Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on August 17, 2009
By Sarah Backhouse for Coco Eco Magazine, Photography by Rachel Schwarz, Styling by Michele Lianos, Make Up by Julianne Kaye, Hair by Tony at Photogenics
Young Hollywood is mostly synonymous with a bunch of vacuous brats who are “green” because Leo is or because their publicists told them to. So it was refreshing to meet actress Rachel Leigh Cook – a clever, candid and considered actress who had obviously given real thought to the threat of climate change. Fresh-faced, doe-eyed and skewing much younger than her almost 30 years, Rachel Leigh Cook reminded me of a young Winona Ryder. Eyes aside, what struck me most about Cook was her laid-back, unassuming attitude and oodles of patience, which unbeknownst to her, was soon to be tested.
Anyone who’s worked in production knows what it’s like when things don’t go according to plan. It’s annoying. As annoying as say a petroleum-fuelled blower within ear, nose and throat shot. The day of Rachel Leigh Cook’s cover shoot was just one of those days. Unforeseen construction on Malibu beach lead to a last minute change of location, which meant moving ten people, a ton of gear and what seemed like 75 cars, ten miles up the Pacific Coast Highway to stunningly remote beach location with zilch parking, zero restrooms and no cell phone reception. Add to that. mislaid gear, hell-ish school holiday traffic and some horribly lost crewmembers and you get the picture. Anyone with slightly diva-esque tendencies had already lost it. But this isn’t about me. To her credit, Cook remained calm and good-humored throughout.
Cook maybe best known for her lead role in the 1999 hit movie, She’s All That, but has an impressive resume of film and TV credits including: Nancy Drew, Blonde Ambition, Las Vegas, Dawson’s Creek and Josie and the Pussycats. An early performance for the PSA, Your Brain is On Drugs, showcased her acting chops and impressive frying pan-wielding skills. A native of Minnesota, Cook now resides in Los Angeles with her Canadian born, New Zealand raised actor/director husband, Daniel Gillies, her two dogs and her vegetarian lifestyle. Here are Cook’s thoughtful answers to my interview questions, conducted at above-mentioned remote location with recording equipment in the back of an illegally parked hot Prius.
Sarah: How long have you been green?
Rachel: I don’t know if I could consider myself fully green. When I think of someone as being “green”, I think of the ideal carbon neutral life and I don’t know if I’m there yet. I think I’m aspiring green.
Sarah: And why are you aspiring?
Rachel: It’s the right thing to do. I’m consistently surprised to see people who want to tempt fate with their beliefs about the myth of global warming. That’s really terrifying to me. So I think I have to over compensate for some people who aren’t with the program.
Sarah: What green stuff do you do?
Rachel: I’m a borderline obsessive-compulsive recycler. That’s probably my main green effort. I can’t even throw the lid to a soda cup at a movie theater in the garbage can when I’m done. I will shake it off and wipe it on my jeans and put in my purse and recycle it when I go home. I can’t consciously not recycle. So little things like that. I’m going to try to compost. My pickier neighbor has since moved away, so if my efforts are a bit smelly I think my new neighbors will understand.
Sarah: 25% of all household waste is compostable, so your efforts will make a difference. How long have you been a vegetarian?
Rachel: Let’s see….it’ll be almost sixteen years. I’ll be 30 in October and I guess I was 14, 15 when I started that. I was thrilled to find out that being a vegetarian was such a good, green thing to do. I heard people who were regular meat eaters produce a ton of carbon emissions a year. And that really blew my mind. Being vegetarian is not for everybody. I’m not a pusher of it. I do partake in some leather goods but I don’t feel too horrible about that because the animal probably got eaten.
Sarah: Would you ever consider going vegan?
Rachel: I think that seems like a lot of work. And I like cheese too much.
Sarah: Do you support any causes?
Rachel: I definitely like to get the word out on green fashion. Why not? When you can do something that’s more globally conscious and help out our economy. I’m really impressed by this publication and I’m learning a lot from it already.
Sarah: How do you think Obama is doing on the environment?
Rachel: I think one of his campaign platforms was to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050? And I love that he wants the US to make the green cars of the future. I think that’s so smart. In the meantime, what he’s doing with healthcare is so incredibly important. I think it’s good that green is working at a grassroots level. Of course, we need the government to push these things through the legislature and make real action. But 1% at a time is the way it’s really going to happen.
