approached her as a character, not as a caricature, which I think we all kind of think of Donetella because she is so wild and kind of out there.
At the end of the day, this story that Lifetime is presenting is kind of more a family drama. It's about a woman who gets out of the shadow of her brother in a tragic way but ends up finding her own voice. It's a redemption story ... so it's my impression. I was attracted to the story because of the family drama and what this woman went through. It happens to be Donatella. We all have such an image in our mind. I think we were all trying to get it and play the truth of what was going on.
Are you into fashion?
What girl doesn't like a little fashion? [laughs] I certainly appreciate it. I have friends who are designers, and I really see how hard -- I mean they work almost harder than anyone -- it's crazy no matter what they do. Putting out show after show, season after season, I have so much respect for people in that field. It's really a lot of pressure on top of being creative and trying to figure out a new line and what's going on. It's tons of work.
What role has been the most challenging of your career so far?
I'd say Donatella is right up there. I mean, we are presenting a moment in her life that wasn't the most pleasant. She went through so much tragedy, and she had so much pressure and then she had such issues with herself and the family. Between the accent and the way she walked and you know her whole look, I mean she is definitely a challenging person to play and to really try to get under the skin of.
Have there been any characters you played you couldn't wait to get away from?
[Laughing] I was excited to finish the Donatella project. As fun as she can be -- and there is a certain generosity of spirit -- there was also a lot of heaviness and toxicity. It was nice to get in there and then get out of there. She wasn't the easiest person to inhabit. But saying that, I really do have such a respect for her and what she went through and how she came out of it.
I have heard you talk about using your dreams as a tool for your craft. Do you ever dream in character once you are in a role?
Yeah, yeah, sometimes. You start having images. You know with a part like this you are in every single scene, and you are shooting a whole movie in basically 20 days, which is not a lot of time. You are kind of living and breathing this person for an intense period of time. You are consciously thinking of it, and you are unconsciously thinking of it. Yeah, I had a couple of crazy dreams where I was just waking up. I was holding my mouth a certain way, and I'd wake up talking like that. The physicality was very different.
Is that true of roles in which the person doesn't exist?
Yeah, I think you do sometimes, sure. But Donatella's physicality is so different than mine. I really had to think about it. Just the way she holds her arms and her hips and the way she walks and the way she talks. Everything is kind of the polar opposite of the way I am. That is the pressure or the challenge when you are playing someone who is such a visible person. I mean it's fun. That's why we do what we do. When you are making someone up, who knows, choices come out of the blue really, or they come from the psychology of the character. With Donatella, I watched the videos, and then I worked backwards and tried to figure it out.
So a question about you. Did you grow up in a religious household?
Not really. We always say we are like Jew-ish. The family was very important, but we weren't very religious. My father and my uncle were much more religious than the rest of the family.
Are you spiritual? From what I have read, you seem to delve into lots of interesting things.
I think the last thing I really promoted was my book, and it had a lot of crazy religions and spirituality and stuff in it. I think I'm a spiritual person. I wouldn't say I'm a religious person. I don't totally believe in that. I do believe in connecting to something on a grander scheme. It's a very personal thing. I totally respect when people believe in what they believe in. I'm not that much into organized religion. It seems like it causes more trouble than happiness.
Once you became well-known, how did fame affect your love life, your dating life?
Um, I don't think it really affected it. I mean, unless I'm really naive. I feel like people like me for who I am [laughing]. You know it's funny, the men I've dated really haven't actually known my work so much until we started dating. So it never really came into play. My boyfriend now had never seen me in my movies. I took him to see "Killer Joe" for the first one out, which was a real shocker. But I don't let those things affect my personal life. I don't think it has.
I think you have to be a strong man to deal with any woman who has a career and has her own life. So I think the men that I have dated have been strong men and confident in their own right. I wouldn't want to date a wimpy guy in that regard anyway. Who wants to go out with an insecure, wimpy, no-confidence man? That's not sexy to me. Call me crazy.
So how is your cat?
He's good. He's old. I mean honestly I think I've saved his life about eight-and-a-half times now. I have to give him fluids three times a week. He's hanging in there. He's almost 17. I can't even think about it. He still has a crazy personality. He has a new thing where he loves to wake me up in the middle of the night. He used to just lick my face. Now he literally shoves his tongue in my mouth. It's kind of disgusting and cute at the same time. But he gives the best facials around. Everyone keeps telling me your skin looks great, and I'm telling you it's because he licks my face so much. It's like a little mini-dermibrasion or something. That's the secret to my skin. Yeah, he gives me the Cleo facial. We'll stop there, and I will sound like a crazy cat person again [laughs].