The Oscar boycott and modern day witch-hunting

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Salem, Massachusetts: 1692. In a community rife with arguments about property lines and church rules, three teenage girls started pointing fingers, accusing local women of witchcraft.

Tituba, a black slave, was one of the first targets, due perhaps to her ethnic differences. Martha Corey came later, perhaps because she voiced skepticism about the girls’ accusations and drew their ire.

By the end of 1693, the Salem Witch Trials had come to a close, and twenty people were dead, thanks to hysteria, anger, and feuds. Thank God, in 2016, we’re past all that!

Kidding.

Yesterday, invoking the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., stars like Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee announced they would be boycotting this year’s Oscars due to the lack of diversity amidst nominees. Lee pointed the finger at “the executive offices of the Hollywood studios and TV and cable networks.”

This arguably could be considered a modern day witch-hunt. This is a drop in the pond in a year of witch-hunts. Instead of people being persecuted for witchcraft, though, they’re now attacked because of perceived racism, sexism, religious bigotry, and even an inappropriate sense of humor.

Let’s think back …

Remember when Target released their “OCD” sweater? A play on the mental illness obsessive-compulsive disorder, the sweater read “Obsessive Christmas Disorder,” and people got pissed because they blamed Target for poking fun at mental health.

Remember when Kim Davis wouldn’t sign gay marriage licenses in Kentucky because it went against her religious beliefs? People called her terrible names and spewed hatred all over her desk because of what she saw as a moral obligation.

Remember when over-the-top comedienne Nicole Arbour posted her “Dear Fat People” video and got banned from social media because she’d hurt people’s feelings, so they took her voice away?

Or how about Rachel Foote’s blog post, “Generation Cry Baby,” in which she told millennials to “Get. The. F***. Over. Yourself.” She was strung up on social media by the same people she wrote about (who apparently don’t know the definition of “irony”).

This is modern day burning at the stake. Not only have we become a society of self-righteous witch-hunters, we’ve become players in the blame game. Not enough diversity at the Oscars? Blame Hollywood. Eat one too many Big Macs? Blame Nicole Arbour. Unhappy marriage? Blame your parents. The list goes on … and on … and on.

Face it: if we lived in 1600s Salem, half of us would be hung, myself included. The ones left alive would be a bunch of complainers who would end up dying from lack of anything to be angry about.

I can see them, soldiers of the politically correct, wasting away without a cause to protest. “Woe is me,” they’ll whimper, “No one is left to piss me off. What shall I do with my time now that I have no one to shame on social media?”

We all have a right to our opinions, which is what many people do not understand. If I want to wear black socks with sandals, I can. If I want to eat meat, I can do that, too. If I want to argue that Evil Dead is a cinematic masterpiece, you will not stop me.

You do your thing; I’ll do mine, but let’s not go on a witch-hunt every time something goes wrong in our lives. Let’s not blame someone else for believing something we do not or whine over Oscar injustice while people are starving in Syria. Life’s too short to be angry. Or, in the words of MLK Jr, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Why Spectre sucked

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If you’re Daniel Craig, call me. If you’re Daniel Craig playing James Bond, it’s hard to disappoint, but well, you did. It’s not your fault entirely, and I don’t know how Hollywood works, but man, didn’t you read the script for Spectre and think, “What the hell is this?”

I’m a shallow woman, so I’ll watch Craig in just about anything—especially Bond, due to the way his body is just plain STACKED—so there was no question that Spectre in theaters would happen this weekend.

The first scene was my own personal wet dream, as Bond wandered the streets of Mexico City on Dia de los Muertos. I mean, I was, like, sighing and gasping over streets filled with skull-clad spooks. Then, the movie happened, all two-and-a-half hours of it, and I left disappointed and, as a writer, confused.

Maybe I’ve been ruined by two of Craig’s other Bond forays, Casino Royale and Skyfall (which is my favorite Bond movie of all time). Maybe I was ruined by Javier Bardem, a villain so creepy but somehow sympathetic, you didn’t know whether to put a bullet in his head or get him to a therapist.

