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.