BY Dan Avery
May 26 2009 11:00 PM ET
Romero researched the role by speaking with trans sex workers on L.A.'s Santa Monica Boulevard, but it was a particular accessory that helped Romero truly get into character. "I didn't feel like Lexus until I put the shoes on." he reveals. "They were just from a thrift store, but they changed how I talked and walked. They helped me feel the vibe."
The son of Spanish and Colombian immigrants, Romero grew up in Chicago, where he studied both dance and filmmaking. Physically he resembles Mexican actor Gael García Bernal. Once he dons Lexus's blond wig, the similarity to Zahara, the trans hooker Bernal played in Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, is downright uncanny.
Making Powder Blue was a rewarding but draining experience for Romero. "The first scene we shot was the last scene I was in, so I didn't have time to build up to it. It's really hard to keep that level of energy when thing stop and the lights are being fixed." Fortunately, Romero had Whitaker, the film's executive producer, to offer support. "I was intimidated -- I mean, he's got an Oscar," Romero says. "But we had some rehearsal time before we started shooting and I could tell right away I was in good hands. Despite the roles he plays, Forest isn't intimidating at all. He teaches by example and by how open he was."
Taking such a daring role was a risk for the young actor -- as was choosing to be open about his sexuality so early in his career. But like Whitaker, Romero believes in being open. "Four years ago I would've thought about it to death," he says. "But these days I want to keep things simple. I want to change the world as an artist, and I'd be a hypocrite if I was closeted."