In Spectre, Bond’s career reaches a crescendo as the double-oh unit is closed down and Bond seeks to put an end to a covert bad guy club (which sounds mysteriously like the plot for Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation). Craig has a strong supporting cast, featuring Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, and Christopher Waltz as the baddie. So what went wrong?

Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert. Spoiler alert.

spectre_daniel_craig_lea_seydoux-wideThe writers apparently forgot something we like to call character development. Our super villain, Waltz, was just some angry little man with evil toys—toys that didn’t even pay off during the torture scene. The love interest (played by Lea Sedoux) was supposed to be someone we cared about, but she wasn’t. She was just a vapid little girl angry at her daddy. Plus, for me, she wasn’t hot enough, not like Eva Green in Casino Royale, for instance.

Spectre was rife with plot holes and weird connections that just made no sense. Plus, in the denouement, the bad guy was so theatrical as to put believability—even for a Bond film—in the realm of magic realism. (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand when I ask, did the guy have time to run to Kinko’s?)

There were some good fight scenes. The sex scenes were pretty good, too, but not as good as I’d like. There were some ingenious moments of comedy, like when Bond is drunk and asks a random mouse in a hotel, “Who sent you?”

What rattles me the most, though, is the lack of attention paid to the characters. I frankly didn’t care if Bond’s love interest took a bullet to the face. I didn’t jive with the antagonist’s motives because they were silly and weak. Even Andrew Scott, who I usually find so fascinating to watch in his portrayal of Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock, was just an angry little boy. I realize Spectre is an action film, and action takes precedence, but that was no reason for the writers to be like, “Screw it,” and toss emotion and plot out the helicopter window. No, said helicopter didn’t crash, but the movie sure did.

I sort of wish Daniel Craig had chosen Skyfall as his final performance as Bond because he would have successfully escaped this sinking ship. It goes to show that explosions, car chases, and fight scenes can’t carry a film, just like sex alone can’t carry erotica. We, as viewers, need a reason to care, and there wasn’t one. When Bond’s romantic interest whispers, “I love you,” nobody’s buying it. You’ve known the guy for five seconds, honey. You can say, “Daniel, I love your mouth,” but that’s about all there was to love about Spectre.

Would you survive a horror film?

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Back in the day, my friends used to tell me I would survive a horror movie, despite my wild appreciation for alcohol—probably because I was a virgin and had an obsessive love for scary movies.

Well, I’m not a virgin anymore, and I’ve developed a habit of wearing insensibly high heels. I also have wobbly breasts, so let’s face it: I might be first to go nowadays.

Man Crates is a new gifting company who delivers cool gifts for men in custom crates. (You’ll even need a crowbar to open it.) They recently asked me: “If you were in a horror movie, what would you want or need in a crate to survive through to the end credits?”

Although not all my items will fit in a crate … it’d have to be a big crate … I did come up with my Horror Movie Survival Kit, just in time for Halloween. I’m not paranoid; I’m just planning ahead, okay?

Guns and a crap-ton of ammo

This is where NRA members will have the step up. I mean, how else are you going to kill Leatherface if not for, like, fifty bullets to his head? Even Michael Myers, well, a bullet would at least slow him down. And if Zombieland taught us anything, bring extra ammo and don’t forget the double tap.

Car

Screw running and screaming through the woods. Get in your car. Drive away. And make sure you have a phone with you and an in-car phone charger so you can warn your friends who’re still having sex upstairs. Maybe this is why my husband always wants to have a full tank of gas—just in case we become victims of Scream, Part Infinitum.

New-Carrie-vs-Old-CarrieWhiskey and cigarettes

Everyone talks about needing water to survive a zombie apocalypse. How come no one talks about booze? If some undead Thriller-style Michael Jackson is chasing me, I’m going to want a drink afterward—several, most likely. A cigarette will calm the nerves, and if I have to, I’ll burn someone with it. Which reminds me: bring a lighter.

Change of clothes

If you happen to run out of ammo and all you have is a chainsaw, that’s going to cause quite a mess. You’ll want a costume change. I’m telling you, there’s nothing worse than blood and brain matter on your favorite 80s prom dress.

