Trace Lysette never set out to be groundbreaking, which just makes her groundbreaking-ness that much more radical. "I try to stay away from too many expectations," admits the actress and activist, "and I try to just lean into whatever the universe is bringing to me."
Which is how Lysette ended up coming out publicly as trans through her breakthrough role on the Emmy-winning series, Transparent. As the show neared its end, she landed a role opposite Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers, a crime comedy-drama about scamming strippers. "I have done a little bit of comedy on Transparent. I did some drama on Transparent. I've played a witch. I've played a sex worker I don't know how many times now."
In Italian filmmaker Andrea Pallaoro's new drama Monica, Lysette finally takes center stage, playing a trans woman who returns home after many years to reconnect with her ailing mother. When the film premiered during the 79th Venice Film Festival, Lysette made history as the first trans actress to ever lead a film in competition. "The cool thing about Monica is that she's this fully three-dimensional human being. She's not a trope," Lysette says. "This was a special one."
So, what comes next for the newly-minted leading lady? "I am open to whatever," she says. "I think comedy and joy is something I would love more of in my career, but I welcome all of it. That's the most beautiful thing about being an actor, is that no two jobs are really the same, and you just get to keep evolving."
Below, Lysette shares with A.frame her five favorite films. "It was really hard," she exclaims. "On any given day, these five will probably change."
Directed by: Henrique Goldman | Written by: Henrique Goldman and Ellis Freeman
My No. 1 is Princesa, which is an Italian film starring Ingrid de Souza. My friend Danna Davis, who is also best friends with Candis Cayne, used to cut my hair at Patricia Field's in SoHo, and she told me about it as she was cutting my hair. So, I went to TLA Video on 8th Street, found it, and rented it.
It came out in the early 2000s, and it was the first time I ever saw a transsexual actress leading a feature film, with other trans women in the supporting cast. It's kind of a somber film, but I felt like it was very true to life, and I deeply identified with it. It rocked my world.
Directed by: Penny Marshall | Written by: Morgan Ward
Oh my God, I love that movie, because I grew up with a single, working mother. Drew Barrymore was incredible in that film. It was beautiful and funny and all the things to me, that slice of life. I haven't seen it in a while, so I should go back and watch it. But I adore Drew and I adore that film. It's been a favorite of mine for a long time.
Directed by: Michel Gondry | Written by: Charlie Kaufman
A beautiful love story with a little sci-fi twist. And Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey are amazing. I would love to do something really out there like that. I think, in a way, that was kind of like a precursor to Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Directed by: Tim Burton | Written by: John August
Tim Burton's Big Fish is a wonderful life story, and it's also kind of out there.
Directed by: Robert Townsend | Written by: Dee LaDuke and Mark Alton Brown
I love Jackie's Back! with Jenifer Lewis, which is a wacky comedy with a bunch of cameos — like Tim Curry and Whoopi Goldberg and a few other amazing people. Jackie Washington, I just fell in love with that character. She's hil-arious.