Nicole Maines spoke over the phone with Solzy at the Movies about Bit, Supergirl, and quarantine life on Transgender Day of Visibility.
When this interview took place at the end of March, Bit‘s status was still up in the air. Following the interview, I was able to confirm that Vertical Entertainment would indeed be releasing the queer feminist vampire film on April 24, 2020.
Today is Transgender Day of Visibility. How are you celebrating it?
Nicole Maines: It’s going pretty, pretty well. I did all my posts and everything. People are being very supportive, which is always good to see. The hate comments are down to a minimum, which always makes me really happy. Whenever I always post something trans-related, I’m always expecting it’s going to be a lot of really vile stuff and really, there’s not nearly as much as I thought there would be. So that always makes me really happy and it makes me feel like I’m still making at least a little bit of progress.
You’re coming off a shortened season of Supergirl. How far away were you from finishing the season when production shut down?
Nicole Maines: Three days.
So how many episodes?
Nicole Maines: We were on the last one. We had a handful of scenes left to shoot.
What was going through your mind as all this is happening?
Nicole Maines: I wish people would take it seriously. I’m not surprised that people aren’t are because it’s scary and I think a lot of people think that if they just go about business as usual then it’s not happening or something. I really wish people would just take a couple of weeks, stay in your house, veg out, and be a couch potato. Everyone knows calories gained during quarantine don’t count—it’s just like on vacation. I’m like, if you guys can stay home for a little bit, this could be over so much quicker than if people kept pretending. I saw a great post online. The people who continue to go outside are the same people who would hide their zombie bite.
I don’t think I’ve seen that one.
Nicole Maines: I retweeted it. It was freaking brilliant. I was like, that is exactly who these people are. They’re the ones who are like, “Oh, I thought I was special.” I’m like, No, you’re not. You’re a zombie!
Supergirl recently aired an episode that touched on violence against transgender women of color. What did you think when you first read the script?
Nicole Maines: I thought it was brilliant. I am so proud of the show for highlighting so many important points about trans women of color, about the mortality rate likely being much higher due to misinformation and misgendering in police reports, how often trans violence gets swept under the rug by law enforcement, and then highlighting this idea of gay panic. I thought all of them were so important and I’m so glad they all made it into the episode.
Did you give the writers any notes when you got the script?
Nicole Maines: I was involved from the very beginning. Before we even got the first draft of the script, I was on the phone with them and we were just talking and wanted to see what points needed to be made, what things had to get cemented in—so much ends up on the cutting room floor. So, really deciding what has to stay, what needs to be like an unmovable object. Also, something I was really proud about was on how we crafted this villain, Gregory Bowers. We talked a little bit about giving him a backstory or maybe making him a leftover Agent of Liberty. But then we just decided, it doesn’t really matter who this guy is. What really matters is the dangerous way of thinking, this idea of gay panic. That’s what we wanted to highlight. I was so happy with them and when I got the first draft of the script, it was amazing. They were so responsive, were so open, and they were like, let us know if there’s anything we should edit. Let us know what needs to changed, what needs to be cut, what needs to be moved around. It was really collaborative with them. They were so fantastic and they have such integrity. They were so eager to make this episode the best that could be.
How do you feel that you’ve grown as an actress during your second season on the show?
Nicole Maines: All I can really say is I hope that I’ve grown. I want to say I’m slightly less nervous but honestly, I feel like the further I go, I feel like I’ve like dug my heels in and I’m like, Oh, shit, now I’ve got to commit to being good at my job. I mean, it’s stressful because I feel like everybody’s kind of watching me learn and fumble around in the dark. I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned to put less pressure on myself to be so perfect because that is not attainable. I don’t know. I’m sorry I don’t know how to really answer that question. I just try to do my best and I try to learn from my mistakes and not beat myself up too much.
As things stand right now, Bit is expected to be released on April 24, 2020. (Note: when this interview took place, there was no word yet as to whether or not the release date would change.)
Nicole Maines: I have no idea what’s going on. We were supposed to have a release in April—you’re right—but the way things are going, I haven’t heard anything. I just talked to Brad the other day. It’s really all up in the air right now. I need to speak to producers and find out what’s going on because the whole industry is thrown up in the air. We’re all kind of jut sitting at home waiting to see what’s gonna happen.
I know. I’m almost done reading my third quarantine book.
Nicole Maines: Oh geez.
Yeah, it’s like I’ve got to get creative because you no longer have the studio films coming out. I still have to keep putting out content.
Nicole Maines: Yeah, I broke down and I got Disney+. I’ve finished The Mandalorian. Because they just released the new season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars—which was on TV when I was I was a kid—I’m going back and watching all the episodes from season 1. I’m going to do a full series binge leading up to the new season and that’s how I’m going to spend my time.
I did that binge starting in late December after all my awards ballots were in and finished right before I flew out to LA for Critics Choice Awards. The film premiered at Inside Out last year before making its U.S. premiere during Frameline. What did you think of the reception?
