By ALISSA SIMON
Actress, producer and musician Trace Lysette, known for her recurring role as Shea on all five seasons of Amazon’s “Transparent,” and for her appearance alongside Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu in “Hustlers,” takes her career to a new level with a heart-rending turn in the title role of Venice competition title “Monica.”
• What drew you to this project? What stuck out to me most are the universal themes. A lot of people can relate to a loved one nearing the end of this physical life. Also, just the fact that families in general go through a lot together. There are strains on relationships, drama, humor, sadness… all of these things. This movie just happens to place a trans woman at the center of it all and we get to see it through her eyes. Which unfortunately is very rare and maybe even unheard of in film.
• What speaks to you most about Monice? Her quiet strength. I think a lot of transsexual women (and I use that word transsexual intentionally) have had to be strong as we wait for the world to catch up.
I think what is specific to the trans experience is that she has had to do a lot of figuring it out on her own. At least for transsexual women from my generation, we had no road map and often not much support. I remember being in NYC alone and poor as a young adult figuring it all out. That in itself is hard enough as a young person but to add a trans identity on top of it is really tough. I think Monica struggles with her self-worth, not because that is something innate but because that is how the world makes her feel.
• What’s next for you as a performer? I would hope that after this I can find a little more freedom in the jobs that come my way. Hopefully the industry can see that I can lead and/or be a strong supporting character with actors of a certain stature. When I studied acting in New York City, I got to play such a wide range of roles and oftentimes it had nothing to do with being trans. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing trans characters, I just don’t want to be boxed in.
• What would be your dream role? This question of a dream role comes up a lot. I don’t want to limit myself here, but there are so many trans women throughout history who deserve to have their story told. Christine Jorgensen, April Ashley, Coccinelle, Aleashia Brevard … the women of Finnochio’s show bar in San Francisco, the Pill Box Review ladies, the trans femmes who fought at the Compton’s Cafeteria riots in 1967, the list goes on. Outside of trans stories, but in the biopic vein, I’m a huge Teena Marie fan. I’d love to bring her story to life one day … How she changed rights for musicians in the business with the Brockert Initiative and her unique life in general. And being an athlete, I’d very much like to explore the action world too.
• As a recording artist, do you have some new tracks ready? Yes indeed. Music had been a nice escape for me, or an extra creative outlet, I should say. I have a summertime love song called “Red Line.” I also have another song coming out with Nomi Ruiz called “Hi Def Femme.” I’m looking forward to my second official music booking at the Riot Party in San Francisco, it’s a fundraiser for the Transgender District. I think it’s so amazing that a place like that even exists.