The star of NBC’s new show The Playboy Club embraces her inner Bunny, drives fast, shoots straight, opens up about her personal life and talks about why it’s great for a woman to have some curves
PLAYBOY: You play Maureen, a Playboy Bunny, on the new NBC drama The Playboy Club. Now that you’ve spent time in the Bunny suit, you can tell us: Is it really that uncomfortable?HEARD: It feels about an inch away from death. If it got any tighter, we wouldn’t be able to sit upright. I’m serious—it’s that intense. But it looks great when you’re wearing it. Actually, you know what I really love about the Playboy Bunny outfit? It’s all about a woman’s silhouette. Whatever happened to that? Back in the 1960s it was fine to have curves. Do you know how happy I am that I get to keep some of my curves? For once I don’t have to starve myself.
PLAYBOY: There’s a real Playboy Club at the Palms in Las Vegas. If this acting thing doesn’t work out, would you consider working there as a waitress?HEARD: Oh please. [laughs] No, not so much, though I have nothing but respect for the women who did. Back then it was not an option for women to go out and earn money and support themselves. Marriage was the best and most practical option. What I like about The Playboy Club is that it’s about women who were being independent and earning as much as their fathers. It was their chance to live their own life, to do whatever they wanted on their own terms. The feminist movement is often clouded by Gloria Steinem’s perspective, but to deny women their sexuality is just as chauvinistic. The women who worked at the Playboy Clubs were using sexuality to their advantage.
PLAYBOY: **You’ve been naked an awful lot in your movies. Do you have to psych yourself up for a nude scene, or is it no big deal?HEARD:** I approach all my movies with an open mind and a willingness to dive in and do what’s asked of me. But a lot of the nudity in my early movies was out of necessity. When I came to Hollywood, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any connections. I did what a lot of people have to do in the real world and just worked from the bottom up. And that meant taking a lot of roles as the girl at the party who loses her shirt. But now I’m doing things I find artistically and emotionally fulfilling. I’m not opposed to nude scenes if they’re appropriate. I’m not against them morally, but I personally no longer find movie nudity to be worth my while. That may change in the future. I’m keeping an open mind, as always, because that’s what you have to do.
PLAYBOY: Even when you’re not naked in movies, you’re at least seminaked. Your Daisy Duke shorts in Drive Angry 3D, for instance, left little to the imagination. Is it true those shorts came from your own closet?HEARD: Yes, that is true. Those were my shorts. I don’t know if I’m proud of that, but they were. I’ve had shorts like that for a very long time. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have them. I remember when my Daisy Dukes fit me in a different way. When I was younger and a little slimmer, they were baggy and not so revealing.
PLAYBOY: You’re co-starring with Johnny Depp in the upcoming film The Rum Diary, which is about, among other things, the dread of growing old before your time. Can you empathize? You’re only 25. Do you feel over-the-hill?HEARD: Well, of course. Hollywood actresses age in dog years. I’m 25 to the rest of the world, but I’m about 48 in actress years. I’m just around the corner from my midlife crisis. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Hollywood can be a draining industry.
PLAYBOY: The Rum Diary is based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson, who had a legendary appetite for drugs. To stay true to his spirit, did you partake in recreational drugs during filming?HEARD: Not at all. Trying to film a movie on a diet is hard enough; I can’t imagine how it would be on drugs. I stayed true to his spirit in other ways. I kept his book in the pocket of my cast chair the entire time we were filming. That made me feel connected to the bigger picture, of our goal to do justice to a wonderful piece of literature and a legend.
PLAYBOY: You did most of your own stunts in Drive Angry, and you’ve admitted you’re kind of a reckless driver. Just how bad is your driving record?*HEARD: *It’s pitiful. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m trying hard to learn how to drive better. I grew up driving old pickup trucks on the ranch with my dad, and I still find myself driving as if I’m out in an open field, except I’m in L.A., on La Cienega in the middle of rush-hour traffic. When I was preparing for Drive Angry the stunt coordinator took me out to the parking lot to show me how to spin out and fishtail and do all the things you’re not supposed to know how to do. After two seconds of being a passenger in my car, he realized it was an exercise in futility—because I had that shit down.
PLAYBOY: You were born and raised in Austin. How stereotypically Texan was your upbringing? Did your entire family wear cowboy hats and holsters and own at least one oil rig?****
*HEARD: *I have successfully avoided being stereotyped into a specific category. I’ve worked hard at that, and I’m proud of not being easily lumped into anybody’s preconceived notions or expectations. Look at me: I’m pretty confusing. That said, I do have an oil rig in my backyard.
PLAYBOY: You’re kidding, obviously, but you do own a .357 Magnum, right?HEARD:Well, I am my father’s daughter. Growing up it was not up to me. I was his hunting and fishing buddy, so I’ve been shooting my whole life. My dad used to take me and my younger sister, Whitney, to the firing range, and he’d stand behind us as we’d shoot. We were tiny girls—only about 10 years old at the time—so when we’d pull the trigger the recoil would send us flying backward. But he’d stand behind us and make sure we were safe. I’ve been around responsible gun ownership my whole life.
PLAYBOY: As an adult gun owner, how often do you get a chance to shoot? Do you go to a firing range or just keep it hidden next to your bed and hope somebody breaks in?HEARD:I do not hope somebody breaks in. However, if they did, I pity them. I pity the fool that breaks into my house. Once in a while I’ll try to go to an indoor gun range here in L.A. Otherwise I make it out to Texas at least a few times a year to go hunting with my dad. I go to spend time with him and for the ride, because he hunts on horseback, and it’s the only time I get to ride horses in an open field. But I don’t shoot anything. I could never kill an animal. My dad does all the hunting, and he eats everything he kills.
