Alexandra Grey is the trans actress taking over fall TV

Alexandra Grey, a 25-year-old up-and-coming actress who is also trans, will be appearing all over your TV screens throughout the 2016 - 2017 season. After her breakout turn as Elizah in the first episode of Transparent's new season, Grey has landed roles on several other high-profile series.

Tune in tonight to see Grey play a patient on CBS' Code Black, and then again on Thursday when she starts her recurring role on NBC's Chicago Med. Next week, on October 11, Grey will play revolutionary transgender trailblazer Marsha P. Johnson in an episode of Comedy Central's Drunk History, with Transparent co-star Trace Lysette. In 2017, viewers will be able to see Grey alongside Phylicia Rashad and Michael K. Williams in Dustin Lance Black's ABC miniseries When We Rise, and she'll also guest star on CBS' Doubt, with Laverne Cox.

GLAAD caught up with the star, who is on her way to Pittsburgh to open for singer-songwriter Zara Larsson, to find out about her passion for acting, choosing roles that challenge her, and envisioning what the future holds for transgender actors in Hollywood.

GLAAD: You are taking over TV right now. You have a recurring role on NBC’s Chicago Med, and recent or upcoming appearances on CBS’ Code Black and Doubt, Comedy Central’s Drunk History, and on ABC’s When We Rise, and of course, your scene-stealing performance in the first episode of the new season of Amazon’s Transparent. How does it feel to be recognized and rewarded for your craft?

Alexandra Grey: Well, it's an honor really! I love doing this! It's always been a dream of mine to be a big TV star and a recording artist, so I feel so blessed to be given the opportunity to finally share my talents with the world. I don't need any rewards, but it is nice to be seen. And aside from just me, I think it's pretty awesome to see trans representation on television. I'd almost rather say "trans folk are taking over TV" because a lot of my trans brothers and sisters like Laverne Cox, Trace Lysette, Amiyah Scott, Elliot Fletcher, Jen Richards, and others all have major roles on TV shows this fall. I'm just grateful to be a part of the movement.

G: Who was the first trans character you saw (on T.V., movie, pop culture, social media) and how did seeing that character influence you?

AG: The first trans character, hmm that's tricky because growing up in the hood, I was lucky to even see a TV, let alone something with trans content. For me it wasn't until my senior year of high school. I was watching an episode of the Tyra Banks Show and she had Isis King, a trans model, on the show. They were chatting about some surgery I had no clue about, and that was the first time I realized who I was and was struggling to be. From there, everything changed. I met Isis earlier this month and teared up letting her know that her story on Top Model played a key role in helping me realize I was transgender.

G: How did you find your passion for acting; when did you decide to become an actor?

AG: The passion for acting came from my crazy personality, and always feeling the need to quote every movie line or reality show I ever watched. I can still  hear my ex co-workers and managers from Madame Tussauds Hollywood yelling, "Shut up Alexandra!" While I always wanted to be a singer, people would say to me "Girl give it a rest, you're a much better actor." So in 2011 when I found myself homeless in Chicago, I decided to give it a try and I got a one-way trip to Los Angeles to see if I could make my dreams a reality. I always say I knew being an actor was my destiny because the same night I landed in LA I was booked as an extra on a movie called I Do starring Glenn Gaylord and Alicia Witt. It was God's little sign saying "This is where you were meant to be."

G: You’ve talked about the struggle of playing the role of Elizah in Transparent, and how it was difficult to revisit emotions and experiences you had in the past. Do you feel that your journey as a trans person adds something to your acting?

AG: While the role of Elizah was challenging, it really was the role of my dreams. That character was me at sixteen. While I was not authentically living as trans like the brave Elizah, I was going through many of those same emotions and hardships. And yes it was somewhat difficult to revisit those past experiences because you'll never forget what you went through, but as an actor I love being challenged. When people watch me on TV I'd like for them to see the character. They can see how gorgeous I really look on red carpets! Haha! In terms of my trans journey adding something to my acting, absolutely! These are not little cute roles. They are very intense, heartfelt, and emotional. Basically you have to bring the chops! So I definitely feel like some of the experiences in my life help bring out some of the emotion I need to channel on set. I'm so thankful to my entire Transparent family for allowing me to take on Elizah!

G:  You’ve talked about wanting to play non-transgender roles. Can you tell us why this is so important that actors who happen to be trans get cast in all types of roles?

AG: Yes! I love playing trans characters, because I get to help share narratives that can bring an awareness about trans lives. I also think it's important to not be limited as an actor or entertainer. I'd love to play a single mom, or a wife, or a pastor's daughter? I believe it's great that we get to tell our own narratives. but I hope folks understand that we are talented enough to go out for other roles too. With all the controversy over casting transgender roles, I think it's really important that Hollywood realizes that trans actors are out here and deserve to be given the opportunity to show what we can do. If I can take a moment to name a few talented trans actors off-hand: Rain Valdez, Quei Tann, Wyatt Gray, Angelica Ross, Jamie Clayton, Harmony Santana, Hari Nef, Isley Reust, Scott Turner Schofield, Michelle Hendley, Sophia Gianna, Jackson Millarker, Jazzmun, Roxy Wood, Mya Taylor, Hailie Sahar, the queen Alexandra Billings, and so many more. WE'RE HERE!  =)

G: You’re also an amazing singer - I’ve seen you perform at Trans Pride L.A. a few years in a row now - would you ever consider being in a musical? Do you have a favorite musical or artist who inspires you?

AG: Amazing? Wow! Thank you. I actually just wrapped a production "Orange is the New Musical," a parody of OITNB! It was amazing! Shout out to Veronica Vasquez, Bryan Sandlin, and Jared Goode the creators, and my amazing cast which is family for life. Sadly, I don't think I'll be doing theater for a while. I really want to focus on film, TV, and a solo music career. I'd love for Ne-Yo to sign me and get me five Grammys in one night like Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones, and Alicia Keys! So be sure to have his people call my people and we can make that Trans Rock Star thing happen! I have dreams and aspirations of touring of course, after my albums hit number one. And I'd love to do a collaboration with Usher one day! I love artists like Bryson Tiller, Sia, JoJo, Kendrick Lamar, Our Lady J, Queen Bey, and Avery Wilson.

G: Thanks so much for making time to talk to us during what is such a busy and exciting time for you! 

AG: Thank you! If I could leave some last words to the world. Let's just love and respect each other. To any group of people who have it a little bit harder on this earth, know that you're loved and remember to always be who you are and follow your dreams!