A Little Laverne…

I had the immense pleasure of getting to interview Laverne Cox for my weekly column over at The Frisky. I am a huge fan of Laverne’s from Orange Is The New Black (and if you aren’t watching that show, why not?!)

Photo credit: Hao Zeng

Photo credit: Hao Zeng

Not only is Laverne smart, hilarious, and sweet – she’s also a phenomenal actress and inspirational activist. In the hour long conference call she talked about how she blends her art and activism, the joy she receives from working on such a diverse, well-written show like OITNB, and about the importance of trans visibility in the media. The interview posted at The Frisky highlights all my favorite bits of the conversation, so head over there to read it all. But here are a few more gems from Laverne that I couldn’t fit in:

On having her twin brother, M. Lamar, play the role of Sophia, pre-transition:

Initially Jenji approached me and said that they would, you know, hire someone.  She didn’t – this is how – this amazing support I got on-set.  She’s, like, “I don’t want to traumatize you, you know, by having to go, you know, play a man again,” you know, because I tried to play one for many years in my real life and unsuccessfully, but then I was – I’m an actor.  I can play – I got this.  I can do it.

So yes, we talked about it, we did a hair and makeup test that – to get Sophia’s looks throughout her transition together and one of those looks was her as (Marcus), as the firefighter, and Jodie [Foster] didn’t think I looked masculine enough to play (Marcus). And so it was decided that someone would be hired.  So I did my best to butch it up and it wasn’t butch enough apparently.

On being trans in a cis-world:

I’ve often been the only trans person in a room and on the job.  I just – I’m just myself.  For me, I – the way I handle it is I just – I’m – I try to be as authentically myself as possible and I also try to set boundaries in terms of what it can be talked about and not talked about. I like to be open, but I also try to set a tone where people don’t – where – inappropriate questions are not allowed to be asked, you know?  And I’ll, like, you know, put someone in their place if they, you know, overstep a boundary, you know, in a loving way.

I think it’s really important that folks from me sense that, like, I’m there – I’m not there to sort of attack them or to police their – the ways in which they, you know, sort of interact with me, that I’m just a chick just like they are, that I’m just, you know, another person who’s there to do their job and get along with everyone. And so that’s how I try to navigate things.  I’ve – I feel like sometimes I become very aware that, like, I – a lot of what I do is to put people at ease.  I learned early on – I don’t know if it was because I’m also black that, like, OK.  I learned how to put people at ease around me that, like, I’m not a threat.  OK.  I’m not a threat.  It’s OK.

On living the “dream”:

You know, it’s funny because it’s, like, I’ve grown up believing that in America anything is possible, that if you work really hard, if you’re really good at something, that anything is possible and my life is – it seems to, you know, live that out, but then there’s the lives of so many other people that don’t get to live their dreams the way I am.

And so, you know, I’m so grateful.  I’m – like, I’m really overwhelmed by all of it, I have to say, just having this opportunity to speak to you all is amazing to me, but I’m also reminded of how many other girls like me don’t get opportunities like this.

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