PLAYBOY: Did you name your dog Pistol after a gun or because it sounds intimidating?HEARD: I named her Pistol because Killer was taken by somebody I knew. I love it, because she’s a teacup Yorkie and she’s two pounds, and it’s a ridiculous name for a ridiculous dog. Trust me, her name isn’t intimidating anybody.
PLAYBOY: *You’re a certified lifeguard. Have you ever saved anybody’s life, and if so, have you done so while running in slow motion, *Baywatch style?HEARD:** When I run on the beach, it’s always in slow motion. That’s just how I roll. No, I’m kidding, but I was a lifeguard. It was my summer job growing up, and I never saved anyone. I never had to, thank goodness. The other lifeguards and I didn’t do much of anything. We just sat around and got tan.
PLAYBOY: You went to a Catholic high school but dropped out when you were just 16. Did you leave because of the religion or the uniform?HEARD: It was a great education but a stifling experience for me as an individual. For as long as I can remember I’ve been the kind of person who goes against the grain and questions authority, and that doesn’t make for an ideal religious follower. I always felt like an outcast at school. I had good friends but none I truly related to. I lost my best friend in a car accident when I was 16, and as you can imagine, it was incredibly tough. But that wasn’t the reason I left school. I’d already been on this path toward questioning religion and questioning my place within it. I had always been a reader and a skeptic, so when I was old enough to break away from organized religion, it just came naturally.
PLAYBOY: How did you justify that to your family? Or were they okay with your dropping out of both high school and Catholicism?*HEARD: *The two things were separate. I didn’t drop out of school; I placed out. I took correspondence courses and ended up graduating early. I did everything I could to get the hell out of there. By the time I was 17 I was on my way to Hollywood and didn’t look back. My family is supportive now, but like any adult guardian of a 17-year-old daughter, they were not thrilled with my plan to run off to L.A. to make it as an actress. Even a somewhat functioning parent would think that was a bad idea. Lucky for me I didn’t listen to them.
PLAYBOY: You’re an avowed atheist, which can be a controversial stance. A lot of people think atheism is an attack on religion. Can you argue in defense of your beliefs?*HEARD: *I can definitely make an argument for atheism. I was very educated in scripture and dogma and the church, particularly the Catholic Church. I could not possibly know that I disagreed with religion unless I knew what I was disagreeing with. I’m not saying this is the only way to be or that it’s how everybody should live. Some of my best friends here in L.A. are devoutly religious people. I’m completely supportive and interested in people doing their own thing. That’s a motto I try to live by, and I hope that’s how other people treat me. Live and let live.
PLAYBOY: You were briefly a model before becoming an actress. Do you have any favorite modeling moves, such as a sultry over-the-shoulder glare or a hand-on-the-hip thrust?HEARD: My go-to modeling move was called “Be hungry.” That was it. You just stand there and be hungry. And that’s all I have to say about the modeling industry.
PLAYBOY: We find it odd that you keep mentioning your weight. Is there a fun-house mirror in your bedroom or something? Because honestly, it doesn’t look as though you could afford to lose a single pound.HEARD: That’s sweet. Do you want to come and live with me and say that to me every day? Like most girls, I constantly have to watch my weight, because if I didn’t, my curves would get ahead of me. I naturally have some curves, like most women—unfortunately just not like most women in Hollywood. I’m considered curvy only in Hollywood. It’s a weird town. Just as we were discussing with age, it’s the same with weight. Every pound for a woman in the real world is seven pounds for an actress. I don’t want to play into the perception that all women should look like 14-year-old boys. I don’t want to add to that pressure for young girls. But in Hollywood there is a constant pressure to look a certain way.
PLAYBOY: *Your first lead role was in a horror movie called *All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. What’s the secret to a convincing horror movie scream?HEARD:** It’s like anything else in acting: You just have to believe it. And depending on the movie, that’s not too difficult to do. I remember showing up for my first day on Mandy Lane and being all excited because I thought it would be so glamorous and amazing. But then for my first scene they dumped a bucket of fake blood and mud on me. And I was thinking, Oh, so this is what it’s about, huh? This is the Hollywood glitz and glamour I’ve been hearing about? I don’t know if you’ve ever been covered in fake blood, but it’s terrible. It’s sticky and smelly, and when it dries, it pulls on all the little hairs on your arms. I don’t recommend it. It’s the modern-day equivalent of being tarred and feathered.
PLAYBOY: You came out of the closet last December, sharing details of your relationship with photographer Tasya Van Ree. As a Hollywood sex symbol, did you notice that the announcement had any effect on your career?HEARD: First of all, to say I came out implies that I was once in. Let me be straight about that—no pun intended [laughs]—I never came out from anywhere. I’ve always lived my life the way I’ve wanted and have been honest with myself and everyone around me. It didn’t really affect anything in my career. I don’t think the producers and directors I’ve worked with care one way or another. The only frustrating part has been all the media attention. For someone like me who prefers to keep her life as private as possible, it has been disconcerting to have to define so much about myself. I don’t want to be labeled as one thing or another. In the past I’ve had successful relationships with men, and now I’m in this successful relationship with a woman. When it comes to love I am totally open. And I don’t want to be put into a category, as in “I’m this” or “I’m that.”
PLAYBOY: Gay marriage continues to be a contentious issue. If it ever becomes legal, would you be the first in line to get married to Tasya?HEARD: It’s an important issue, and I’m fighting for the right to get married. [pauses] For other people.