The first time we see Fontayne (Yolonda Ross) in John Sayles' new film, Go For Sisters, she's peeing into a cup and not long after that, she's in front of her probation officer Bernice (Lisa Gay Hamilton), crying and pleading for a second chance. It's a tough role but Ross, who was just nominated for Best Supporting Female for the Film Independent Spirit Awards, gives it her all in the film. It opens Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
"As far as Fontayne, what I focused on was regret," she says in a recent interview. "All of us have some in our past as far as things you wish you would have done and things you wished you would have done differently and that's what I focused on with her and moving forward. Putting those things in the past and keeping them in the past and 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 it."
When they were childhood friends, everyone said Bernice and Fontayne could "go for sisters" because their friendship was so close. But 20 years later, their lives have gone in opposite directions.
And yet when Bernice's son Rodney goes missing, Fontayne uses her connections to the seedy characters she knows in Mexico to help her try to find him. Fontayne gets some kind of redemption out of being able to help Bernice.
"That was the one person that she was really close to and really admired," she says. "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."
Along the way, they meet a cast of characters including a tough former cop (Edward James Olmos).
"It's more of a real portrayal of people," Ross says of the film. "That's what I like about John's writing. It's not like they're doing these outlandish things. They're just living life. They're just humans living and these are the conditions that they're in." — Jeff Niesel