Garlic and holy water

Garlic is good for your cardiovascular system … and for warding off Dracula. Holy water apparently has all sorts of uses if Exorcist is any indication. Nothing is more distracting for an undead vampire than to have his or her skin melting off, let me tell you. Drink the holy water if you’re thirsty. Never know; it might miraculously cure that whiskey hang-over.

James Bond

Although Daniel Craig probably won’t travel well in a crate, I think he’d be really helpful in a horror movie, what with all his ninja moves, gun knowledge, and general affinity for escaping any and all enemy attacks. So what if he’s a fictional character? So are horror movie characters—until they’re not.

Man Crates, who prides itself on cool gifts for men, has their own Zombie Annihilation Crate that includes things like a flashlight, duct tape, and first aid kit. I might want to add it to my list, you know, just in case. It closely resembles the trunk of Dean and Sam’s car in Supernatural. Happy haunting!

Evolution of horror films: The Babadook and mad mommies

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If you know me at all, you know I love scary movies. I find them therapeutic, as in, “Well, at least I’m not THAT person, being chased by the psycho with the butcher knife!” Really puts life in perspective.

In the past week, I’ve watched three horror films: The Babadook, Oculus, and The Others. Two of these movies I watched alone, which meant I couldn’t go pee without first checking behind the shower curtain because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW.

Babadook is about a monster that pops out of a children’s book. Oculus is about a damn evil mirror. The Others is about … I can’t tell you, because it’ll ruin everything. That said, all three of these ghoulish, scream-worthy films had one thing in common: mad mommies. Crazy ladies. Bonkers beauties.

Got me thinking about the horror movies of my glorious youth. Remember them? Movies like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Going further back, Dracula and Frankenstein. These movies were about identifiable monsters: creatures (human and otherwise) that came for you in the night. These horror flicks gave you a villain and told you which way to run.

Flash to 2015, and although the monsters (and ghosts) are real, the main concern — the real fear — is mothers killing their own kids. Mothers gone mad. The monster is no longer something we run from but something within the people we love and trust the most.

Is the change because, in the glory days of horror, back when Stoker and Shelley were writing their masterpieces, we didn’t want to think that the monsters were, in fact, ourselves? In the cases of both Dracula and Frankenstein, the creatures were certainly metaphors of what humans could do to each other, but they were only that: metaphors.

Now, we see horrible things on the news — people killing each other, mothers drowning their children, mothers going mad — and we realize … The monsters are real.

There has been an outpouring of these crazy mommy movies in the past year. I don’t mean to discount gorgeous films like The Shining and Amityville Horror, in which daddy goes dark, but those 80s pics didn’t feel quite as upsetting. They weren’t as upsetting because, in the 80s, we still didn’t want to think about a mother killing her kids. Now, it happens. We watch the news; we watch the court cases. We shiver.

No longer are we running from guys in masks. If horror movies are any indication, it’s reality that truly scares us — what we are capable of — and human nature is a lot scarier than a guy with claws.

A Fantastic Fear of … Agoraphobia

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Obviously, what all writers look like.

I have step throat, and I’ve decided when my body is sick, my mind goes a little mental, so bear with me. As most of you know, I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder. What does this mean? Well, it means I did not attend Phoenix ComicCon this past weekend, because HELL NO, I WON’T GO.

Several people asked if I would be attending, to which I responded, calmly, “Are you <censored> nuts?”

See, I have a two-hour maximum. Even with friends, it’s difficult for me to spend more than two hours outside my house, talking to people. Movie theaters are fine, because they’re dark, so I don’t feel like everyone is staring at me and waiting for me to say something completely inappropriate, as is my wont to do.

Also, crowds. I don’t do crowds. Makes me feel all itchy. Like fire ants are crawling up my nose.

Instead of leaving the house this weekend, I watched A Fantastic Fear of Everything with Simon Pegg: a movie about a writer who researches serial killers and, in turn, becomes convinced everyone is trying to kill him. Of course, I related.

1) As writers, we live outside our actual lives and in stories. Sometimes, waking up from stories can be jarring to the point of sudden screaming and/or asking the nearest person (usually my dog) what day it is.

2) The older I get, the weirder I get, which means my agoraphobia is getting worse.

