Scott Turner Schofield sits in front of his Los Angeles herb garden, a cooling mug of coffee in his hand. The pages of a new cowritten film script splay out before him, ready to be marked up. Somewhere in an L.A. office, his new agent awaits their afternoon phone call. It’s a real-life scene the 34-year-old trans man long envisioned himself taking part in, and he's savoring it.
“I’ve only ever wanted to be an actor,” he tells The Advocate over the phone. “I am right now exactly where I’ve dreamed of being and I have no intention of going anywhere.”
He's not just referring to being on his cozy balcony or even the potential acting opportunities spreading out over the horizon. For Schofield, “here” is having the chance to reach a truly national audience with the kind of mind-opening ideas he’s been teaching for years as a traveling diversity educator. Now, as the newest guest addition to the epically long-running soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, he's able to do just that — and Schofield couldn't be happier.
“I’ve always wanted to reach a lot of people with a positive transgender message. So 30 million viewers I’m not gonna sniff at," he says with chuckle.
As he continues to chat comfortably, his cell starts buzzing once more with a message from fiancée Jessica. “On the phone,” he quickly texts back to her, speaking the words rhythmically as he types. “Love you.” Then his attention snaps back to the moment. Schofield has a way of letting whoever he’s talking to know that he’s giving them his full attention, then zeroing in eagerly to the most pressing issue at hand. It likely served him well when he conducted sensitivity trainings for schools and businesses, a job he now continues to enjoy doing on the side as he pursues more acting roles.
Schofield resumes unwinding an intricate Bold plot aloud. It's one that features his trans mentor character Nick, who just reappeared on the show in a July 8 episode. He proudly describes how in a recent scene he got to explain to those 30 million that “violence against trans women is often at the hands of their intimate partners.”
“Getting to say something like that to almost 30 million viewers? Hello!” he says, his husky voice jumping up again into a delighted laugh. “If this was on prime time [television], people would be losing their minds.”
It’s not a leap to imagine how his even-keeled yet playful air — not to mention his boyishly handsome looks — became one of the keys in landing Schofield the history-making Nick role. The first trans soap character portrayed by an openly trans actor, Nick is, fittingly, the one who calmly “translates” to the audience how to compassionately interpret “leading lady” Maya Avant’s revelation to her family and boyfriend Rick that she’s a trans woman.
Schofield discusses The Bold and the Beautiful with Los Angeles's KCBS.
Nick shares many of Schofield’s traits, a fact not lost on him as admits that he’s become “so close” to the character he sometimes thinks like him. It’s probably part of what helped casting director Christy Dooley envision Schofield as Nick — and to do so, incredibly, without him even being represented by an agent. Schofield happily recalls how Dooley quizzed him afterwards. “How did you get this role?” she wondered. “Nobody walks in off the street and gets a recurring guest star role.”
“It was one of the wonderful moments where because I am transgender, it actually happened for me,” Schofield points out.
That’s the kind of “magic and luck” the actor will modestly claim led to his uncommon early success in Hollywood. But considering his award-winning 12-year career performing one-man stage shows worldwide — a trajectory he explains he chose young because his gender nonconformity hindered him from landing many roles — it seems likely that it’s more than that. The rarity of casting trans actors to play trans roles, however, does ring true, and trans advocates have increasingly brought attention to the practice, considered discriminatory by some, in recent years.
Of course, it’s also eminently clear that more than simply being transgender himself led to Schofield’s big break. Judging from the fan response alone, his portrayal of Nick is a memorable one. While Bold fans are notoriously resistant to change, often taking months and months to warm to a new character, Schofield says, “With Nick, people are consistently saying, ‘Bring Nick back.’”
“I’ve seen probably 500 tweets about the storyline and maybe three were negative. And even those that were negative, it was very much like, ‘You’re free to be who you are, but I’m not going to watch anymore,’” he shares with a another laugh. “It was nothing like I thought it would be.”
— Lisa Rado (@LisaAnnRado) June 29, 2015
#BoldandBeautiful thoughts, pt. 2: Maya/Nick, Nicole/Wyatt, and Katie/Ivy. Great stuff, and I need to see more of both Katie and Nick, pls.
— Jillian (@Jillybean214) July 12, 2015
— Maya Fans (@TeamMaya14) June 10, 2015
And perhaps most surprising of all, it’s not just traditional soap fans who have warmed to Nick, says Schofield. “I joke about how many self-identified ‘radical queers’ are now glued to a soap opera. … Any TV show that can go uncritiqued by a radical queer is doing something very right!”
Schofield attributes the LGBT viewers' acceptance of Nick, in part, to the storyline’s sophistication, describing his dialogue as a “Transgender 201” lesson that goes beyond Hollywood’s usual simplistic or sensationalistic “Transgender 101.”
“I got to say in front of 30 million people the difference between gay people coming out and transgender people disclosing,” he offers as an example. “Coming out is when you’re coming out from behind the mask: telling your truth so it’s no longer hidden. Transgender people wear our truths on our faces every day — there is no mask. And we don’t have to disclose if we don’t want to.”
These are insights that can be paradigm-shifting for The Bold and the Beautiful’s viewers, particularly in a demographic that skews toward an older generation, he explains.
“When I’m doing this character, I’m thinking about your grandmother. I’m thinking exactly about those people who have no frame of reference for trans people,” he says. “There’s a poll out right now that says only 9 percent of Americans say they know a transgender person. Now millions of people are going to realize that they’ve known [Maya], a transgender person, for two years.”
And for a younger generation who gets taught that transgender people, and especially women, are either the “butts of jokes” or “murdered in hate crimes," Schofield says that seeing transgender people on TV can be nothing short of life-changing.
“[Nick keeps] saying, ‘There’s no timeline. Everybody has their way of doing it. You have to live your life, have your realities, and disclose when it’s right for you,” he explains of his character’s message — one that Schofield very much shares himself in his own continuing educational work.
“As a character who is transgender — and as myself, a person who is transgender — I carry that weight of knowing that what I’m saying is true."
See more from Schofield in his new Web series Ze Said, She Said, produced with fiancée Jessica Lynn Johnson.