Following the premiere of And Then There Was Eve at the LA Film Festival, transgender actress Rachel Crowl took some time to talk to Solzy at the Movies about the film and what can be done to improve transgender representation in the media. Originally, I was going to run her responses as a part of a larger feature story on what can be done to improve things but I’ve decided to run this separately ahead of tomorrow’s article.
In your opinion, what needs to be done to improve trans representation in the media?
Rachel Crowl: We need people to be willing to take a chance on trans talent on both sides of the camera. Really, it’s a simple as that. Making films (or television or whatever) is a risky proposition. Risk is built in and I think they need to bite the bullet and be willing to risk just a little bit more.
The talent is there. OMG is it there. Since I came out to Los Angeles I’ve met so many talented trans folk who are working to make their mark here. I think it’s really more a matter of time than anything else.
I’m an optimist at heart but I know it’s still an uphill climb.
So my challenge is simple: all you allies and storytellers and producers and executives out there in positions of power take chances on us. Mentor us. Show us the ropes. And most importantly, let us be involved in the telling of our own stories.
I want to get past the economics of a industry that feels like the only way Anything can get made is to cast Matt Bomer in the trans role because he’s a “name” and investors like “names.”
Give us a chance and we’ll become “names” too, y’know?
While Anything got most of the press heading into the weekend, it seems as if And Then There Was Eve headed into LAFF with little-to-no press from LGBTQ media. What do you make of this?
Rachel Crowl: Well, to be fair, the Advocate and the Los Angeles Blade did give us some advance coverage which was awesome but yeah, it was frustrating to see Anything suck up all the oxygen in the room.
Frustrating but not surprising. I think we LGBTQI folks are so used to shitty things happening and having to make a bunch of noise to try and get people to understand why said thing is shitty we just don’t know how to celebrate when people do the right thing. We’re wired to fight these days – which is good! – but that fighting instinct sometimes obscures our ability to see the real progress that is happening right now.
Personally, I thought it was kind of brilliant of the LA Film Festival to program both films one after the other. It was like a compare/contrast essay just waiting to happen y’know? It just made me sad nobody else seemed to get that.
Regardless, I think I proved that trans talent can carry a feature film and that’s another step forward.
This was your first feature film. How did you get involved with the film and did the casting call originally call for a trans woman in the role?
Rachel Crowl: Savannah Bloch, the director of And Then There Was Eve, was absolutely adamant that Eve be played by a transwoman. It was conceived that way and she wasn’t going to compromise. The great good fortune is she found producers (Jhennifer Webberley and Jen Kelleher Prince) who shared her vision. They pushed production once and were about to do it again because finding the actor to play Eve was hard. She’s a complicated character with a lot of nuance and they really wanted to get it right.
I “retired” from acting when I transitioned in 2005. I’d been a very successful Off-Broadway actor for a long time and I was used to playing good, meaty roles. And then I transitioned and looked around and realized that the only thing anybody was going to consider me for was a dead hooker who the cops make a meat-and-potatoes joke about. I didn’t want to do that.
So I made a deal with the universe: you can have my acting career if I can have a decent quality of life as a woman. And it worked out! I moved on with my life, became a photographer and a musician and an editor and basically any other kind of creative thing I could do.
But I still missed acting. It’s what I was put on earth to do, y’know?
My wife, Helen Boyd Kramer, consulted on the And Then There Was Eve script and I’d actually read it months and months before I actually auditioned. I remember really responding to it but thinking, “You’re retired, you’re working on your solo album and surely there’s a younger, prettier transwoman out there who will kill in this role.”
And then, days before they were going to push production yet again, Savannah emailed my wife and I asked if I wouldn’t audition and it hit me at the exact right moment: I was super unhappy in my job and really looking for my next. I auditioned and 5 days later I had the role and 3 1/2 weeks after that I was in Los Angeles waiting for them to yell, “Action!”
Surreal. And awesome.
As a trans actress, is it fair to say that it’s a harder climb find opportunities in TV/Film?
Rachel Crowl: Oh sure. Definitely. It’s hard to get considered for anything but trans roles and while I absolutely loved playing Eve I don’t want to get stuck playing trans roles forever. There are a bunch of us out here who are really trying to get casting directors, writers, directors, and producers to think beyond that. Cast us as the friend, the lead, the villain, the executive, the whatever; it doesn’t really change the character at all if he/she also happens to be trans.
But that too is changing. People are slowly starting to consider the idea and I’m really hopeful that will continue.