Mia Kirshner was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Etti, an English teacher, and Sheldon Kirshner, a journalist who wrote for The Canadian Jewish News. Kirshner is a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors; her father was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany in 1946 and met Kirshner's mother, a Bulgarian Jewish refugee, in Israel. Kirshner had a middle class upbringing.
"The only books in my house when I was growing up were about the Holocaust," she said. "That's all I read as a child. But I never knew about my family's experience." It was not talked about in her home, but "I think it shaped who I am."
Isolated and timid, she went to a school where most people were blond and rich, she said, and there she was, wearing second-hand clothes, dark-haired and Jewish. She moved to Los Angeles when she was 22, got an agent, worked hard from audition to audition. "So many rejections!"
Because she has played many bisexual and lesbian roles, her sexual orientation has been quite a subject of interest. However, when asked in interviews, she always replies ambiguously. See below.
Fan: Why does The L Word have so much personal meaning for you?
- Mia Kirshner: Because I think one's sexuality can be the center of life, and coming out and discovering your sexuality is something that really can define your existence. To be part of that means so much to me. Because I've certainly grappled with those things.
In a New York Times article, Mia addressed the question this way:
- "People feel the need to state their sexuality, almost defensively... I understand the reason, but it shouldn't matter, and it doesn't matter."
- She continued, "[The L Word] shouldn't be considered a gay show, because it's beyond that. It's about people's lives." She added, "I don't care if people think I'm gay. Gender is of no consequence to me. It's a person's brain that counts."
No stranger to unusual projects and roles, Mia has played an exotic dancer in Atom Egoyan's critically acclaimed Exotica (Her performance in Exotica won her a Cannes Critics Choice Award.), a dominatrix with clairvoyant powers in the Canadian film, Love and Human Remains, and a tattoo artist who inhabits a nightmarish underground where illusionary life and death walk hand in hand, her recent hit, The Crow: City of Angels.
After working for a decade in film and television, Kirshner became well known when she starred in the first three episodes of 24 as a bisexual terrorist Mandy, in 2001. She returned for a cameo appearance in the last episode of the second season, when she attempted to assassinate President David Palmer. Kirshner returned for the last episodes of the show's fourth season in 2005. In 2006, she starred in Brian De Palma's movie The Black Dahlia, alongside Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank. Kirshner plays a young actress, Elizabeth Short, who was horrifically murdered in 1947.
She is also a main cast member of Showtime series The L Word, where she plays Jennifer 'Jenny' Schecter, a lesbian fiction writer
"I think some actors have exploited their philanthropic efforts to promote a film."
Kirshner was saying such things because her new book, "I Live Here," is unmistakably philanthropic. During the past six years, she traveled to four messy and malignant parts of the world — the Russian republic of Ingushetia; Burma; Ciudad JuĂˇrez, Chihuahua; and Malawi -— that have large disenfranchised populations. "I Live Here," is the product of those trips: Its four separate volumes, one for each region, tell stories about the women and children in these places through journal entries, collages, photographs, paintings, graphic novellas and images of found objects. Kirshner wrangled many collaborators; J.B. MacKinnon, Paul Shoebridge and Michael Simons are the co-authors, and there is a boatload of other contributors, including some of the subjects themselves.
Elaborately designed in its look, knottily layered in its content and far afield from the entertainment world in its subject matter, "I Live Here" is no vanity project. Kirshner had the idea for it after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while she was working on a television series she wouldn't name, but made her feel, she said, "pretty dead inside," and that she was "just working to work." (International Movie Database evidence points toward "Wolf Lake," a short-lived CBS series about werewolves in a Pacific Northwest town. But it could also be "24," in which Kirshner has had a recurring role as Mandy, a diabolical lesbian terrorist.)
After Sept. 11, she organized a benefit for Afghan women, and realized she wanted to do more, focusing, she said, on "people who are in war or displaced or living, basically, in an extremity." She then began doing research, her own mock-ups of what a book might look like and arm-twisting to get other people involved. Since then, Kirshner paid for the trips, her co-authors' salaries and the Vancouver office space for the project. "I did this in the most foolish way," she said over drinks in a Los Angeles cafe. "I met with my business managers this morning, and it's very clear that I sac-." She cut herself off before completing the word "sacrificed."
After a beat, she finished the sentence. "I spent my savings on the book."
"But, you know, it's worth it," Kirshner continued. "And I also felt like I didn't really want to ask for outside funding until I knew I was proud of the material. Because the last thing I would want was to spend somebody else's money and do something that sucked ."
Joe Sacco, the acclaimed comics artist, accompanied Kirshner on her trip to Ingushetia, and did a graphic novella about Chechen refugees for that segment of the book. In a telephone interview, he said that he had gotten involved after exchanging letters with Kirshner about what she wanted to do. She told him she would arrange everything, fund all of his travel and not interfere with the creative end of his contribution. The issue of a deadline, though, was another matter.
"She really wanted you to prioritize things around her project, which is probably a good thing," Sacco said. "Whatever she thinks about herself, she has an incredibly forceful personality. It's about her passion, that's where it comes from."
Dan Frank, the editorial director of Pantheon, said: "This is the extraordinary thing about Mia: her ability to get artists and writers with full-time lives to commit to this, to agree to do work. That's what she wanted, she wanted a symphony of voices. And I think she would have been happiest if her voice wasn't here at all."
Frank is certainly correct there. "I never wanted to write for this book," Kirshner said. "That was like an albatross to me." But at Frank's insistence, she agreed to contribute deeply personal observational writings that serve as a narration.
[youtube="Ies188dfpOc"]The L Word[/youtube]
My guess is INFP.