Carmilla’s Natasha Negovanlis And Elise Bauman Are Making The Queer Art They Want To See In The World: The Autostraddle Interview

On March 3-5, thousands of queer women and allies traveled to Las Vegas for ClexaCon. There were ship reunions, workshops, and constructive panels on how to make minority representation in media better. One of the most exciting events for me was the Hollstein Reunion with out actresses Natasha Negovanlis and Elise Bauman, the stars of Carmilla, a vlog-style adaptation of the lesbian vampire novella of the same name. The series premiered in 2014 and quickly became a viral hit and has gained mainstream recognition, most recently at the Canadian Screen Awards where Natasha won the Fan Choice Award.

After three regular seasons and one prequel season, Carmilla is prepping for a feature film, which will be filmed this year. In the series, Natasha plays the titular brooding lesbian vampire, and she hosts the YouTube channel KindaTV, on which the series is broadcast. Recently, Natasha announced her own series that she wrote and produced with Carmilla co-star Annie Briggs; it’s called Clairevoyant and centers on two best friends who become psychics to pay the rent. On Carmilla, Elise Bauman plays Laura Hollis, a Veronica-Mars-meets-Buffy-type journalism student. Since Carmilla, Elise has released her own music, appeared on the queer film Below Her Mouth, and, with Natasha, starred in the feature film Almost Adults.

At the Hollstein reunion at ClexaCon, Natasha and Elise answered fan questions and even live-read famous gay scenes, like the infamous glove lunch scene from Carol and a swoony Clarke and Lexa scene from The 100. I was able to sit down with Natasha and Elise and talk about Carmilla, representation, working on films, and Natasha’s queer character on Clairevoyant.

Karly: First, how has your perception of queer or minority representation in the media changed since Carmilla?

Elise Bauman: I really get to firsthand experience and feel how important it is to the people watching content. It’s so easy to be in your little actor bubble, like all my friends are actors… it’s pretty easy to experience it from the creative side. On the other side of it, there are the people who are craving that content and that’s something that I’ve really felt the last couple years and how important it is to people, and how necessary it is to give to representation to all different sorts of people.

Natasha Negovanlis: I think just listening to people’s experiences has made me so much more aware. I mean, it was always something that was important to me, but I don’t think I was as educated or knowledgeable on just how important it is until I really took the time to listen to our viewers. So that’s been really special.

Karly: I want to talk about the Carmilla movie, which is going to be filmed this year. I know you can’t really spoil it but I wanted to talk to you about the format, what are you looking forward to having a feature length film?

EB: I’m so looking forward to shooting and taking something that’s already been established and bringing it to another level. I think this is an experience that neither of us probably will ever have again. Oftentimes you jump into a feature film not knowing the other actors, not having had almost three years with the story and the characters already. So it’s like we’ve nurtured this thing for almost three years and now we get to do it in a new light. I’m really excited.

NN: Yeah because we shoot the show so quickly. I feel like it’s taken three years to really get to know my character. Because so often you have a lot more time to prepare. But for us we have to make decisions about our characters pretty much on the spot. Or within like a week, really, because we get the script and then we shoot a week later so we’re definitely really excited to have more time to really explore characters, but to also explore who they have become, because obviously, it’s no spoiler that it is set five years in the future from the time that the series ended. So it’ll be really neat to revisit the characters and their mannerisms and whatnot, just like discover ways to play older versions of them. Also, Carmilla is not a vampire. That’ll be really bizarre because she’s not a vampire anymore… but she still is, in the sense that she’s ancient. So what does that look like? That’s such a gift as an actor playing an ancient mortal being

Karly: KindaTV has been around for a while, and Natasha, you’ve been the face of it for a year. KindaTV does a ton of stuff so I was just wondering if you could briefly describe what is a typical day there, if there is one.

NN: There truly is no typical day on KindaTV. And it’s been a really interesting job because I have to work with the team, and there is sort of this larger web involved that you normally don’t have in the YouTube world. Normally it’s one person and the camera and you’re the creator. So it’s been really cool to learn how to work with the team and to learn how to compromise and create together versus having control over everything. I can have a very controlling personality, so it’s been a good learning lesson for me to just learn how to let go and to do things that are very much outside of my comfort zone.