Nicole Maines: I’m so excited. I love that people love it as much as we do and that it’s been as successful as it is—especially for it to do so well at festivals as a genre film is really hard because everyone loves dramas and this is so niche and to see it have such a wide appeal to be doing as well as it is really, really—I think we’re all kind of shocked and we’re like, Oh my G-d, it’s doing amazing. It’s so inspiring. People are so excited to see it. People that have seen it love it. There are so many people who are so eager to see it and all of our messages are, “We’ve been trying to find it. When is it getting released? What’s going on?” I want to do it. I want to give it to the people. I want people to see it because it’s so fun and it’s so cool. It’s just a really fucking cool movie. I mean, it’s gay vampires. Who doesn’t love that?
I felt it was an instant classic and you had one of my favorite performances of the year.
Nicole Maines: Thank you very much!
Nicole Maines: Who doesn’t love blood orgies?
It’s not that often you get to see a feminist vampire movie.
Nicole Maines: Totally, absolutely! And also to see queer people surviving in a horror setting and not be the first ones to die.
You play Laurel in the film. What was it that attracted you to the character when you read Brad Michael Elmore’s screenplay?
Nicole Maines: One of my favorite things about Laurel was that her story was not about her being trans. Similarly, it’s what I love about Nia. When Bit starts, she is past the point in her life where she is so concerned with her transness where that is the biggest problem in her life. That’s over. That’s solved. She’s transitioned. She’s fine. She’s not worrying about that. Her struggle is I hate everybody, the world is stupid, and now I’m a vampire. She’s got other shit going on that’s not about her being trans. I love that throughout the whole movie, her transness isn’t really talked about. If you know she’s trans, you can kind of pick up on subtleties about that but it’s not like people are gonna watch this movie and be like, Ooh, G-d, her transness is being shoved down our throat. That’s not what the movies about and that’s what I loved about her so much.
What other things do you look at when you read a script?
Nicole Maines: I just want to know if 1) as a viewer, would I feel like I’d be having a good time watching it and 2) as an actor, do I feel like I would have a good time doing this? Would this be something that’s fun to do? Because there’s nothing worse than committing yourself to a job that you hate or you’re not enjoying. I never want to have to do a film or a series that I’m not enjoying because I feel like that just makes the job so much harder. When you have to pretend to be being bitten by a vampire but then to also pretend like you’re enjoying it and you’re having a good time—that’s really hard. I think sometimes it is much more likely to show.
Were you looking at doing a project during the hiatus or what’s going on there?
Nicole Maines: I really don’t know. I’m open to doing things during the hiatus. It’s just a question of we don’t how long this quarantine is gonna last so we don’t know really when the business is going to be able to open back up because they don’t want gatherings is more than however many people. There’ a lot of people on set and we’re all in really close proximity to each other. If one person gets sick in the hair and makeup trailer, everyone’s getting it.
How are you staying busy aside from Disney+?
Nicole Maines: I’m working on art. I’m reading. I got a TikTok. All the kids love that so I’m trying to churn out content that way keep people entertained. Video games, just kind of anything to—I mean, honestly, that’s kind of what I do anyway. I’m a homebody when I’m not working. They told me to stay inside and I’m like, that’s no big deal. I was gonna be inside anyway. I very rarely leave my room.
I was the same before all this happened. Unless I’m going to press screening, buying food, or picking up prescriptions, it’s like I don’t have a reason to leave my apartment. Now it’s pretty much buying food—that’s it.
Nicole Maines: Introverts everywhere like, Oh, no what a catastrophe.
They’re saying that AMC is looking at reopening theaters in mid-June but honestly, I just don’t know what’s going to happen.
Nicole Maines: I think that’s where everybody is right now. I think that’s why it’s so important right now to just be doing stuff we like and to be entertaining people and making people laugh and lifting folks’ spirits. It’s a really uncertain time. If you’re able to bring a smile to someone’s face, I’ve done my job.
I really feel bad for these indie filmmakers. Their films are gonna get lost under the radar.
Nicole Maines: Yeah.
I had done a pair of interviews before all this happened and one was going to be released on March 20 and that got completely scratched.
Nicole Maines: It’s terrifying because this is people’s livelihood. You put so much into it and you work so hard. Getting a movie made is the easy part. Distributing it, getting people to see it, getting it out there—that’s the hard part. To have this is so devastating and it’s so terrifying because then it is people’s livelihoods and we worked so hard. To have it just completely thrown up in the air is so frustrating to say the least. I don’t know what the plan is moving forward, if everything’s going to get moved back or if, like you said, things are just kind of gonna get lost in the shuffle. I really hope not because that’s how you lose a lot of really good content.
With TCM or my physical collection, I’ve got movies that I can watch and DVR and maybe have something come out in addition to the indie films that are still coming out on digital. With Disney+, you’ve got that entire vault.
Nicole Maines: It’s a great time to be a streaming service.
Yeah. I was supposed to be at SXSW.
Nicole Maines: Oh, yeah. That was a big hit.
It’s usually one of my biggest months by far and all the pre-sold interviews didn’t happen.
Nicole Maines: In a perfect world, we would just kind of press pause on everything. Everyone would go home, let this kind of settle, and then kind of pick up where everybody left off. Ideally, I feel like that’s what would happen but I don’t know if it is.
(The publicist let us know that there was time for one more question.)
I think at this point, I’m all out of questions. The final one I had written down was: How are you staying busy during the quarantine so as to avoid going stir crazy?
Nicole Maines: Like I said, just video games, art, anything to just kind of keep my mind busy. Cabin fever is starting to set in.