Lesbian writer/director Jenna Laurenzo is having a good year. Her hilarious holiday comedy, “Lez Bomb” is out on demand Nov. 9 and will be on Amazon before the end of year.
“Lez” is about a young woman (Laurenzo) who comes home for Thanksgiving to come out to her eccentric family. The movie is a follow-up to her short film, “Girl Night Stand,” an internet hit which attracted millions of viewers.
Laurenzo is so funny, she’s gotten the attention of comedic geniuses Bobby and Peter Farrelly (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb And Dumber,” etc). Bobby is executive producing “Lez Bomb” and Peter is producing “Green Book,” which she co-stars in, along with Viggo Mortensen.
Los Angeles Blade’s Susan Hornik talked exclusively to Laurenzo about her many projects.
Los Angeles Blade: How did you get Bobby Farrelly to produce the film?
Jenna Laurenzo: I was at ITV: The Independent Television Festival with my short film, “Girl Night Stand.” Rob Moran (who has appeared in many of the Farrelly brothers films) had already come on to produce “Lez Bomb.” He knew we were both up at the festival, so he had us meet and chat! After Bobby saw the short, he then read my feature-length script. We connected a lot on the themes, and the way in which they were being explored through comedy. He came on as EP in the greatest sense. Often those producer credits aren’t clear or indicative of involvement. Bobby was very involved, giving thoughtful feedback and becoming one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had. I could not be more grateful for the many takeaways I have on this film, because of his generosity to encourage, support, challenge and push me to be the best storyteller I can be, always striving.
Blade: How much of “Lez Bomb” was based on your own experience?
Laurenzo: This was inspired by my own family; we shot the film in my childhood home. My mom’s actual motel which my grandfather built in the 1950s, and the coming out emotions are the years of confusion I had went through in my own life, crammed within a 48-hour-period set against Thanksgiving. So, the film is very much rooted in my own experience. Though there are moments and plot points that are largely exaggerated for comedic purposes.
Blade: Is it easier for a person to come out now?
Laurenzo: I can’t answer that for everyone, and it would be irresponsible for me to make a blanket statement. Often we assume its externalities that make coming out more challenging, and forget the person coming out has to come out on their own terms and their own timeline. While “coming out” is arguably more acceptable, there are still many people and places in the world that judge. My parents and friends love and support my wife and I, yet I still haven’t been able to comfort her in public without a guy making a sexual grunt or a derogatory statement being yelled out a window, and we live in a “liberal city.” That is my own personal experience. Some people came out with ease, some with struggle, but we can’t take it for granted. It still is the minority, and the majority should show compassion vs. assuming they can lump this journey into a single experience that covers the entire LGBTQ population. Coming out experiences are as vast as the rainbow that represents those who went on that journey, however it unfolded.
Blade: What advice would you give to someone who wants to come out?
Laurenzo: I waited a long time to come out, and by the time I came out, I was angry at my parents for not comprehending something I hadn’t given them the opportunity to know. When I finally did it, they just wanted to understand, but most importantly — they wanted me to be happy. The same with my closest friends. Sometimes we hold onto things we think are going to disappoint those closest to us — because the reality doesn’t match their expectations. And we often put more weight on it when reality doesn’t match our own expectations. But life throws curve balls, all the time. Coming out was one of the greatest gifts I was given, being forced to look inside and really inquire about what makes me happy. This has carried over into all aspects of life, and taught me to be deliberate in my decisions, instead of habitual. Personally, it was the most challenging to tell that first person. And then slowly, with each person, it was easier and easier. My advice would be to tell someone you love and trust, and have faith they’ll understand. Not everyone will, but that’s their own journey, not a reflection on you.
Blade: How can lesbians thrive in the world of Trump?
Laurenzo: I’m not sure the question should just be about lesbians. I think we should be looking more at unity, sexuality aside, of those who want to bring about much needed change, in a positive, more empathetic and compassionate direction. It’s important to voice our stories, and provoke those who show judgement, to question where their motivations are coming from.
Blade: “Lez Bomb” stars the much loved Cloris Leachman and Bruce Dern. How was it to work with them?
Laurenzo: My god, what a gift. Cloris and Bruce are both firecrackers, both in life and on set. I was in awe of their bold decisions, spontaneity and freedom. The camera rolls, and they are free. While editing the film, I kept saying —you can really see why they are the legends they are. Working with them was a masterclass in the craft of acting, comedic timing, and bold, yet grounded character choices.
Blade: What’s the most challenging: directing, writing, producing or acting?
Lauremzo: Depends on the day! They all have their challenges and their rewards.
Blade: The movie, “Green Book” has been getting great Oscars buzz. Tell us about your character.
Laurenzo: I play Sebastian Maniscalo’s wife, Fran. Being on that set was a whirlwind and dream come true. It’s impossible to watch Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini work, without being inspired. Playing Linda’s sister-in-law, I had to fight every inclination to ask all about (her popular television comedy) “Freaks & Geeks!” On set in these family scenes, I just tried to soak up everything —Peter Farrelly directing, and these actors bringing the incredible characters to life.
Blade: What’s next for you?
Laurenzo: I’m developing a T.V. series, based on my short film, “Girl Night Stand.” And I’m in the thick of a rewrite on what I hope is my next feature. Let’s just say its a big comedy and female ensemble, touching upon some LGBTQ themes.