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The Challenges of Casting a Genderqueer film

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Boys Don’t Cry is one of my favorite films, for the story but primarily for the way Hilary Swank totally nailed the genderqueer character of Brandon Teena.  I am presently casting for Stud Life which also has a genderqueer female lead. It is dawning on me that I am in for the long haul. It took THREE YEARS before Hilary Swank was cast!! BTW Shane from the L-Word also auditioned for the role.

According to Wikipedia. “Swank prepared for the role by dressing and living as a man for at least a month, including wrapping her chest in tension bandages and putting socks down the front of her pants in much the same way that Brandon Teena did. Her masquerade was so masterful that her neighbors believed that the young man (Swank in male character) coming and going from her home was Swank’s visiting brother.”  In the end the dedication earned her an Oscar.

I put out the casting call a month ago and have received an overwhelming positive response from actors for every part EXCEPT that of  JJ – the Black 20-something stud lesbian. This raises some issues around who goes for parts, but who is actually out there to play certain roles.

I don’t believe that you have to be genderqueer in your daily life to play a butch dyke, a transman or transwoman but you will need to take the risk to go outside your prescribed learned behaviour in terms of gender as Swank did for Boys Don’t Cry. But isn’t that what acting is about? Being able to live in someone else’s skin?

I would like Stud Life to taste and smell queer not look GAY as those BBC Dramas or Hollywood films. But do those productions cast normative people because they think that is more palatable for their audiences? Or could it be that if there was more diversity in casting then mainstream audiences would be more acceptable to variety?

Would it be easier if I had made JJ white? Are there more white actresses who are happy to play genderqueer and take the risk to do a butch lesbian role than Black actresses? So far I have had many handsome studs who are not actors wanting to be cast as JJ. Should I go down the route of casting an non-actor?

I have had many applications from men of colour who are quite happy to play gay so is this a woman thing?

My friends keep telling me that I am not going to get a woman, let alone a Black woman actress who is gender-queer as she would have given up long ago!  But isn’t there a newer generation of Black actresses who do not care and dress and look how they please. This is 2010 not 1980!

These are questions running around in my head.

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6 Responses to The Challenges of Casting a Genderqueer film

  1. Chris says:

    Wow, surprising to me too. It's jan 2011. I hope you have found some one by now. What a role and acting experience to take on. I just watched Flawless with Philip Seymore Hoffman doing an outstanding job playing someone he is not, just like Hillary. Now there is some real acting and they both took the risk. So, put you butch on and make a movie!

  2. Bizz says:

    Interestingly enough, I am a genderqueer actor of color who often has to play "girl" to be cast in anything. It's very rare that I can be myself, much less find projects that would allow me to do so.

  3. hrh says:

    Its totally true sis it is hard .

    I also had major problems casting the black lead MAGDA for my own holyqueer film MLL© ended up casting 3 xs , on the day that i had decided to give it one more try before turning Magda white i found my black Magda – Sabrina Chiemeka who was straight. Because the film is multilanguaged – English and Swedish i had to cast a Swedish actress that spoke the language and would not mind doing intimate scenes..although there were more white actresses that were willing to play her part otherwise.

    I had the usual homophobic issues as well as the disbelief that queers can be Christians! – yes Christianity and Queerdom are compatible!

    I noted tho that some straight actresses tend to not want to push themselves all the way in a lesbian role maybe its the fear that they might like it and not return?? who knows?!

    It was quite hard but we got there

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