Trans Actress Michelle Hendley Tugs Our Heartstrings in Boy Meets Girl
Love seeing talented trans actors play complex trans roles? Meet your new obsession: Boy Meets Girl, a quirky romantic comedy starring out trans actress Michelle Hendley that hit theaters for a limited release February 6, and will begin streaming online in April.
Hendley has received well-deserved critical acclaim for her debut in this tender, sexy coming-of-age story about two twenty-something's living in Kentucky: Robby, (Michael Welch, Twilight) and his best friend since childhood, Ricky, a gorgeous, witty trans girl. Lamenting the lack of eligible bachelors in their small town, Ricky finds sparks flying with new friend Francesca (Alexandra Turchen) -- and hilarity, touched with a solid balance of down-to-earth drama, ensues.
"I’m passionate about breaking the mold of sexual and emotional convention in the pursuit of creating more unity in our increasingly fractured world," director Eric Schaeffer explained of his approach to The Advocate. "I feel a duty to portray characters in my films who, like myself, admit to and accept without condition the parts of themselves and others that can be best described and must start being labeled as one thing and one thing only: human."
The Advocate: What motivated you to create a traditional love story through the lens of a transgender girl?
Eric Shcaeffer: I thought that it would offer people a new lens into important and timeless issues that we all care about profoundly and by doing so, allow them a fresh perspective. All of the characters seem to be addressing or struggling with identity, sexuality, perception, and self-worth. Was the story created to address these points or did the story naturally flow to this level based on the main character being trans? Both. The story was about all of those things and I felt by making the story about a trans woman, it would be an obvious mirror for feelings/struggles everyone identifies with and has.
The experiences in the movie felt very true-to-life. How were you able to write a fairly authentic character from a trans point-of-view as a cisgender writer?
Thank you. I feel very deeply -- and it's what the film is about -- that we are all the same at the core. We all want to give and receive love, be happy, help each other, have good relationships with our friends and family, do work we love and are proud of. That's a human point of view and on that topic, I am qualified. That's why it rings true regardless. Obviously there are specifics within each person's experience that are different, and to make sure I was on the mark Michelle and some other transgender friends of mine gave their opinions and confirmed I was good to go and had written an authentic film and in the few places I had misconceptions, I made changes based on their feedback.
Traditionally, transgender roles have been going to cisgender actors, what made you decide to cast an unknown transgender girl in such a pivotal role?
Since I was making a low budget film and had complete creative control, I had the luxury of casting whoever I wanted. Had it been a bigger budget film and I had less control, I might have been forced to cast a famous cisgender actor but luckily that wasn't the case. I thought it was very important to cast a transgender actress because A: While actors can "act," a transgender woman would obviously bring an authenticity and intimacy of personal experience to the material a cisgender actor would not and B: I felt it very important to give that part to a transgender actress since it's so hard and there are so few roles, but she would have to be excellent and totally perfect for the part or it wouldn't make sense. I wouldn't have cast a transgender woman simply because it's a transgender character, she's the lead of the film, the film would win or lose because of her so she had to be extremely talented. Luckily I found Michelle.
At the end of the day, this is a classic "boy meets girl" love story. How do you push this films message across gender lines so that it resonates outside ot the LGBTQ community?
I hope all audiences get to see the film. That has to do with the complex luck and conspiracy of the universe in terms of the marketplace. It certainly is a film that all audiences will identify with or not, but if they don't, it won't have anything to do with the film being about a transgender girl.
This has been reposted from The Advocate.