Interview: Mira Sorvino on Human Rights and Making Movies

Actress Mira Sorvino on her new film, the horrors of human trafficking and Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic

Academy Award-winning actress Mira Sorvino has been making headlines these days as one of the myriad unfortunate female voices speaking out against disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein. But Sorvino has been devoting her life to advocating for victims of sexual exploitation for years. Outside of her prolific work in front of the lens (her latest film, the harrowing, fact-based survival story 6 Below: Miracle on the Mountain co-starring Josh Hartnett hit theaters and VOD yesterday and you can see an exclusive clip from the picture below), she is the UN Goodwill Ambassador speaking out on the horrors of human trafficking, a position she sought out while making the devastating 2005 Christian Duguay miniseries Human Trafficking and a role she holds in the highest regard and devotes a great deal of her time to.

In this exclusive new interview, Sorvino discusses her new film, her famous father (she is the daughter of Goodfellas star Paul Sorvino), how her work in Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic earned her naming rights for an exotic cockroach, and how the evil underground business of human trafficking and female exploitation needs to be stomped out at any cost. Your new movie is a brutal and inspiring tale and you play a distraught mother. Did you know the real story behind 6 Below before you went into this? 

Mira Sorvino: No, I was not. When I read it I became aware of it though and I was very taken with it. I thought it was incredible, beautifully written and it could have just been an adventure story but I feel it’s also a harrowing survival story. It’s really about family love too and as a mother I really connected to it.

CS: When you became a mother, did the roles you took as an actress change?

Sorvino: Well I‘ve definitely taken more family-friendly roles. Honestly, sometimes the edgier acting roles are not age appropriate for kids but I have taken more projects that I feel have a great message or my kids can watch because of their age and that we’re just plain fun. I did a Christmas movie where I played Mrs. Claus because my children’s favorite movie of all time was a Christmas movie that my father did in which he played Santa, and I was like how often do they make a movie about Mrs. Claus and my kids will love this. Ordinarily, had I not had kids, I would not have it but it was just a delight to make something that I knew they were going to enjoy, that was cute and adorable, in that holiday spirit.

CS: How is your dad, by the way?

Sorvino: He’s doing great, he’s painting and loving life.

CS: I met your father on the set of Repo! The Genetic Opera, where he had the chance to showcase his voice. Is this something he instilled in you, a love for all the liberal arts?

Sorvino: Yeah, all the performing and creative arts, absolutely. I have a pretty big range of interests, I love art, I love going to the museums, I dabble in painting and although I’m not very good at it, I enjoy it. I love music, I love dancing, I took like eight years of ballet when I was a kid and I still love dancing. There’s been a couple of films where I was able to do some dance numbers, like Romy and Michelle and Summer of Sam, and I’m so happy when I get to do that. I really wish I had pursued it more, like a higher level, jazz dancing, tap, because then I could have gotten on Broadway, but who knows, maybe I’ll do that, we’ll see. I play piano, strum the guitar, I’m not a picker, I used to sing a little bit but I don’t have that operatic voice like my dad. He used to sing all these arias when I was a kid, I heard them before they ever became popular by the big tenors.

CS: I might be wrong here, but was the movie The Stuff the only time you and your dad appeared on screen together?

Sorvino: Oh my gosh, I had a tiny, tiny role, like an extra, in The Stuff. I really didn’t have a part but that was like a teenage experience. We were both in a Showtime movie called Parallel Lives, which was like an improvisational movie and he was in a different part of it than I was, but we were both in it. He directed a film that I had a cameo in, we always have this plan to do King Lear together, I hope we get to do it at some point, whether it’s a stage adaptation or screen adaptation. He came up with a really great idea for a screen adaptation but we’ll see if it ever comes to fruition.

CS: Back to 6 Below, did you spend any time with the real hockey player Eric LeMarque  before the movie to prepare?

