It was just a couple of weeks after the premiere of the third season of Ray Donovan, which made Katherine Moennig one of this summer’s biggest stars. In the midst of her busy schedule Moennig took the time to speak to eniGma’s Omnia Zaied about her life, career and what she hopes the future holds for her.
I hadn’t known Moennig personally for long when we sat down to conduct the interview. Here’s what I had known about her: She doesn’t talk much, but when she does it’s always witty and to the point. She doesn’t laugh much, but when she does, it’s always genuine and contagious. She takes her time opening up to people, and when she eventually does, you have got yourself the best friend you could ask for.
We met up at a quirky coffee shop/store off Sunset Boulevard. We had spent that morning boxing together, one of Moennig’s many hobbies. Well, actually, she was boxing while I was creepily watching her from behind my bag so I could figure out more questions to ask. She was dressed all in black, and was sitting casually as I arrived late and blamed it on my Uber driver. Looking at her you can’t help but think, she has no care in the world. She is happy, relaxed, and just excited about life. With a big smile and her trademark husky voice, she welcomed me.
When you start talking to Moennig you immediately realise how uncool you are. She is an actress, she rides motorbikes, she boxes, she skates, she has plenty of tattoos, and she wears unorthodox headbands. She has a three legged dog and she DJs in her free time. She’s the kind of person who makes you feel you spent your entire life for naught.
From a very early age Moennig realised she was just not like everyone else. Growing up with a mother who worked as a Broadway dancer and a father who made violins, art was part of every aspect of her life. “I was raised in a very artistic household. I spent the majority of my childhood watching movies and I loved films so much,” she says. Moennig hated school as much as she loved movies. Academia wasn’t really her thing. She hated classes and she hated studying. ‘Normal’ just wasn’t for her. She knew she was meant to be an artist one way or the other. “Being an actress just made sense,” she tells me, hence her decision to join the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
It didn’t take her long to kick start her career. Within a short period she managed to prove herself as an accomplished actress. She brilliantly pulled off disguising herself as a boy in Young Americans and skillfully gave life to Shane, her character in The L Word, making half the world fall in love with her and the other half call her the face of promiscuity. And no one would have made a better sidekick to Liev Schrieber in Ray Donovan, the hit TV show she currently stars in which has been running for three seasons.
From her very first role, Moennig’s ‘uniqueness’ made her the centre of attention. All eyes were on her from her debut performance in Young Americans (2000) up until she got the role of Shane in The L World (2004 – 2009). The show was a huge success all around the world. It was new, daring, and maybe even shocking to some. Her role made her one of the most famous androgynous actresses of her generation. “When that show came around I was in New York. I hadn’t worked in a bit and I was looking for something new that I would enjoy doing. When I read it I thought it was really daring, but I loved that it was all about women. When we did the pilot it was like the stars aligned and we knew it would be a success,” she recalls. The second the show aired everyone was talking about it, and more specifically, about Moennig. Within days, 26 year-old Moennig found herself basking in fame. She was young and she had a lot to digest before she knew what to make of it. She could have gotten greedy, she could have gotten lazy, her head could have gotten too big. But while she was trying to make sense of it all, her father passed away. “It really humbled me. I couldn’t focus on anything else except my loss. It stopped the impact of the show from getting to me, it remained just a job I am thankful to have and I enjoy doing,” she says.
The success of the show with all its perks got Moennig typecast in a certain kind of role. “I have always found that filmmakers don’t know what to do with me. It’s just how it is,” she admits. This is something that makes Moennig so different than anyone you’d meet. Almost nothing shocks her. She takes everything as is, immediately processes it and deals with it. She is not the kind of person who over analyses everything. She embraces whatever comes her way, handles it, and moves on to whatever comes next.
After The L World, her success could have taken her anywhere she wanted. But her dedication to stay true to herself made her very picky about her next steps. “In our industry you have to make peace with the fact that there’s going to be someone who’s going to be able to sell more tickets than you. And I am fine with that because I only work on things that I enjoy doing. I am not looking to be all over the press. I just want to do my job,” she says.
That kind of attitude towards life in general and work in particular worked for her. Her karma really paid off when Showtime contacted her to play Lena in Ray Donovan. “I love to work with Showtime. Once they choose their programs they let them grow and they give you freedom to explore the storyline. They are incredible,” she says.
Despite all the success, when you deal with Moenning on a personal level, you’d never guess she was a celebrity. Just a few nights before we did the interview I watched her spinning at Grandpa Johnson’s bar in Hollywood while lines of fans positioned themselves in front of the podium trying to get her attention. When I asked her whether she had noticed, she said she hadn’t. She just enjoys whatever she’s doing so much that she loses track of everything else. Her approach to fame is very different than most celebrities you meet. To her it’s just something that comes with the job; something she never really asked for or is willing to pursue. She doesn’t see herself as a famous person. “I don’t live that kind of lifestyle. I just want to get a job and do it well,” she tells me. All she cares about is doing more and proving herself as an actress who can play anything and everything, “I want to get bigger roles, to play better characters. I want to work harder and faster, that’s all I care about,” she says.
As she gets up to get herself a snack, she tells me that one role she dreams of playing one day is that of a superhero and that she’s optimistic about how the portrayal of women is changing in the industry. “The roles for women are getting more interesting and original and I hope to God it continues and I can find my place in it,” she says.
As I wait for her to return to the table, I wonder if that’s ever going to happen. But I know it wouldn’t bother her anyway if it didn’t. Moennig just doesn’t focus on what she doesn’t have. She focuses on what she has and makes the best of it, genuinely believing that there’s nothing she can’t do. Whether it’s playing a difficult role or learning to box much bigger people professionally.
When she’s back I ask her what her proudest moment has been. She hesitates for a few seconds before saying she hasn’t really had that moment yet. Something I knew she’d say because she’s not the kind of person who stops at one milestone. She wants many more to come, and I just know they will.