It’s been a really great experience because it’s made me a lot more comfortable in my own skin in the sense that it gives me a chance to be a little more candid and a little less polished and a little more silly. My mom watches all of the episodes and it’s nice to hear her say this is the Natasha that I know, because I was always a very studious, serious kid and actor. But at home I would come downstairs in a silly costume, in the privacy of my own home with my parents. So I think it’s neat for them to see the Natasha they know shared with the world.

Karly: Clairevoyant was just announced as your new project. Would you get to make the decisions and have that control?

NN: For Clairevoyant I certainly have a lot more control because I am a co-producer on it. Again I’m learning that it takes a village to produce a show. So yes there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen but it is really neat to be able to like oversee things and work with Annie who I trust so much. And she’s been such a wonderful creative partner. And also Dillon Taylor, our co-producer as well. So Dillon Taylor was the editor for Carmilla and this is his first kind of introduction into the world of producing, as well as for me. We’re all learning together, but have a really solid team of older mentors at the company who are able to sort of guide us, to help us. Sometimes they’ll see things and we’re just like, “Damn it, we don’t want to do that!” but in the end they were right.

Also my character on Clairevoyant is queer and it was really important for me to write what I think is a realistic queer character. And also to write a queer female relationship that doesn’t have angst in it. I mean, life isn’t perfect so there will certainly be conflicts and whatnot, but I want to just show a relationship that also functions, and I wanted to explore the idea that, you know, you can get the girl in the end. So it’s really more about the relationship between Claire and Ruby.

They’re platonic soul mates and it’s about them fighting evil… it’s very much an absurdist comedy. I will say it’s really bizarre. I can say that if we get funded, because again it’s not a sure thing that we’re going to be making this, but if we are able to make it past the independent production fund applications we do have a really cool team of directors and another writer that I’m going to bring on, who works on some big Canadian TV, and we’re very excited.

Karly: The trailer was hilarious.

NN: Thank you so much. It’s interesting, I was saying to Elise it’s funny how things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to. But then it’s nice to be watching it like ‘it’s not what I expected’ but I’m glad that it’s making people laugh. I love the idea that I get to do a lot of dramatic work, but I think, especially in this political climate, it’s important to make people laugh, and I think that Clairevoyant is very much going to be an escape. It’s definitely like a goofy comedy. It’s not super serious.

EB: I love a goofy comedy.

NN: It’s pretty silly but I think that’s important too, laughter is the best medicine.

Karly: And then you guys are here to also talk about Almost Adults. On Autostraddle’s review we got some comments like ‘well I’ve never seen Carmilla but I’m excited to see this movie.’

NN: Oh interesting.

Karly: So how does it feel, that this would be people’s introduction to your work?

NN: That makes me a little bit nervous. I’m not going to lie but I’m learning to…to not judge myself so harshly. It was my first feature film and leading role in a feature film, and the character is very different from me and a character that I probably normally wouldn’t be friends with in real life. So it was really cool to explore a character or a person that is different from me, to learn how to breathe life into her and find empathy for her as well. But I think so often as an actor my fear is that like sometimes people will confuse characters with actors. She’s just the character.

EB: It’s really funny to hear people often come up to me and tell me how much they don’t like something my character has done and they’re almost like looking for an explanation and the reason as to why, like “Why did you do that!”

NN: It’s weird as an actor, because we’re just vessels for someone else’s story.

EB: But it’s funny, I said to someone the other day, because they were really upset that Mackenzie had done this thing in the movie, like “I don’t think Cassie should have had to apologize to you!” And I was saying that I think it’s not the job of a film to depict life in this perfect way where everyone has everything figured out and they have no moral flaws and they don’t have to go through any big learning experiences. But if my actual life were to be a film I think people would be very upset at my character of myself because I am a human who has done many flawed things in my life. And I think that’s the responsibility of a film is to show the things that we need to work on and not the things that we’ve already accomplished.

Fans can keep up with Elise and Natasha on Twitter and preorder the Carmilla movie here.


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24 Comments

  1. My wife and I literally just started watching Carmilla a couple days ago. We’ve finished season one, and are excited to watch the other seasons. And now we know that we have a movie and another show to look forward to! Thank you for writing this!

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