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Transparent’s Daughter

Amy Landecker on sex scenes, binge watching and her exciting new series

On September 26, Amazon will release its latest original series, Transparent, which follows a Los Angeles family as they grapple with an array of discoveries—including the fact that their father, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is transgender, a plotline based in part of the life of creator Jill Soloway (Afternoon Delight).

Amy Landecker plays Sarah, Tambor’s character’s oldest daughter. Despite a seemingly stable marriage and carefree life as a well-off Los Angeles mom, Sarah’s struggling with her own sexual identity among any number of other issues. Here, Landecker talks about the series, why it feels important and how Soloway convinced her that on-screen nudity was a must.

So, this is a highly anticipated show you’re on. Not only is it a big new series for Amazon, it’s a big moment for trans people. How did you end up here?

I actually have a funny story, which is that I turned down the audition for the show, which is insane. I had previously done a show, which I just won’t name, where I had a really bad experience doing on-camera sex, and I just decided that I wasn’t going to do that anymore. So, the breakdown forTransparent came and it said on-set sexual nudity was required. I was given that information by my agent, and I said no thank you.

What changed?

Amazingly, miraculously, never before heard of in my career, Jill Soloway herself asked me to lunch and wanted to know why I said no.  As an actress, I audition for a bunch of stuff and don’t get it, but it occurred to me that the director was requesting me and wanted me.  So, she said she knew my work and she had a weird way of casting by intuition and some how had a vision around me. After meeting her, I was completely in. It was clear I was in very good hands and nothing was going to happen that I didn’t agree to and I’d be a moron not to take my clothes off for Jill and have sex with whomever she wants me to.

The show is getting a lot of attention not only because it’s on an exciting platform and has an exciting cast, but it’s being touted as a big moment for transgender people. Were you aware of the show being important in that way when you were filming?

Very much so. There’s something weird when the universe lines up like this because when we started, we didn’t speak about Jill’s father that much, but we knew her personal experience and that she had gone through an experience like this three years ago. And to take three years to write, develop, create, produce and put out a show, and for it to coincide coincidentally with the national movement going on around this issue, that feels divine to me.  It just feels really, really significant.

How so?

We all felt the weight of it; we all were extremely moved from day one.  We felt like we might save lives. That’s what it felt like, as if there would be a trans kid or a kid who might be questioning, living out there somewhere and being able to go on Amazon and see a human story and feel like they’re not alone. It just felt like we were going to help and actually enact change in the world.

Your character, Sarah, is seen by her siblings as having it easy and not facing the sorts of problems that they do, but for me as a viewer her problems were absolutely big and complex. Why do you think nobody gets that she’s no better off?

Thank you for understanding that! You know, I think part of it is that Sarah is the oldest, so there’s a sense of responsibility, but she has sexual identity issues that she’s working through. I think that her being the oldest and having a secret life in a sense allows her to really relate to [her father], and she understands that.  That gives her a little more weight.  I think the other two kids go through changes as it goes on and there is some maturity that goes on, but my character starts smoking pot and becoming a little immature, so it has a little bit of a shift, but I think that she has the most sort of responsibility and, therefore, the most complexity in their early sages of the series.

All the episodes for the series are being released at once. Are you yourself a binge watcher?

I am. I feel like I’m talking about the competition to say I binge watch House of Cards, but I absolutely binge watched it both seasons.  I actually like binge watching series I missed while I’m sick. Last time I had the flu, I watched like 14 hours of Scandal. Jill always says that she wants to do a binge and purge, binge and purge, and do it again.