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Studio Alumni Tess Frazer on “Godless”

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Netflix’s Godless is a western turned slightly topsy-turvy. Much of it takes place in La Belle, New Mexico, a town populated almost entirely by women. The men of the town died in a tragic mining accident, leaving Scott Frank, the writer, with a handy ability for this western to pass the Bechdel test. The women of La Belle are still women in the fabled “wild west” — i.e., they are sometimes just damsels in distress — but they get the opportunity to be more than just male-adjacent accessories. Tess Frazer plays Callie Dunn, a sex worker who turns to school teaching after the accident. Without men, there isn’t much use for the brothel in town, so Callie co-opts the space for the children’s school. Despite her career, she’s one of the two most powerful women in La Belle. As she proudly tells her lover Mary Agnes (Merritt Wever), she is sitting pretty on $20,000 of cash. (That’s almost half a million in today’s dollars.) You can make a lot of money in the lawless west through sex work, it turns out.

For Frazer, the show presented a similar opportunity: She could be a fully-realized woman character in a western, hang out with a stellar cast of women, all while learning to do traditionally “masculine” stunts like shoot and ride horses. And, Frazer enjoys the show’s most optimistic storyline. While people die around them, Callie Dunne and Mary Agnes, two women left widowed after the accident, fall in love. Refinery29 spoke to Frazer just before the show came out about Callie, the rules of the Godless world, and what she calls “cowgirl camp.”

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Read the complete interview with Refinery29 here:

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