Trace Lysette on ‘Colors of Ava,’ ‘Transparent,’ ‘Hustlers,’ and more

Trace Lysette is one of the most promising and talented trans actresses in Hollywood these days, and in 2019 she’s gearing up to break out even further. With a number of projects in various states of production, it’s hard to keep up with everything she’s got on her plate.

GLAAD caught up with her while she’s in New York City shooting season two of FX’s Pose, to find out more about the films and series she’s got in the works.

Trace, give us an update on what’s going on with your career?
I’m doing my best to stay in gratitude and just keep the ball rolling. It has been a challenge but I’m feeling optimistic about where the industry is headed in terms of inclusion. I’m here, I’m prepared, and I’m in it for the long haul. I know whatever I and other trans actors achieve will open more doors. I saw it happen with Transparent and I am encouraged by all of the new projects that are coming about. I know good things are around the corner.

Where will be able to see you on screen in the coming year?
The Transparent finale will be out in the fall. I’m so excited about it because it’s really the closure that we and I think the fans also needed. It’s brilliant. It’s nothing like what I expected but it’s brilliant. We had a rough year with all that happened but we all came back together like a family, to create this gift to the world, on a show that achieved so much. The musical numbers are amazing. Also Hustlers, David Makes Man, and Season 2 of Pose.

What’s the latest with your film Colors of Ava and when does it plan to go into production?
I’m so very passionate about that film. It’s a beautiful and personal script. We aim to shoot late Summer / Fall, and are currently working to finalize the casting and financing. We are still searching for a few equity partners who believe in this project as much as we do and who can step up to the plate and help us get this film made. Anyone interested in learning more can contact our producer Julie Christeas at Tandem Pictures.

It’s so rare that we see authentic trans love stories depicted on the big screen – could you remind us about the film? (for anyone who hasn’t heard about it previously)
Colors of Ava is a love story at its core. But it centers on Ava, trans woman who is independent and has lived a full life and is in the process of writing a memoir when a certain someone comes into her life. I think it explores universal themes regarding what we all are willing to negotiate or not negotiate for love.

Why is this film important to you?
It’s important for a number of reasons but most of all because it will let the masses see what a hetero trans woman has to go through in order to find love with a cis hetero man. What dating across community lines is like and all of the hurdles we and they must overcome — all while not losing yourself and remembering your worth. By and large, I would say that most straight trans women learn to navigate life alone, without a partner.

How has it been developing the character?
She’s very close to me. So much of her is already there, in my past, my 20s etc. When we start production I’ll dive in deeper so it’s fresh. I’ll also figure out more of her shell with the hair and makeup team but I prefer to be collaborative with the rest of the team when the time calls for that.

Did you draw from personal experience?
Wayne Mahon wrote a beautiful script and I do believe it’s semi-autobiographical. It was really important to our director Sam McConnell to center the film on Ava’s story, so when Rain Valdez and I signed on as actors and producers, we all went through the script to try and shift the gaze a bit to more of what Ava would be seeing, experiencing, and focusing on. Wayne and Sam were welcoming and open, so it all worked out wonderfully. When it comes to playing Ava, yes of course personal experiences usually come into play, but I do my best to find the truth of what the character is feeling. That’s what’s most important. How I get there is my own process and every actor is different.

Trace_Lysette.jpgWhat can you tell us about the Transparent musical episode series finale? Will we hear you sing?
My first thought was, ‘What? A musical?!...’ but then when we got into production I was like ‘Wow... this is really dope.’ The musical numbers are incredible. I hope it becomes a classic and stands on its own. I don’t have any solo songs unfortunately, but I do sing in the ensemble a bit. Also you will see Shea address the road trip gone awry in Season 3.

And what’s the status of the movie Hustlers that you’re doing with J.Lo about performers at Scores during the last financial collapse? You worked there yourself back in the day — what was that like?
is in production. The script by Lorene Scafaria is based on an article titled “The Hustlers at Scores” and it’s really good. My friend and writing partner Devere Rogers stumbled upon the article and sent it to me. He said something like, “OMFG they are making a movie about Scores, you HAVE to be in this, tell your people this HAS to happen!” And so, of course, I read the article and told my team about the project. But I didn’t want to leave it up to traditional Hollywood channels. Sometimes things are just too personal to leave up to conventional methods, so I sent a tweet out to the universe to whoever would listen. I offered my support in whatever way to Lorene Scafaria and the Twitterverse. I explained that I worked there (among other clubs) for 8+ yrs and I was there during the years the film was focusing on. I remember the financial collapse, the police raids, the hustle within the hustle. The good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. Long story short, Lorene saw my tweet and we followed each other, then she dm’d me and asked me to lunch. We hit it off and that set the ball in motion. I’m really excited to work with her. Also J.Lo to me is such a force and the definition of a self-made woman. Cardi as well. I relate to that and I know this is right where I’m supposed to be. I’m grateful.

Is it true that we’ll also see you in Tarrell Alvin McCraney’s new OWN series, David Makes Man, later this year? What can we expect from that performance?
Yes. I adore Tarell and his work so much. But beyond that he is my friend. We met at the Spirit Awards a couple years ago right before Moonlight went on its winning streak. We clicked instantly. He had a familiar vibe similar to one of my best friends I grew up with and so for whatever reason I just felt fully at ease with him. Over time we became closer and I was completely blindsided when he said he wrote me a role. He was so nonchalant when he told me. Almost like it was just a given that he would look out for me or something, it’s hard to explain. He’s more of an action taker that someone who is just a talker. He’s a real one, as we say. No funny business, just solid genuine talent and heart. My character’s name is Femi, she’s a den mother of sorts. She’s tough. I got to tap into more of my roots and my bold unrefined side that I sometimes hide for Hollywierd. It was refreshing to be more of myself. I had the best time shooting David Makes Man. That show, cast, and crew are so incredible. I can’t wait for the world to experience it. It’s such an important story too.

Photo by Luke Fontana.