Lena Hall, a Tony winner for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, was in the middle of building a studio in her Connecticut home when she gave a Zoom interview for Inside With the Advocate. At the time, Hall, who has arguably one of the fiercest vocal ranges in music today, said she wasn’t feeling inspired to create art in quarantine. But by the end of the chat, the star of TNT's Snowpiercer mentioned she might work out a concert for Pride. Now Hall has put together a virtual show that goes live today, with proceeds from ticket sales going to benefit the Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ+ youth.
“I miss performing and I miss being able to do shows. I build a recording studio. I built a video studio as well. I’m just getting it all put together now,” Hall said in May about sheltering in place in the countryside. “I have my good days and bad.”
Even as the TV version of Parasite director Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film Snowpiercer was about to be released, Hall was admittedly struggling to find her voice during the lockdown.
“There were all these things — I was writing scripts and all this stuff,” Hall said of her creative projects before the pandemic hit. “That has completely stopped because I cannot focus long enough to sit and write.”
But with her Pride fundraising concert, Hall found her inspiration in a big way.
Meanwhile, Snowpiercer, a post-apocalyptic tale about the last of humanity trapped on a 1,001-car train that circles the globe endlessly to sustain energy, was as timely as ever when it premiered in May.
“The idea of being trapped, not being able to do anything, having to pivot and figure something else out, limited resources, the way things hit certain classes of people. It is very spot-on to what’s going on right now,” Hall said of the series. “It’s very much about the haves and the have-nots and what morals are considered right. The moral line that everybody is toeing is a lot more varied than I think people realize.”
She added that in the world of Snowpiercer, what horrifies some people is not a big deal to others. “I think we’re seeing where everyone is falling on this moral line,” she said of the prescient series.
In the show that stars Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, who represent opposing ends of the train in terms of privilege, Hall plays Miss Audrey, a cabaret singer and the proprietor of the Night Car, which is smack in the middle of the train. And as the show moves along, the space looks more and more like the most amazing queer bar ever.
“The Night Car is where everyone comes to basically be equals. They come there for one purpose, and that is to get off the train mentally, emotionally, to get out of that confined space,” Hall said. “My role is to be the shepherd that helps everyone get out and release their pain, release their fears, release the claustrophobia, and get away from the negative stuff going on and try to reset.”
“Not only am I a performer, but I’m also the train therapist, if you will. She has kind of an otherworldly quality where she knows too much and she can feel other people. She’s like an empath,” she said.
Regarding the Night Car as a queer space and Miss Audrey’s place on a spectrum of queerness she said, “As time went by, they would get more and more daring with the room.”
“The more they do, the more fabulous it gets,” she said of the series, which already shot its second season.
Hall elaborated that Miss Audrey is very much a high femme in the vein of Dita Von Teese and that she considers her character to be sexually fluid.
“As far as sexually, she’s more fluid. I feel that there is only ever been one person that was hers and that the person matched her energy,” Hall said. “But other than that I feel that she is just a beauty lover. So anyone that she sees as being beautiful, she takes from that.”
Miss Audrey is just another in a line of characters on a queer spectrum that she’s played. She played a yoga instructor who hooked up with Lena Dunham’s Hannah on an episode of Girls, and she starred in indie queer film Becks, about a lesbian musician who upends her life for her girlfriend only to be dumped and wind up living with her very Catholic mom in their hometown. The film was based on a real person and costarred Mena Suvari, Haylie Kiyoko, and Christine Lahti.
“I’m always so honored when I do get to play a character like Becks. It was super important to me to really nail that,” she said.
Hall appeared in Kinky Boots on Broadway before winning the Tony for Yitzhak, Hedwig’s beleaguered right-hand man and lover who has drag aspirations. During the Hedwig tour in 2016, Hall stepped into the titular role for several performances, adding a different kind of queer energy to the role created and performed by John Cameron Mitchell and played by Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, Taye Diggs, and Darren Criss on Broadway.
Heading into Pride Month in May, Hall spoke about what her queer fans mean to her.
“It’s just like family. I grew up in a very LGBTQ world, I grew up in the ballet world,” Hall said of her San Francisco upbringing. “I was always around this family.”
And Watch other episodes of Inside With the Advocate, which features an array of virtual stories with LGBTQ+ artists, trailblazers, and allies including Rosie O'Donnell, Emily Hampshire, Harvey Guillén, Ross Mathews, Kalen Allen, Sherry Cola, Fortune Feimster, Brandy Norwood, Bruce Richman, Tonatiuh, Josh Thomas, Ser Anzoategui, the Indigo Girls, Sara Benincasa, Dustin Lance Black, Alphonso David, Jonica "Jojo" Gibbs, and Mary Lambert.