What if I told you that Isabella Rossellini, the lovely actress and model with the delicate Italian accent, likes to dress up in wacky costumes and play a variety of creatures in heat? Lascivious shrimp? A seductive snail? An amorous anchovy?
Rossellini has portrayed all those and many other forms of life in “Green Porno,” her zany yet scientifically sound conservation online series on the Sundance Channel site. She stars in, writes and directs the videos, and also penned a “Green Porno” book that includes a DVD.
So how did this top model and co-star of “Blue Velvet” and other major movies come to make some 40 two-minute biology shorts? And develop a touring, one-woman “Green Porno” show which she’ll perform Monday night (Nov. 4) in Seattle at the Moore Theatre?
We put those questions, and others, to the good-humored Rossellini during a recent phone interview.
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Q: So what compelled you to create “Green Porno”?
A: It was my interest in animals. I was kind of born with that. I went back to school to do a master’s degree in conservation and animal behavior, and it’s an ongoing interest of mine. The people who knew me as a model or actress didn’t know about this until recently. But my family was not surprised.
Q: The films are all about mating and procreation. Why did you go there?
A: I’m interested in animals in general. But everyone is curious about sex, and we thought, let’s focus on that. That’s the only way we could get people interested!
Q: How much are you amusing and entertaining people and how much are you delivering messages about conservation and ecology?
A: Sometimes people call and ask if we’d make a film that has more of a direct conservation message. Like I’ve done one about bees, which are endangered and we need them to pollinate crops. So I did a series on them with Burt’s Bees. But there’s always a comical element. Most people think the videos are funny and informative.
Q: I understand your adult son, Roberto Rossellini, has appeared in a video.
A: He played one of the bees. Sometimes I grab family members and dress them up and turn them into an animal. My daughter [Elettra, whose father is Microsoft executive Jonathan Wiedemann] did something for it too.
Q: Your latest “Green Porno” video series, “Mammas,” focuses on mothering and the maternal instinct in the animal world.
A: It was based on research by Marlene Zuk, a University of Minnesota professor, and other women biologists. There was very little scientific research on motherhood, and a lot of our ideas were based on the assumption that all females need to self-sacrifice for their babies. But the new research found that there are different ways of being mothers, and in some species mothers don’t sacrifice at all. I was very interested in this, and asked Marlene to help write the series.
Q: Your mother was the famous actress Ingrid Bergman, and she didn’t sacrifice her career for motherhood, right?
A: Yes, and thank God for that! My mom was an independent woman, she had a big career and she had four children. She did this at the time when it was very unusual, and sometimes condemned. She was a very big role model for me, and I’m absolutely grateful to have had the mother I had.
Q: What is the live version of “Green Porno” like?
A: It looks like a lecture. I stand at a podium. The monologue, which was written with a great writer, Jean-Claude Carrière, is about 70 minutes. It’s comical, but allows me to go into more depth in my reflections on biology. The show is illustrated with some of the pictures of me playing different animals.
Q: You’re busy with this project, so have you given up acting in films and TV?
A: No, but there are very few good parts for women my age , and one gets tired of waiting, waiting for jobs. So why not do my own films, instead of just waiting? It’s very interesting, and I’m doing what I like.
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org