Agoraphobia: “a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and often avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.”

Common places to avoid:

Costco

Baby showers

Neil Gaiman book signings

Doctors’ offices … which is why I refused to make a doctor’s appointment until I was rolling, sobbing on the floor in two-day-old pajamas, and Jake said, “But really, dear.”

In an effort to recover (from strep throat), I sleep or write. I read Sherlock fan fiction. I call my family and tell them boring, useless things. I drink watered-down Gatorade and eat eggs.

In an effort to stop the Howard Hughes process … well, I haven’t figured that out yet.

I’ve heard of other writers worse than me. Children’s book writer/illustrator Adam Rex once said he’s been known to spend days in his office without noticing the passage of time. The fact that his wife is also a writer doesn’t aid in this, as she does the same thing, and suddenly, they’re both like, “Hey. Should we bathe?” as they run blindly into each other in the darkened hall.

I guess it helps to have a husband and friends who understand The Way I Am. Jake doesn’t push, and when my friends see that look in my eye (akin to a serial killer twitch), they usually just shuffle me toward the nearest exit.

Maybe it has to do with living in a big city. Everything’s just too … big. Or maybe it’s just being a weird writer person.

Whatever the reason, I have built a “nest” in my office composed of a heavy, winter comforter; two pillows; and the teddy bear from my childhood, know as “Bearenheart.” Plus some Halloween-colored twinkle lights. I go there and huddle after most business meetings, public speaking events, and walks to the mailbox.

Okay, I’m not that bad, but, no, I didn’t go to Phoenix ComicCon.

12 Tumblr moments that make me love life

Now that I’m living life without antidepressants, I’ve learned ways to cope with creeping sadness. I’ve learned you gotta kick that sadness right in the ass, and there’s no better place to be surrounded by beauty and laughter … than Tumblr.

There, I said it. Make fun of me all you want, but the following round-up will remind you: life is tough but it’s funny and beautiful, too. I present my 12 favorite Tumblr moments.

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1. When David Tennant made this face on Doctor Who.
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2. When Mulder made this face on The X-Files to scare Scully.

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3. When Harry Potter pretended to be a spider with fangs while high on Liquid Luck.

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4. When this dog took a second to enjoy the sun.

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5. When Bill Murray pet Benedict Cumberbatch like a dog.

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6. When Jerry wore glasses on Seinfeld.

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7. When Chandler told a secret on Friends.

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8. When I thought a shark was beautiful.

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9. When a strange little picture made me slow down.

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10. When the ocean looked like a mountain.

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11. When this dog had a very bad day.

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12. When the Sirens boys had an even worse day.

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If you need more funny, beautiful things, join me on Tumblr. Be sure to find what it is that brightens YOUR day, whether it be silly pictures, a cuddle with your pup, BBC murder mysteries, or singing Total Eclipse of the Heart at full volume.

Benedict Cumberbatch gets married: What do I deserve?

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When news broke Saturday morning that my “boyfriend” Benedict Cumberbatch was having a secret wedding on the Isle of Wight in England, I texted people as if I was the one getting married. Then, I scoured the internet and waited for some sneak peaks of the ceremony.

Imagine my disappointment when there were none.

Believe me when I say I quite literally know what’s happening in this man’s life before he does. I have never, ever delved so deeply into celebrity worship in my life. This is due to the aforementioned internet: sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the most efficient celebrity stalking site, Tumblr.

Since the start of my Bed-Addiction, I have felt no guilt mooning over photos of him at airports or caught out on the town with friends. Then, when there were no photos of him in a tuxedo Saturday, I felt irritable, cheated. I felt like Benedict Cumberbatch owed me something.

I recently interviewed British author Nick Hornby for work. A charming man with an Alan Rickman voice, he’s spent a lot of time working the Hollywood scene. I asked him if he thought we made celebrities into gods, and he said, yes, of course we do, which sets us up for disappointment.

As he told me at SheKnows.com, “I think we don’t actually have a fantasy about meeting somebody; we have a fantasy that that person will become our friend. All it will take is a handshake, and you’ll end up going on holiday together.”

