"I'm trying to limit my use of plastic bags. It's a personal challenge for me not to use plastic. I always get mad when I forget to take my canvas bag to the grocery store," says Julia Stiles, who lives in New York and doesn't own a car to store those bags in.
The actress, last seen on the big screen in "Silver Linings Playbook," stars in the title role in the made-for-the-Web series "Blue," now running on YouTube's WIGS channel. Stiles plays the title role of a single mom who leads a secret double life: she's become a prostitute to make ends meet and she's hiding it from her teenage son (Uriah Shelton), mother (Kathleen Quinlan) and office co-worker (Sarah Paulson). In the 26-episode second season, which launched March 15 with the first seven installments, she'll find it increasingly difficult to keep her two worlds apart.
"She's revisiting this very confused sexual relationship with an older man who probably abused her when she was younger. She's traumatized and she takes it out on her mother." Also her son is "starting to be interested in girls and she's got to deal with answering all those questions about sex, and she's uncomfortable with it." Because of his behavior at school, "they both have to go to therapy, and she has such a web of lies that she's tangled in, the last place that she wants to be is in a therapist's office being asked questions about her past."
The chance to play a complicated character that's "confused, secretive and childish at times" made Stiles eager to sign on, as did the chance to work with WIGS partner Rodrigo Garcia. "At first I was a little bit reluctant about the idea of a Web series, only because I didn't know what to expect," she says, but she realized that watching shows on devices and computers is becoming more the norm.
She also liked the creative freedom the medium provides. On a TV series or feature film, "you have a lot more people to answer to, a lot of executives with opinions because there's much more money at stake," she explains, noting that without that, the process is more streamlined. "We shot 'Blue' in November and December and it's already being aired." (New episodes will be added on the next three Fridays.)
Stiles enjoyed the experience so much that she quickly accepted WIGS partner Jon Avnet's offer to write and direct another show for the channel. The result is "Paloma," a four-episode series starring Grace Gummer that will premiere later this spring. "It's a year in a couple's relationship and how the presence of a third person can destroy that relationship even if there's no infidelity or foul play," she says. Gummer's title character has a flirtation with her art gallery boss (Garrett Dillahunt), "and that ends up confusing her and destroying the relationship she had with her boyfriend" (Rhys Coiro).
"I wrote something that I would want to watch," adds Stiles. "It was on my mind, the idea of romantic love and how delicate that can be, and then I just let my imagination run wild." She found the process of seeing her words come to life "one of the most joyous things I've experienced."
Elsewhere on YouTube, there's a video Stiles made in 2009 that spoofs sustainable fashion design, posted under the title "Julia Stiles Cares About the Environment More Than You." She got together with Todd Berger and other friends to make it while she was in L.A. appearing in a play, and collaborated with them more recently on a movie called "It's a Disaster." The apocalyptic comedy hits theaters April 12 and is available on Video on Demand now.