Where Life Takes You: Yolonda Ross talks about her role in ‘Go for Sisters’
When they were childhood friends, everyone said Bernice (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and Fontayne (Yolonda Ross) were so close they could “go for sisters.” Twenty years later, their lives have taken off in opposite directions. Bernice is now a parole officer and Fontayne is a recovering addict. When Bernice’s son Rodney goes missing, Fontayne uses her connections to seedy characters in Mexico to help find him, and the two women make a dangerous trip across the border to try to rescue him. That’s the premise of Go for Sisters, the new film from veteran director John Sayles (Passion Fish, Honeydripper). It’s a challenging role, but Ross (Antwone Fisher, Treme) gives such a great performance, she practically carries the film. She was recently nominated for Best Supporting Female for the Film Independent Spirit Awards. She spoke to us via phone about the movie and some other projects she has in the works.
The first time we see Fontayne in the film, she’s peeing into a cup and not long after that, she’s crying. Talk about the challenge of playing a recovering addict.
I focused on was regret. All of us have some things in our past we wish we would have done and things we wish we would have done differently and that’s what I focused on with her . . . that and moving forward. She’s putting things in the past and keeping them in the past. She’s making up for all the time she’s lost in terms of drugs, alcohol and prison and doing what she always wanted to do and be but never thought it was in her to do. She sees Bernice as that person that she would have liked to have been.
Talk about that relationship. Does Bernice bring out her desire to move forward?
She’s already on that path. Reuniting with this person who saw something positive in her before she started to mess your life up, that strengthened it. That was the one person that she was really close to and really admired. Fontayne can help Bernice and that makes her feel more whole. It’s not that she’s a completely negative person. She’s helping her friend. She’s not doing it in a way that is something superhuman. It’s because of the little things—because of the life she led—that she is able to help her out.
What role does race play in the movie?
Just reality. [John Sayles] wrote the part for us and we happen to be black women. He really did show different socio-economics in the characters. Fontayne and Bernice are from two different backgrounds. They’re both lonely. It’s more of a real portrayal of people. That’s what I like about John’s writing. It’s not like they’re doing these outlandish things. They’re living life. The son being missing is one thing, but they’re just humans living and these are the conditions that they’re in.
What was it like working with Sayles?
I enjoyed it a lot. You know you’re getting onto a low budget movie, but you know you are at the helm of what you’re doing. He gives you a script and a bio on the character. You have all the ammunition to create and go. That’s what he allowed us to do. Since he’s directed so much and written so much, he really just steers you as far as directing and I appreciate that. We gave him different colors and he could edit it. I’ll say there wasn’t downtime. You’re not sitting around and doing nothing. You’re staying focused. It was a fun trip to take. You know you’re all in it together.
The story is as much about relationships as it is about crime. Is that accurate?
I feel to me when I look at it . . . it’s more about the relationships. They’re constantly on the move on an ongoing quest, but they’re also always together. It allows time to reflect and rekindle. There are layers for the characters to play with. Meeting new people who might be from their past brings other layers into their world. It brings their past into their present relationship to they can understand where the other person has been.
It’s such a great cast. Talk about the other actors a bit.
They all bring so much. It was exciting each to see who was coming to work today. Each character we come across has a different energy. It was fun to play with them. Harold Perrineau was hilarious. He was so much fun to work with. Even when Eddy [James Olmos] came on, that added to it; the dynamic changed. It was beautiful to watch the scene with Eddy and Héctor [Elizondo]. That was beautiful, even though I can’t understand understand Spanish. It was like watching a dance between the two. They were so seasoned. It didn’t even seem like acting.
What are you working on next?
The next few months, I’m gearing up for the Spirit Awards because I was nominated. I have a short, Afronauts, that’s in Sundance. I’m working on creating a show and that has movement. Other things are in development with me because I’m writing. My short film just came out online; it’s called Breaking Night. I’m really happy with it. It’s also at going to be playing at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in February.