Shaela Cook on working with Michelle Ehlen on ‘Maybe Someday’

Caroline Lobbins and Shaela Cook in 'Maybe Someday.' Photo provided by October Coast PR.

Shaela Cook stars as Jess in Michelle Ehlen’s drama, Maybe Someday, a powerful feature film highlighting different aspects of love and heartbreak. 

The story follows Jay (Ehlen), a non-binary photographer in her 40s, battling a mixture of denial and depression as she attempts to move across the country in the midst of separating from her wife (Jeneen Robinson). Along the way, she takes a detour to stay with her high school best friend (Shaela Cook) who Jay used to be secretly in love with before she came out as a lesbian, and befriends a charismatic but complicated gay man (Charlie Steers) who has long given up on love. Struggling to move forward with the next chapter of her life, memories of the past resurface as Jay grapples with the inevitable cycles of love, loss, and letting go.

Check out my interview with Shaela!

How did you come to be a part of Maybe Someday?

Shaela: Well, I had done a couple of movies with Michelle previously, and she wrote this movie with me in mind. She told me, I would say two or three years before we actually shot the film, that she was working on something. And so I would hear about the process, kind of from the beginning and I got the first script that she felt comfortable showing me, I want to say probably in 2018. It was a pretty easy process. I auditioned for her for Heterosexual Jill over a decade ago and that kind of started my relationship with Michelle.

What was it like working with her as your director and as your co-star?

Shaela: It’s so interesting, because I’ve gotten to see her work on three different films and progress as an artist. I feel like she’s just gotten better every time, like everything runs a little bit more smoothly. Everything just seems to come out at higher levels if that makes sense. It’s funny because I can tell when she’s feeling more in her zone and when she isn’t, and I would say that getting to learn the quirks of somebody as an artist is really a great thing to be able to do. So, by the time we got to Maybe Someday, I think that she was kind of all where she needed to be and I felt comfortable going to her when I needed to but also letting her be. Does that make sense? Because this is a heavy film for her emotionally, as an actor, so I just felt like you kind of understand somebody’s rhythms and there’s almost more of a subconscious way of communicating versus words. Does that make sense? So, the first time I worked with her on Heterosexual Jill, I didn’t know her and I was trying to figure things out. And it was a very different film. The way it was, the place that was shot was much more spread out, so it was a little bit more disconnected. I feel like I’ve kind of come from outside of a circle and worked my way into more of the center of a circle… that’s a really abstract way of saying that… Yeah, I just feel like when you work with somebody for so long and you grow up and they grow up and there’s just stuff that kind of flows. I think that’s a better way of saying it.

Did you do anything special to prepare to play Jess?

Shaela: I don’t know about anything particularly different from things I’ve done before. I think just the process of actually getting to be involved from the beginning was special, because I got to see and hear the creative thought process behind the creation of the story from Michelle herself versus just being handed a script. So I understood the inner workings of what created Jess and where she was coming from, from the writer’s viewpoint. But personally, as an actor, I tend to do script analysis, where you go through and you figure out the arc of the scene and what I need to do to make sure I hit here and there and then I do a lot of like really nerdy studying stuff and then I forget it, and just try to be in the moment. That’s kind of my process. And yeah, everything seemed kind of organic once we got to this.

Eliza Blair and Cameron Norman in ‘Maybe Someday.’ Photo provided by October Coast PR.
There’s this interesting dynamic between Jess and Jay where they were school friends, but Jay was also in love with Jess. So, I am wondering if Jess knew that Jay was in love with her from your standpoint?

Shaela: You know, from Shaela’s standpoint, I think by the time that they reconnect later in life, when we see me in the role, I think she knew. I was actually talking to somebody about this recently, but I don’t think she knew when she was a teenager. I think she’s completely surprised by this whole thing and she just is clueless about Jay being homosexual and all that. I think that really genuinely honestly takes her off guard but I also think it confuses her a little bit, you know, because she does have such deep feelings for Jay and I think she’s processed it. But it’s not something that you can really ask a person, you know, because if they answer a certain way, is that going to destroy your relationship with them? So I think Jess wonders but I also think Jess trusts the relationship and the friendship that they have and really evaluates that and tries to be there in a way that’s not overwhelming for Jay. There’s a lot of walking on eggshells for Jess, and I think that is part of it, like, ‘did I hurt you in the past? Am I part of the problem here?’ That’s my thought process. I don’t know what Michelle would say, we actually didn’t really have that conversation. I think Michelle just let me go off and kind of build it myself. But I’ve always thought that she suspected that, but didn’t know for sure. And like I said, asking that question could jeopardize a friendship that she really values.

What was it like working with Caroline as your on screen daughter?

Shaela: She’s so sweet. Caroline (Lobbins), she’s a lot of life and just a real sweetheart. She has beautifully big open eyes. And she kind of looks at, well, it’s been a couple of years and she’s older now, but at the time, she kind of looked around at everything with this excitement and wonder and I thought that was really wonderful but also very professional. Like, she just was there when she needed to be there and she was off when she was not. She’s a little tiny pro. She gave me the most beautiful drawing when we wrapped and I still have it. She’s great.

One thing that really stuck out to me, especially involving your character, was the breast milk lotion party. I’ve never heard of people using breast milk to create lotion. Is that a thing?

Shaela: Well, this is Michelle’s humor, too, right? I’m a mother and I have not made lotion out of my breast milk nor have I been to a breast milk party but Michelle has said she had some experience with that. I do not see that being personally so far-fetched in that I have been told by many people all the wonderful things you can do with breast milk, like that conversation she has about it makes your skin softer. And I was told back when I had a young one that I should try using it as a lotion but I have not seen it put in a jar like that. I don’t know if you’ve seen Michelle’s other movies but she has a quirky sense of humor and so that was kind of, to me, more of her fun, looking at the world in this unusual way sense of humor. And I can totally see that being something a person would do, but I personally have never had breast milk solution.

Overall, what would you say would be your favorite part about filming this movie?

Shaela: You know, it’s funny, I never really thought about that because I really just kind of loved so much of it. I think that my favorite thing about it is working on something that felt really important. I mean, it’s like, to me, when I think about this film, I think it is really going to be important to a lot of people. I think the representation of having a non binary lead, played by a non binary person is important. I’ve worked with Michelle so much but she’s making a stand here and it just felt like it was humanizing, kind of saying, ‘we all go through this and this is a very human thing,’ but showing representation for people that may not be able to see that kind of representation in that space just makes sense. Yeah, that’s my favorite, and I see that happening now more and more, like there’s this TikTok where people were talking about the movie and I thought, ‘wow, it is really amazing that people are touched by this.’ So I’m just grateful to be able to support that in any way I can.

Is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you would like to add?

Shaela: I just hope that more people see this. It’s really wonderful to see how much Michelle has grown as an artist and how many facets there are and I think that it’s really exciting to see where she’s gonna go. And I hope that everybody can find something to relate to in the story. I think it’s kind of a universal story, and I hope it helps people.

Michelle Ehlen in ‘Maybe Someday.’ Photo provided by October Coast PR.
Maybe Someday is now playing at Cinequest’s virtual film festival “Cinejoy” now through April 17.