Therein lies the problem; I’ve started viewing Benedict as my friend, and of course he owes me a wedding photo. Isn’t that CREEPY?

My oddball realization begs the question: What do celebrities owe their fans? Adversely, what do fans owe celebrities?

There are celebrity attention whores like the Kardashians who share everything (literally). There are charming celebrities like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki of Supernatural fame, who make me laugh with their Twitter feeds. Then, there are celebrities like Benedict who aren’t on any social media and who keep their private lives private.

As a celebrity with a psychotic fan base, I’m sure Benedict is aware fans linger on his every word and discuss every outfit he wears ad infinitum. I’m sure he knows we want to see a picture from his wedding, but he has kept careful watch over his now wife, Sophie Hunter, probably because he knows he’s a hunted man. The couple is due to have a baby this year, too, but I’m sure we’ll never see it.

Should this upset we, the Cumber Collective? It does upset me, but it shouldn’t.

To be honest, celebrities owe us nothing. And if we are true fans, we owe celebrities respect. Sure, they might walk red carpets at gala events. They might buy 10.8 million dollar houses (ahem, Benedict), but how soon we forget: they’re just people. They wake up with bed head. They have morning breath. They go grocery shopping and have messy kitchens.

Celebrities are not gods. (Most of them only look like gods because of Photoshop anyway.) They are just human beings doing a job, no matter what TMZ tells you.

The Imitation Game and how far we’ve come

THE IMITATION GAME

SPOILERS: If you don’t know the story of Alan Turing and want to remain completely in the dark in regards to the plot of The Imitation Game, probably don’t read this.

As a dedicated Cumberbitch, of course I had to see The Imitation Game, in which my boyfriend Benedict Cumberbatch portrays genius and father of the modern computer Alan Turing.

Turing was a British mathematician, cryptographer, and marathon runner who helped break the Nazi Enigma code to bring an early cessation to World War II. The machine he used to break the code, “Christopher,” is the precursor to technology we use everyday, whether it be a computer or smart phone.

Post-war, Turing was found guilty of gross indecency, due to his homosexuality (a crime at the time) and sentenced to two years chemical castration through oestrogen injections in order to dissolve his libido. Due perhaps to the effects of the oestrogen, he killed himself at the age of forty-one.

Turing was never ashamed of his sexuality. He died a genius and a homosexual who has since been recognized for his accomplishments and for the unfortunate turn his life took as a gay male in the super paranoid 1950s.

The film, Imitation Game, follows Turing’s entire life through flashes into his past at boarding school, his present at Bletchley Park during World War II, and into his sad, horrible future, during the process of his chemical castration when he seemed ready to lose his mind.

Cumberbatch was ideally cast in the role of this awkward genius. He brings comedy, heart, and charisma to a man whose own mother called him “an odd duck.” The supporting cast is similarly enthralling, led by Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode (and a truly heart-wrenching portrayal by lesser-known Matthew Beard).

Screenwriter Graham Moore deserves every award possible for his flawless movement through time, choosing the moments in Alan’s life that shaped him the most. And I’d be remiss to not mention director Morten Tyldum, who guided and shaped the film into an emotional rollercoaster of joy, tragedy, and rage.

Cumberbatch has admitted he did not leave filming unscathed. During one scene, for instance, he had to portray Turing having an emotional breakdown. Surprise, surprise, Cumberbatch actually had a breakdown and couldn’t finish the scene.

director-morten-tyldum-narrates-620x400He told the Los Angeles Daily News, “I just got completely lost in his tragedy. I tried to pace myself for the scene, but I could not stop crying. I could not stop keening for this guy who was wronged. It disgusted and profoundly upset me.” As an audience member, I felt the same about Turing’s fate.

The film is brilliant in execution. The performances are spot-on. More than that, though, The Imitation Game informs people of what happened to Alan Turing and what happened to so many men like him in the first half of the twentieth century.

Gay men were once the drug dealers of today. They were persecuted and imprisoned for their “crime” (sexual preference). Can you image that happening now? No, but that doesn’t mean we’re in any way out of the woods where gay rights are concerned.

