’s Transgender Actress Just Wants Respect
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
November 04 2011 6:00 AM ET
Now in its third season,
HBO’s hit series Hung is already a
must-watch in many LGBT households thanks to racy storylines, a smoking hot
lead (Thomas Jane as reluctant male gigolo, Ray Drecker), and a savvy feminist
undercurrent (hearing Jane Adams’ madam character Tanya explain that porn is
bad because of the male gaze is one of TV’s finest moments). But this Sunday,
viewers will have something new to love: Jamie Clayton as a transgender client
of Ray’s named Kyla.
Clayton, who was the co-host of Vh1's first makeover show, TRANSform Me, has been a fashion fixture for years (featured in Interview and Love magazines)
but her acting debut on Hung is
something of a surprise. She’s sweetly charming but assured and a perfect foil
for Drecker’s blue collar Detroit roots. Clayton appears on a two-episode arc,
the first of which was written by lesbian director Angela Robinson (of D.E.B.S. and The L Word
fame) and Hung scribe Julia
Brownell, making for one of the few times in which a transgender actress has
been cast to play a trans woman on screen.
Though she won’t divulge
personal details, Clayton chatted about her role on Hung and how she got here.
The Advocate: It’s really rare for trans actresses to actually
get cast on TV of any kind, especially non-reality. And usually when there’s a
trans character, non-trans actresses get cast for those roles. How did you get
involved with Hung?
Jamie Clayton: They actually found me through an article that was
written about an acting studio that I attend. There was a big article in the New
York Times, and writers were reading
this and when it came time for them to start auditioning people for the role,
they contacted my agent and I submitted an audition and before I knew it I was
in LA fitting wardrobe and on set filming.
The show is not trying to
be overly PC with your episodes. Do you think some of the language used on the
show is there to help show an evolution on the part of some of the characters?
Definitely, I think that as
much as the storyline is about as much as watching Kyla’s story evolve it’s
also about Ray. It’s about watching him evolve. So I think that the language that’s included, they’re very
real reactions. These are characters in Detroit … I think the writers just
wanted to stay true to the characters and true to the storylines, and I think
its great because I think that by the end of the episodes you see Ray comes
around and embraces Kyla 100%.
You transitioned over a
decade ago. Do you still get people calling you a “tranny?”
No, not so much that.
Is that because you pass
or that people have evolved and stopped using that language?
No, I think it’s because I
don’t associate myself with people that do use that language.
There’s a scene where
you’re at a high school reunion and you so enjoy being yourself with these
people finally, and Ray notices the change when people realize who you used to
be. Have you had an experience like that?
Nothing like that
specifically has happened to me, but there are a lot of similarities between
Kyla and myself. That’s one of the reasons I was so moved and touched by the
story. Because, like you said, ultimately Kyla’s goal of going to the reunion
was to get these people to see her the way she has always seen herself.
Obviously she was unable to do that when she was in high school so she sort of
wants to go back and reclaim that moment and sort of do a time-machine moment
and reclaim that moment and have a good experience. It does sort of backfire on
her. But ultimately the way it ends up is so sweet — the moment that she has
with Ray. Part of Kyla’s journey is coming to the realization that it doesn’t
matter what everybody else thinks about you; in the end, it’s what you think of
What I really liked about
that is that you touch on something that, yes, is a transgender experience, but
it’s also a universal human experience. We all go to our high school reunion
hoping that they will see us for the person we are and not who we were in fourth
Yes, definitely. All we want
is to be accepted and loved, and that’s what everybody wants.