Among Netflix’s many treasures is the series Trinkets, about three teen girls who meet in a group for addiction to shoplifting. The show, now in its second season, is loaded with humor and heart, but it tackles tough subjects including addiction, intimate partner abuse, and racial profiling as it also revels in the joy of friendship and finding one’s tribe. It’s also a rare series that features two leads who are under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, one who is queer and plays gay and one who is nonbinary and plays cisgender. There’s also a recurring actor who is nonbinary and plays queer on the show.
Based on the book by Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, Trinkets stars out star Brianna Hildebrand (First Girl I Loved, Deadpool) as Elodie, a gay teen who moves to Portland to live with her father and stepmom after her mother’s death. She copes with loss via shoplifting and eventually meets Tabitha (nonbinary actor Quintessa Swindell, who appeared in Euphoria), and Kiana Madeira as Moe at a support group. The members of this unlikely trio eventually become each other’s support system through home life, relationships, and just trying to get through high school. Nonbinary singer and actor Kat Cunning plays Sabine, a rock star with a particularly strong gravitational pull that Elodie can’t resist for a while that becomes the bridge between the first and second seasons.
Hildebrand and Swindell spoke with Inside With the Advocate about what drew them to the series, being LGBTQ+ and affording representation for others, and, of course, friendship and chosen family. They also touched on the extraordinary collision of a global pandemic with the uprising against police brutality and systemic racism.
“The pandemic was one thing to kind of be navigating as like a first experience, and then adding on police violence throughout the country, I think that put me in a new frame of mind of really already understanding what’s important, in general, as far as pandemic-wise,” Swindell says. “Then, also then reckoning the safety of my friends and my family all across the country. And navigating that has honestly put so much into perspective.”
"Now reading the projects that come along or the people I’m having meetings with. It puts this new type of energy around everything and making me realize the type of work I want to do and the type of work I want to be responsible for and the people around me and how to advocate best for my friends who don’t necessarily have a voice or have a platform,” they say.
“It’s been a rough time. But I think it’s also been a really beautiful time of also recognizing the community that I’m in and the strength of everyone coming together and support for one another.”
Hildebrand had already starred in the queer-themed First Girl I Loved when Trinkets, from production company Awesomeness, came along. And it was a no-brainer for her to join the cast.
“I love that it follows a group of young girls and their unlikely friendships. I was excited that Elodie was gay and that the girls were all from different groups and different backgrounds, and also, the script was endearing to me. It reminds me of being in high school and how awkward that was,” she says.
The show’s queer DNA was something that really moved Hildebrand.
“It’s one of the things I loved about the show to begin with," she says, adding that when she discovered her character might be written as gay she thought, “You can probably just sign me on."
"As a young person, I really had to seek that out. I think that’s really cool that it’s just available seeing yourself on-screen. A lot of people still haven’t been seen [on screen] but we’re making really great leaps,” Hildebrand says. “It’s really important when you’re a young person and you see people like yourself, especially when you’re from a small town and you feel like there’s maybe not that many people like you around. It’s mind-boggling to me how far we’ve come.”
In terms of how Elodie, Tabitha, and Moe are able to gloss over their very different backgrounds to become buoys for one another, Hildebrand says, “Most friendships are [made of] found family.”
“There are times when you really need a support system that you can’t really find within your own family relationships. Or your family dynamic, there’s just no space for it there. I think that really becomes an issue when it turns into ‘there’s no space for me to be myself,’” she says. “It’s important that you find people to connect with. And it’s an important message that the show really hammers home. That you can find people for you anywhere. And they don’t necessarily have to be cut from the same cloth for you to open up to them or for you to find a connection.”
For Swindell, who arrived in New York City from a small town in Virginia as an actor discovering their identity, says they responded to seeing the script thinking, “This seems beautiful. Is there room for me in it? Kind of going through everything that I was at the time I was like, ‘Let me just jump into it and try and see.’” At the time they moved to New York, Swindell was really just discovering, “Oh, people like me exist. And these are the terms that they use, and I can look like this and be this and feel this way.”
“Then it just became a really beautiful process of connecting to Tabitha and wondering what of my own experience can I add in?’” they say. “And just getting really connected to, I guess, Kiwi’s voice throughout it and just the sheer visibility of all of the girls and how unique and honest its portrayal of Gen-Z currently, which I thought was really beautiful.”
While Trinkets is a rare gem with nonbinary actors, the industry still has a way to go, Swindell says.
"It’s been a learning curve entering the industry at the same time and still learning how to navigate it in a particular way,” they say. “NGC or non-gender-conforming people or nonbinary people aren’t a monolith. I think the industry is still starting to wrap their head around that too.”
“Not all nonbinary people or characters have to act a certain way, or look a certain way and be some type of androgynous, like, fairy. We are different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, colors, presentations. It’s been fascinating, but it’s getting somewhere,” Swindell says. “There are so many nonbinary actors out in the world.”
Watch Swindell and Hildebrand above. 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, Lena Hall, Mary Lambert, Elijah Mack, Rahne Jones, and Thomas Beattie.