Trace Lysette on Her ‘Monica’ Moment and Leading Lady Status
Author: Mey Rude
Trace Lysette knows how powerful a good relationship with your mother can be. When she came out in the ’90s, most parents lacked the resources and information to know how to support a trans child.
“There wasn’t much out there on transness back then except for these awful talk shows and whatever kind of representation we had back then,” Lysette says of her childhood. “And so you can imagine how that would inform the minds of our parents like, ‘what does that mean for their baby’ and ‘what kind of life is that for their baby?’”
Thankfully, now, she and her mother are in a great place and she says she “loves her more than anything in this universe.”
But for many trans adults, that relationship with their parents never healed. This conflict is at the center of Monica, directed by Andrea Pallaoro and one of the most talked-about movies of the spring.
With fans including Sarah Paulson, Mae Martin, and Whoopi Goldberg, Monica moved trans and cis audiences with its powerful performances and emotional message of a family healing decades-old wounds.
Lysette’s performance as a daughter who returns home 20 years after being kicked out to help her ailing mother, played by Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, has been widely praised as one of the best of the year. Critics are calling it “must-see,” “stunning,” and “commanding,” and she’s an early award contender.
When she accepted the role, Lysette felt the weight of it. She knows that it’s extremely rare for a trans actor to get the chance to play a title character in a movie.
“I knew the responsibility was going to be a lot, but I’ve had a pretty hard won career to this point, and I knew if I got the shot to play her, I was ready,” says Lysette, a veteran of much-loved projects, like TV’s Transparent and the 2019 film Hustlers.
Apart from being the center of the story, Lysette knew that Monica’s story was also one that would powerfully resonate with a lot of people.
“She’s so many trans women that I know, including myself and the struggles that she’s had and how she stays afloat and the riff with her biological family and finding her footing in this world that constantly tells us that we’re not supposed to be here. At least that’s how it feels sometimes,” she says.
Courtesy IFC Films
Monica isn’t just one of the most moving movies with one of the best performances of the year, it’s also one of the most timely and needed films of 2023.
Conservatives are once again aiming their targets on the queer community, referring to trans girls and women as monsters and predators, and pitting parents against their gender-nonconforming children. Prominent Republicans tell parents that your child being trans is worse than your child being dead. And millions are believing it.
Monica provides a clear response. Before recognizing Monica as her adult child, Clarkson’s character of Eugenia is drawn to the mysterious woman’s quiet and profound character. And then, when the realization quietly comes, Eugenia is able to see that beautiful human being is her daughter.
It’s such a simple message, shown in quiet, beautiful ways. It exposes how shallow hatred and ignorance are. Once Eugenia no longer is beholden to the fear she had around the word “trans,” she can see her daughter, and connect with her in ways she never was able to before.
Monica mostly shows this connection in small, intimate moments: a glimpse of recognition while Monica helps Eugenia in the bath, the two cuddling after Monica has a difficult night out, Eugenia placing Monica’s hand on her shoulder in a family photo.
“It’s almost like they need to see it to believe it, because there’s this disconnect with our humanity,” Lysette says of her hopes for cis viewers of the movie. “And I think the only way for the naysayers and for the people who don’t quite get us, is to see themselves in us. And I think that bonding with your mother on screen is something that everyone can identify with or want to identify with. And it says more than words can say. So those moments are deeply powerful.”
While an indie drama shot in a square aspect ratio from an Italian director might not seem like everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, Lysette wants audiences to open their minds, especially when there’s so much media sending the message that trans people are not human.
“I would say to go out of your comfort zone. Give it a shot,” she says. “It’s a good movie to see by yourself even because it’s so delicate and quiet. It’s a perfect movie to just go solo if you want to. And it’s such a timely piece of art for trans people, for the world right now with all that we’re going through with the legislation and whatnot.”
“I hope that this film prompts [audiences] to maybe have conversations in their own lives with family members that they might need to reconnect with or conversations in their own lives about trans people and what we’re capable of,” she continues.
Monica is getting early awards buzz, but Lysette isn’t letting it get to her head. In fact, she has much more modest dreams for what the role could get her. As a working trans actor, she still doesn’t have job security.
“That would feel incredible, and I try not to dream too much about all of that,” she says of a potential Oscar nomination. “I let myself dream a little bit, because I think part of manifestation is knowing that you’ve done the work and that maybe I should be definitely in the awards conversation. And I’m so grateful that that has already happened a little bit, but at the end of the day, I really just want to keep working.”
“I just try to stay up. I try to stay in the light and know that abundance is coming,” she continues. “And once it gets out to the world, people will see that, ‘Okay, she is a serious actress. She’s a leading lady. She’s not just a trans actor. She is the leading lady and she does good work.’”
In Monica, Lysette certainly proves that. Now, it’s up to Hollywood to step up.
Monica is out now, in cities across the country.
Monica – Official Trailer | HD | IFC Filmsyoutu.be
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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Mey Rude