Since moving to Wisteria Lane, Felicity Huffman is anything but desperate. In addition to having just won an Emmy, she’s getting major Oscar buzz for her star turn in “Transamerica,” the story of a man who undergoes a sex-change operation to become the woman he’s always wanted to be.
“It was a dream role, but it was also scary and I could have blown it on so many levels,” admits Huffman. “At no point did I feel, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got this!’ It always felt like, ‘Fuck! Fuck! I’m gonna screw it up! Jesus!’ ”
The actress, whose film credits include “Magnolia” and “Raising Helen,” notes that preparing for the role of Bree was quite an education. “When I got the role, the transgender community was an oddity at best (to me) — some odd little group over there that I don’t quite know what they’re doing. But once I started meeting with them, talking and working with them, I really understood the heart-wrenching dilemma they’re under. The sexual reassignment surgery is expensive. And also, it’s such a tough choice they’re given. Either you feel alienated from yourself or you actually do it and you’re alienated from society — you’re an oddball.”
Research for Huffman included working with a coach who teaches transgender behavior, as well as a voice coach. “And I read every article I could get my hands on, I saw every documentary I could and I read every biography and autobiography I could find,” she adds. “I started going to transgender conventions because, as with any segment of society, there’s a wide spectrum and Bree was in a particular place so I wanted to see a lot of different transgender women.”
Ultimately, playing a transsexual taught Huffman a lot about gender and sexual preference. “When you talk to transgender men or women, they say that the fact that there are two genders and you have to choose between them is ridiculous. There are many permutations of sexuality. And what’s really interesting is all the hormone research I did. All those things I thought were particular to me as a woman — it’s just hormones.”