Sorvino: Not with him but his mother, an amazing woman, and that’s why my character has an accent because that’s the accent she has, that’s how she talks. I really appreciate her taking the time and sharing her memories, she still feels guilt that if she answered the phone call one day he’d still have his legs. She was definitely a driving force in why he was found but she still feels bad that it ever happened at all, but somethings are just beyond our control. She’s a really lovely woman, an intelligent woman, very smart.

CS: What are your memories of making the very dark but important miniseries, Human Trafficking?

Sorvino: Interestingly enough, that came about the first time I was engaged in that topic in social justice and activism. I don’t know if you know that I’m a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime and Human Trafficking and I have been since 2009. In 2004, I partnered with MC International to stop violence against women and that’s where I first heard about human trafficking and I was stunned. I naively thought that there was no more slavery, but while legal slavery is gone in most parts of the world it just morphed and turned into an underground, more clandestine form of slavery. At the current time the estimates are that at least forty million people are living in bondage right now and horrifyingly there were only ten thousand convictions last year, which is what you might get in a state during a year for crimes like murder, rape or arson. That’s a very low number considering the number of victims, that means the crime basically goes unpunished, all the time, and all these people have little hope of being rescued. So that film, I said yes to it just as I was offered to work on the topic in public speaking and writing. Obviously it’s a tricky subject being about sex trafficking but I think they handled it beautifully and still showed the brutality and horror and horrible trauma it inflicts on people. I wrote one of my speeches from the film, in fact. I wrote the speech where I’m telling the girl all about her own trauma and to tell the story about the uncle who assaulted her, that’s still one of my favorite scenes I’ve done, I think. After I finished the film and we were getting ready to promote it, I decided I needed to meet some human trafficking survivors, I’d already met an agent to portray the character I was playing but I asked this coalition in Washington who deal with human trafficking if I could meet some of their survivors and I did, and those two ladies changed my life. When I interviewed these two women and saw the pain in their eyes, from what had been done to them and how they’d been treated, I got galvanized and could not look away. Then it became this passion I guess, this fire, that I had to follow up and now it’s a big part of my life, anti-trafficking, social activism. I’ve lobbied foreign governments to change their policies, I’ve spoken before Congress and the Senate and I just spoke at the U.N. two weeks ago. It’s a very scary and heavy position to be at but since I’ve been working with them for eight years now they trust me that I’m going to say something that will be in line with their overall goal of trying to eradicate human trafficking. I’ve interviewed scores of trafficking victims and survivors, I’ve interviewed a human trafficker at length which was a very frightening experience and I made a documentary with CNN called Everyday in Cambodia, about sales of girls in Cambodia. it’s a huge part of my life and if I hadn’t met those two women, I don’t know if it would have become my cause, like it did at that point.

CS: If somebody wanted to get involved with this cause, where should we direct them?

Sorvino: If they are in the California area I would say go to Coalition To Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), they are an amazing group. There is a group called, the Polaris project, they run the National Human Trafficking Research Center Hotline in Washington, D.C. and they work with law enforcement once they identify a victim and help connect them to safety. They are completely confidential and won’t report someone unless that person wants to have help. If you’re interested in child sex trafficking there’s a great group called ECPAT, which stands for End Child Prostitution and Trafficking. There’s a group called Free The Slaves, and if you go to my Twitter page the very first pinned tweets links you to an article I wrote, an interview I gave a year ago to a magazine that ran in the L.A. Times and the Washington Post and it links to my Facebook and has a list of things you can do to get involved, lists some resources.

CS: On another final note, regarding another earlier role, I need some clarification on something. Is there a beetle named after you now, because of Mimic?

Sorvino: (laughs) I’m not sure if it’s a beetle or a cockroach, maybe a beetle, that would be nice if it was a beetle, not a roach. I had a wonderful adviser at Cornell, on my work playing a entomological biologist and he was so sweet and lovely and when they discovered this new bug they named it after me, which was very cute. It was pretty cool.


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