A dear friend of mine was recently attacked via an online discussion board at her college. Fellow students found out she was gay and offered to help her. They wanted to take her someplace where she could be “healed.” They wanted her to know she could be fixed, but as I told her, “Honey, you can’t fix stupid.” We still live surrounded by ignorance, and no matter how well intentioned, my friend’s fellow students really hurt her feelings.

Steps have been taken to stop discrimination against gays. Gay marriage is being allowed in more and more states around the country. We’re certainly not putting people away for sodomy anymore. (Half the straight population would probably be behind bars, too.) But there is still a long way to go for more than just gays—for the rights of all races, sexes, and creeds.

The Imitation Game is really about choices: choose who you love, choose who you save, and choose who you want to be. Finally, choose to accept the way you were born.

Urban Midnight: Embrace your inner psychopath

A chat with the director.

A chat with the director.


There’s a secret I hide. Few people know this secret, and they have kept quiet for the past twelve years. They can now break their silence, as I make this astounding announcement: I used to be an actress.

When writer pal Rasheda Poe asked me to be in her short film, I hedged. I was vague. I told her I wasn’t “actually an actress.” This is untrue. In high school, I was Theater Student of the Year as a senior. I earned my varsity letter as a thespian. In college, I minored in acting. My last stage show was in 2002, and I haven’t acted since.

Historically, I was cast as the bitch. I don’t know why. I’m not a bitch. I’m actually quite nice, but perhaps my snark comes across as bitchy. Perhaps men see me as bitchy (since I was always cast by men).

Rasheda saw the bitch in me, too. Well, the bitch and the psychopath. Her short film, entitled “Urban Midnight,” is about a seductive murderess. Rasheda wrote the role of Fiona with me in mind. It’s highly complimentary when one of your best friends thinks you’d make a perfect murderer, right? I think so.

Monday night, we spent five hours filming. I have a semi-photographic memory, which makes me super annoying to other actors. (I’m always correcting people.) I knew I could memorize the lines, but could I deliver them?

I arrived to the “set” (an extended stay hotel) and found myself surrounded by about ten film geek dudes. Yeah, Rasheda and I were the only girls, and I was in nothing but a robe. We joked about how the hotel probably thought we were filming porn, and yeah, I may have busted out the Old School line, “I’m here for the gang bang.”

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Blood is so hard to wash off.

Playing Fiona was like playing Hannibal Lecter: a lot of stillness with very little facial expression. My favorite part was when the boys covered me in chocolate syrup for fake blood (it’s what Hitchcock used for Psycho). Since the film was in black and white, this worked perfectly.

How did it feel to have the acting boots on again? I guess we should take a quick trip back to 2002 first.

In 2002, I was a sophomore at Ohio University, an acting major. I’d just been cast as the overbearing, bitchy older sister in a dark comedy about one man returning home for his father’s funeral. I had one scene in particular where it was just me in the center of the stage, giving my father’s eulogy, and finally breaking down. I physically ached after every performance.

It was reminiscent of when I starred in “To Absent Friends” in high school: a short play in which the viewer realizes, only at the end, that all the characters are dead. My friend, Emily, had to be escorted out of the theater by her boyfriend because she was so distraught by the shocking conclusion.

During my “actor days,” I understood the power of theater. I’m a movie buff to this day. In fact, I’m a movie snob and trivia expert. But in 2002, I realized I loved what actors did … but I hated acting. I switched to creative writing. Haven’t looked back since.

That said, since I’m a huge proponent of doing things that scare the shit out of me, I agreed to act in Rasheda’s short film, and I did have fun. I liked playing a sociopath, and the process was interesting: all the camera angles, the sound stuff, and “getting into character” with the help of my awesome costars. I slid back into it like a hand in a glove.

So shall I announce my victorious return to acting? Um, no. Making “Urban Midnight” was fun, but acting (although once my thing) is a very small part of my introverted, writer brain. Just like singing (something I can do but don’t really enjoy), acting will be one of those skills I keep in my back pocket in case Ben Cumberbatch calls and wants me to play his romantic lead.

Until then, I’ll tuck Fiona away but thank her (and Rasheda) for reminding me how fun it is to step outside my comfort zone for a couple hours and do something truly unique.