THE NETFLIX SERIES Ratched is a prequel to the 1975 movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It takes us through the murderous journey of Nurse Mildred Ratched as she navigates the mental healthcare system. The Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated Sharon Stone plays Lenore Osgood, an eccentric heiress.
Your character in Ratched is a mother who is separated from her children. Being a mother, how do you identify with that?
When I had a stroke and a brain-bleed my ex-husband took primary custody of our children. That was horrific for a mother. When her child isn’t with her 24/7, it’s a heartbreak. And so, any mother will fight tooth and nail for their child, there’s nothing that you wouldn’t do to for your kid, you love your kid, you love your kid so much you’d take a bullet for your kid. I remember in that great film Three Kings the director had a scene where you see the bullet coming slow-motion and you see the mother in her full Bedouin veil and you see the bullet coming from the soldier’s gun, and you see her without a thought step in front of the child and take the bullet to save her child. That’s a mother for you, that is what you do, that defines a mother for me, it’s that unthinking moment where you would just graciously do that, that’s a mother’s love for me. That’s just what you do good or bad.
We are all going through a period right now that can hurt our mental wellbeing. What are you doing about your mental health?
It is extraordinarily important that we look after our mental health. I’ve been putting up online places that you can call, suicide hotlines, there’s finally a transgender suicide hotline that’s manned by transgender people. I think this time has been very difficult for people because people are losing all things that they identify themselves by. They’re losing opportunities to go out, they’re losing opportunities to go to their workplace, they’re losing opportunities to see the people that they love, that give them their validation, who give them their hugs, so they lose the sense of self, and I think that becomes a very dangerous thing. So, I think the most important thing that we can do is to stay in touch, and I think these Zoom calls are a real godsend. I think that one of the most important things that we can do is self-care, we have to take a good shower, a good bath, do yoga, draw and paint, get those colouring books.
What do you think is going to happen once Covid-19 has left us? Will we go back to normal?
I know that everybody thinks that we are going to have a vaccine and we will be right back. 1918 was the last pandemic. I’ve spent my entire life working on HIV/AIDS where 44 million people have died. There is no vaccine, there is no cure, we have many lifesaving and life-extending drugs that bring the viral load down. People are still dying from AIDS every single day. The same doctors who are working on Covid-19 are working on AIDS. We are going to have to think, not what are we going to do when we get a vaccine but how are we going to live and function in society while we have this disease. We have many other terrible diseases and we know what to do. We do know what to do with Covid-19. Wear a mask, wash your hands and practise social distancing, but people do not want to do that. It is not about civil liberty, it’s just like if you don’t wear a condom when there is AIDS and you have a new lover, the chances are that you will get a sexually transmitted disease. We have to function within this reality. If we keep waiting for things to go back to the way it was, that’s not reality. Things never go backwards. Life doesn’t go backwards—it’s not going to. There is no going back to normal.