Mira Sorvino aims for on-screen laughter, off-screen change
Mira Sorvino would really, really like to make you laugh right now.
After becoming one of the most prominent figures of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements in 2017 after going public with the harrowing history of sexual harassment and Hollywood blackballing she says she experienced, Mira Sorvino remains an outspoken champion of the cause, but as more doors open and re-open for her, she’s hoping that any subsequent Sorvino-ssance brings more comedy her way.
“Comedy’s my favorite,” says the actress, who an Academy Award in 1996 for her comedic turn in “Mighty Aphrodite.” “You’re all happy when you’re doing a comedy. The entire crew, our whole purpose there together — actors, crew, everyone — is to make people laugh, and when you get somebody to guffaw who’s standing behind the camera or the monitor, it just makes your day … It’s a different feeling than when you’re doing some beautiful story about a child dying which you take home at the end of the day and you’re depressed. I love drama, and I spent many years doing exclusively that for a while, but I love returning to comedy because it really is my favorite genre.”
Currently co-starring opposite Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista in the action-buddy comedy film “Stuber,” Sorvino’s been at work reminding audiences of her comedy chops, including a recent recurring stint on “Modern Family” as the spaced-out influencer/mogul behind a Goop-like lifestyle brand.
“That was just a jumping off point,” she says of the sitcom stint, which wasn’t as directly parodying Goop guru Gwyneth Paltrow as many imagined — she found inspiration in Paltrow’s own funny send-ups of herself and took it “one hundred steps further … I really wanted to make her different. I wanted her to be on like some kind of herbal Chinese Xanax kind of thing, and really odd. I just wanted her to be really on her own plane.”
There are some twisty, don’t-spoil aspects of her “Stuber” role that she was also able to mine for big laughs.
“I’ve been working all this time, it’s never like I left the business or didn’t do work that I was proud of,” she says. “[But] I think millions of people are going to have a great time going to see this and laugh and maybe think about the sort of unlikely bromance between these two very opposite modern males — one Neanderthal, one thoughtful millennial. It’s just very nice to be in something that means something to a lot of people.”
She also has hopes to revive one of her signature roles, opposite Lisa Kudrow in 1997’s cult classic “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” if the property’s new Hollywood owner, Disney, takes an interest. “Certainly I and Lisa and [writer] Robin Schiff have talked about it, and we’re all totally excited for it if it should come to pass … I’ve heard talk also about the possibility of a television series. That would be super fun, too.”
Still, as her acting career continues to reenergize, Sorvino has no plans to step away from the public platform she received as a result of sharing her #MeToo experiences. A longtime activist, spokesperson and ambassador throughout her career for causes like Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s fight against human trafficking, “I have this activist life that I’ve been doing for a really long time,” she says. “It was more under the radar before, but I was always giving speeches, going to events, making documentaries … and influencing legislation.”
She’s recently helped score wins with new equal rights, sexual harassment and sexual assault legislation in California and New York. “I spoke as a survivor about why we need to extend the statute of limitations for second- and third-degree rape, and we got them extended from five years as they were before, which was just completely insufficient, to 20 for second degree and to 10 for third — and that’s a big deal,” says Sorvino.
“We also took away what’s called the ‘severe or pervasive’ standard for sexual harassment when bringing claims,” she adds, “which makes it much, much more feasible for a victim to go and present a claim that someone at her work — or his work, because it happens to everybody — is sexually harassing them.
“Both of those are super important and start to chip away at this culture which protected the predators and made it super hard on survivors to ever come forward,” she says. ‘We’re ending that era of impunity. We want to get to the point where it doesn’t happen in the first place, where it’s no longer triage, and for that we really have to invest in educational programs from K through college to really raise people that respect each other, understand consent and don’t add to the predatory ways, because most men are not rapists but most rapes are committed by men. So it’s that small percentage that we need to change the way we raise them.”