Trace Lysette is weighing in on the discourse of cis actors playing trans roles.

At the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards, which took place at the beach in Santa Monica, California on Sunday, February 25, Trace Lysette caught up with IndieWire on the “blue” carpet. The trans actress was nominated for Best Lead Performance for her performance in “Monica,” alongside fellow nominees Jessica Chastain, Greta Lee, Natalie Portman, Judy Reyes, Franz Rogowski, Andrew Scott, and Teyana Taylor — Jeffrey Wright ultimately won for “American Fiction.”

Whether it’s appropriate for cis actors to play trans roles has been a matter of increasing debate.

“Well, if all things were equal, maybe it wouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is, but all things are not equal,” Lysette told IndieWire at the Spirits’ blue carpet. “If there’s a trans role, I believe that trans actors should get first dibs.”

Jim Gaffigan Indie Spirits

Da'Vine Joy Randolph wins the award for Best Supporting Performance in "The Holdovers” at the 2024 Film Independent Spirit Awards held at the Santa Monica Pier on February 25, 2024 in Santa Monica, California.

“Because, you know, speaking as a transsexual woman, I know for a fact that a cis man could not play the same role in the same way that I could, because he hasn’t lived what I’ve lived,” she continued. “I’ve been transitioned since I was a teenager. I’ve lived longer as a woman, than I was as a little boy. It’s a very unique life experience. It’s not one that you can just go research and then play, you know. So that’s all I have to say about that.”

Lysette went on to praise Film Independent for showcasing the projects that they do. “I appreciate [them] for keeping indie film and performance-based awards alive. They seem to be kind of exempt from the money game and that means a lot to me.”

In planning for future projects, we also asked the Spirit Awards nominee who she would like to collaborate with on a future project. “The people in my category, Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Jeffrey Wright,” she said with a smile. “There’s so many. I just want to work with people who want to work with me. I try to go wherever the love is, so wherever that is.”

In IndieWire’s review of “Monica,” Jude Dry wrote that “Lysette is the canvas, brush, and paint that makes ‘Monica’ shine. Stunning to watch and radiating great depth, she carries the film with a graceful dignity.” The film premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival and was picked up by IFC Films for a May 2023 release. It is currently nominated for Outstanding Film – Limited Release at the GLAAD Media Awards, taking place next month.

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