Here is a snippet:
On “Heart, Baby!” how did you prepare to play Crystal? And more in general, do you follow some precise steps when approaching a character or is every time completely different?
Every role is different and each one requires it’s own amount of time to prepare. So much of what I do as an actor is in the moment. It’s done on the day. I can’t plan a moment or how I’m going to say a specific line, but I can discover who I am as the person I’m portraying. For me, it’s about finding as much freedom from tension as possible. Preparing for the role of Crystal in “Heart, Baby!” was probably the most difficult and insane thing I’ve ever done. I worked on the role for over 6 months before we even started filming. In order to fully embrace her complex female identity, I did everything I could to understand what it was like to walk in the shoes of a woman trapped inside a man’s body. I started my process by interviewing several of my trans friends and people who knew Crystal to better understand her struggles and points of view on life, faith and love. It was from there that I built the foundation of Crystal. I worked with members of the acting and movement faculty at my alma mater, The Hartt School; I learned etiquette, poise and walking techniques from a former Miss America; I practiced female vocalization daily; and studied privately with the famed acting guru, Larry Moss. I immersed myself so completely into the role that I even went as far as changing my physical appearance with hair and eyelash extensions, growing my nails for 6 months, and working with a fitness coach to lose over 25 pounds. I even feminized some of my facial features with cosmetic procedures.
“…the most difficult and insane thing I’ve ever done.”
“I lived my life as a woman through the majority of the process.”
I lived my life as a woman through the majority of the process. I wanted to be as relaxed as possible when it came time to film. I didn’t want to be some actor playing Crystal, I wanted to embody Crystal as freely and fully as I embody myself. That being said, Crystal truly came to life thanks to the talents of many people, including, Robin Matthews, the Academy Award-winning master of make-up, Yolanda Mercadel, the diva of hair, Claire Breaux, costume designer extraordinaire, as well as their respective teams. My time living as Crystal left me both amazed and appalled. I came to some profound realizations regarding gender identification, gender expression, and society’s biased views towards transwomen. I experienced a remarkable liberation from the ways I had previously defined myself… but I also got a shocking glimpse at the discrimination, objectification, degradation, solitude and danger that all women face on a day-to-day basis. I hope the time and dedication I gave to this role brings some awareness to these issues.
In what way, if any, does it feel different to be part of a project that brings to screen something that has really happened?
It’s an honor, to say the least, but it’s different than other projects because of the responsibility you have to the people who lived it. My job was to honor Crystal and all of the men and women who lived this story. Any pain or discomfort I may have experienced in the process pales in comparison to anything she or her fellow inmates experienced.
If you could describe “Heart, Baby!” in just one world, what would it be?