Meet Quintessa Swindell, a non-binary actor about to take Hollywood by storm

Quintessa Swindell is only 22 years old, but they are quickly making a name for themself in Hollywood, generating a lot of buzz around their first starring role in Trinkets, an upcoming Netflix show. GLAAD sat down with Quintessa to learn more about them and how they approach playing roles as a non-binary actor.

Hi Quintessa, it's so nice to meet you! Trinkets is your first major acting gig, what can you tell us about this upcoming Netflix show and the character you play?
It's a pleasure to meet you as well! Trinkets is a fun and dynamic story about the lives of three very different young women and their experience navigating high school. I play Tabitha, the popular girl at school, whose life takes a drastic turn when Moe comes back into her life with a newfound friend Elodie.

You identify as non-binary, but your character Tabitha is cisgender, is that correct?
Yes, I identify as non-binary and gender non-conforming. But my character in Trinkets is quite different from my personal self. She is a cisgender young femme.

Is it fun for you to play a stereotypically feminine, female character?
One of the more beautiful experiences I had while shooting this season was diving back into past high school experiences and finding strength in many things I had not in the past. I found strength and resilience in fighting for Tabitha, given many of the tribulations she finds herself within this season.

Why is it important to you to talk about being non-binary right now? And what pronouns do you use?
I use they/them/theirs pronouns. I feel as though there is an absolute necessity, given the current political climate, to draw focus to the many queer communities that lack representation on television and in film. Without proper representation for queer communities, people who are exploring their identity can be pushed to the side. In my experience, if I had not moved out of my small town and found a way to be surrounded by queer peoples, I would not be who and where I am today.

Many people are still confused about what it means to have a non-binary gender identity. What would you like people to know and understand about what being non-binary means for you?
I think it's important to say that each and every queer and non-binary person is unique, and all of our experiences should be respected and celebrated in that same way. To be non-binary is to explore one's self outside of the bounds of heteronormative society. Fighting for the underrepresented is both a duty and privilege at the same time. Being where I am today, nothing means more to me than being a voice for my chosen family.

Telling the world about your gender identity can be challenging, and we often hear about the negative experiences people have to overcome. Do you have any positive experiences you can share about how people have reacted to you telling them you are non-binary?
Yes. When I first began seeing my current partner, I was very reluctant about voicing my gender identity. However as months went by and I began to grow increasingly comfortable I mentioned one night that on some days I don't feel like a girl. That I feel like I'm trying to understand and explain how I want to be identified, gender-wise. His response was welcoming and loving, and I wondered why I hadn't mentioned it earlier to him. It was like he knew the entire time, and he was supportive from day one.

Are there other non-binary actors working in Hollywood that you look to as possibility models for your career?
There are an amazing group of non-binary actors and trans people within the film and TV industry that inspire me daily. To continue working on my craft and contribute to their work as a whole is what I look forward to the most. We're one family and our work together will undoubtedly change the the industry in the future!.

Would you like to play a trans or non-binary role in the future?
Absolutely! I would love to bring my life experiences onto set in all aspects. Representation is one of the most important aspects of one's coming-of-age, and to think that someone, somewhere, struggling with what I have dealt with, may see my work and be inspired is the goal of my career.

Is there anything you'd like casting directors to know about non-binary actors who are out there looking for work?
That we all bring different things to the table, some of us are more femme-presenting and are non-binary, some are more masculine-presenting and non-binary. We are a very diverse group!

What would be your dream role?
If she would allow it, I would deeply love to play Angela Davis in a biopic about her life and struggles during the 70s Civil Rights movement.

Have you got other projects coming up that we can look forward to seeing you in?
I do -- but I can't talk about them just yet!! :)

Check out Trinkets on Netflix, coming soon!