Sarah: Describe your style: what are you wearing right now?
Rachel: Oh gosh, I don’t know. Probably H&M shirt, BCBG shorts that I love…. I’m excited about the clothes (for today’s shoot). My style is about anything that can survive having a lot of dog hair on it. I wish that there were something productive we could do with all of the hair that my animals are producing.
Sarah: You can compost hair…
Rachel: That’s right. I heard it’s a good fertilizer… I have a lot of fertilizer for anyone who needs it.
Sarah: What’s in your make-up bag?
Rachel: I have no idea. Probably the only I don’t leave home without is concealer and chapstick. That’s about all you need.
Sarah: That’s certainly all you need.
Sarah: Favorite place in whole world and why?
Rachel: I have a real sentimental attachment to Minnesota. I grew up in Minneapolis and love the lakes around there and the house I grew up in. I guess it’s just a sentimental thing, it’s hard to describe why.
Sarah: If you could instantly make one thing on the earth disappear, what would it be?
Rachel: That plastic island that’s floating in the ocean that’s miles wide and miles deep…
Sarah: I heard it’s twice the size of Texas?
Rachel: Yeah, it blew my mind. I would banish plastic bags.
Sarah: Okay, now the fun part. I’ve got some hypotheticals for you… Scenario number one: You’re out walking your two dogs and you see another dog poo but its owner doesn’t pick it up, what do you do?
Rachel: Sorry, I’m not…(laughs). Okay here’s what I will do: my husband does have something called the karma poo. If you run out of bags and you can’t pick up your own dog’s poo; when you do have more bags, you have to pick up somebody elses. But with my dogs, I always pick up. We use biodegradable bags too. So in terms of stranger poo. No. You’re on your own. Terribly sorry.
Sarah: Scenario number two: You’ve got an audition with Scorsese. But the only way to get there is in your girlfriend’s Hummer, what do you do?
Rachel: Wow. Well you gotta take it. How far is it? Could I possibly walk? Well if I had to ride in the Hummer I certainly wouldn’t let anybody there see me in it, because that’s disgraceful. I’d probably have her drop me off around the corner.
Sarah: On to work now — what project has been the most rewarding to date?
Rachel: Working with my husband on a movie he’s written and is now directing. We’re about midway through shooting. It’s called Broken Kingdom. It takes place both in Los Angeles and in Bogota, Columbia. It’s his goal to put a spotlight on third world countries that are in our backyard. The story is largely about the people of Bogota and some of their struggles, not just with living in that country, but of their everyday lives. It’s a really special project because it has such a global perspective. I think in the West it’s really easy for people just to deal with their daily everyday needs and not really see what a big place this world is. He’s a warrior and very much a humanitarian and I think that his film can do a lot of good for a lot of people.
Sarah: What project are you working on now?
Rachel: Right now I’m about to go back to work on a show called Psych, which is on USA Networks. It’s in its fourth season and I’m the girlfriend of the main character who is a fake psychic detective. The main character is played by an actor called James Roday. The show’s mostly a two-hander between him and another actor, who I just love, named Dule Hill. I worked with him back in ‘98 on a movie called She’s All That, a million years ago. He’s from West Wing and numerous other things but he’s brilliant at comedy. They’re a great duo. The show is a lot of fun to work on, the people are great, it’s a laid back set. It’s been a great experience.
Sarah: What will we see you in next?
Rachel: Probably Psych, which premieres on August 7th. And you’ll be hearing me in Titan Maximum, which is an animated show that my friends Seth Green and Matt Senreich co-created on Cartoon Network. We’ve recorded a season’s worth of episodes, which has been great fun. The show premieres later this year. I’m excited about it.
Interview completed, Cook politely steps out of the car and patiently waits some more, until finally it’s time to head down a precarious pathway to a stunning beachy backdrop for her long-awaited cover shoot. Leaving me with the impression that: she really is all that.
Coco Eco Magazine, an online magazine by Anna Griffin. Founded in September 2008, this is the modern girl’s style guide on the road to being gorgeous, glamorous and green, and your new source of everything eco-chic, that’s good for our planet, and good for you too.
Read the full magazine at: cocoecomag.com