Boy Meets Girl: An Interview with Actress Michelle Hendley
‘Boy Meets Girl’ has just finished its run on the independent film circuit and after racking up an impressive amount of critical acclaim and sweeping the 2014 FilmOut Festival, this poignant movie starring transgender actress Michelle Hendley is ready to hit the big screen in early 2015.
Set in a rural Kentucky town, Robby [Michael Welch, Twilight Series] and Ricky [Michelle Hendley] have been friends since they were six years old. Now in their early twenties, Robby, the epitome of a southern Kentucky redneck car mechanic and Ricky, a cute transgender girl who works in a coffee shop, push through their mundane life’s of the rural south and lament on their limited dating possibilities.
When Francesca [Alexandra Turshen], a beautiful debutante comes back home to visit, Ricky finds herself attracted to Francesca and this forces Robby to deal with his feelings for Ricky. To complicate the story further, Francesca’s fiancé and childhood friend to Ricky, Michael [Michael Galante] returns from his tour from Afghanistan to find out to his disapproval that Ricky and Francesca have become close friends
As the story unfolds and their lives begin to intersect, the four have to deal with identity, sexuality, frustration and finally a realization of who they are and what they want out of life.
This is a sex positive love story that crosses all gender lines says Director Eric Schaeffer [If Lucy Fell, Never Again, Mind the Gap] and when most movies dealing with transgender plots are using cisgender actors; Eric has cast an unknown transwoman for the leading role.
ClaireOverThere was given access to a prerelease screening of the movie as well as an interview with the leading actress, Michelle Hendley.
Hi Michelle, it’s great to meet you. I watched ‘Boy Meets Girl’ this week and as a trans-woman I have to say, “Wow that was incredibly real.”
Claire, I’m so glad the film rang true for you! It was of the utmost importance to the ‘Boy Meets Girl’ crew to create a story that felt authentic to the trans experience.
Previous to your acting career, you had a YouTube channel where you shared your transition details; do you feel that helped you prepare to be in front of a camera as an actress?
Yes! It seems silly to think that a bunch of YouTube videos would help prepare me for my film debut, but it definitely cut my nerves in front of the camera a bit.
Boy Meets Girl is your first feature film, how did you get involved in the project?
Eric [Schaefer, the Director] found me via YouTube and told me about his project. At first I thought he was just some dude on the internet with creepy intentions, but after checking out his IMDB and Skyping with him I realized he was a real deal director. I was very excited to be a part of the movie.
How does your life compare to the main characters life? Are they similar?
There are quite a few parallels between Ricky and I. For one thing, we are both young trans women. We also come from loving and supportive communities, families, and live pretty “normal” lives. We work 9-5 jobs, cry about boys, and probably spend too much time trying on clothes and looking at ourselves in the mirror. However, Ricky carries a dark past that has made her a little more edgy/ salty than myself.
How much creative input were your able to provide to the Director in order to produce such a true-to-life character?
The story and character developments of BMG were Eric’s creations, but he and I collaborated when it came to Ricky’s character as a transwoman. Eric used my personal perspective and experiences to keep many of the issues discussed in the film authentic, and it was his attention to detail and willingness to listen to my input that made this project so amazing for me.
To what level of transphobia have you experienced in your life as compared to what your character experienced?
While I have yet to experience any physical violence because of my trans identity, I was teased and bullied in my formative years. Kids can be mean, and I think everyone faces some discrimination/ bullying growing up. I was just targeted for being very feminine. Nowadays I don’t really deal with petty teasing but there are individuals who simply refuse to accept me (or any trans person) for who/ what I am. I do not give these sorts of people much mind though, to be honest. I don’t have time for all that negativity.
Although I imagine it [the tears] was part of the script, but when Robby said that you “aren’t really anything, not a boy, not a girl…” Did this trigger any emotions making the tears, and the emotional response, real?
Absolutely. This was by far one of the more challenging scenes for me. Eric needed me to break down and really feel the words Robby was saying to me, and at first all I could do was laugh! It was very difficult for me to open myself to hear something so deeply hurtful – something I personally never let myself believe over the years. My defense mechanism was to laugh and make light of it, but after so many reads of “you aren’t anything” I finally caved and the tears came in torrents. It was rough, dark, vaguely spiritual, and I slept HARD that night haha.
The final nude scene did not feel gratuitous and it fit in to the story line well, how did you feel about being asked to do full frontal nudity and ultimately, how easy or difficult was it to do?
I am so, so happy that the nude scene has been received so well, and not as some gratuitous, shock-value, sleaze shot. Eric let me know about the scene very early on (maybe within the first couple email exchanges, now that I think about it), and I was all for it from the get-go. I think there is a lot of mystery associated with trans bodies. The general public does not understand what it is to be a transgender person, and our bodies are often fetishized as something taboo and strictly sexual. It was important to treat this scene delicately, and I want audiences to see a trans body for what it is. It’s not monstrous, it’s not threatening anyone, it’s just there and it’s mine and it’s beautiful.
This is really just a classic love story told through the eyes of a group of twenty-something’s, do you feel that it will [or could] resonate across all audiences?
I know that it can. Like you said, this story has been told before, but what’s different is that it is being told through the perspective of a transgender woman. All the themes of attraction, sex, and romance are there with a few new conversations about identity, sexuality, and being yourself.
How do you feel about roles like Maura [Jeffery Tambor] in Transparent or Rayon [Jared Leto] in Dallas Buyers Club going to cisgender actors?
I’m happy to see fabulous cisgender actors bringing visibility to trans issues, but I will be happier when I get to see those roles played by fabulous trans actors. Works like ‘Transparent’ and ‘Dallas Buyer’s Club’ are helping more than they are hurting (in my opinion), but as long as my community is being represented by cisgender people there is more work to be done.
How did it feel to win ‘Best New Actress in a Feature Film’ at the 2014 FilmOut Festival?
Unreal. Humbling. Ridiculous, maybe?! But absolutely incredible. It’s motivating, really. I never knew that I had some acting ability, but recognition like this is so validating. Also, to know that I have contributed something worthwhile to my community and the trans rights movement is spectacular.
Are you working on anything now?
I am working on a lot of things actually. Auditions, my current jobs as a hairstylist and pizza delivery driver. It’s a crazy busy time for me, and I know the hours of lost sleep are going to pay off. I hope you’ll see more of me soon!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with ClaireOverThere, it was really an amazing performance and I wish you all the best for your future projects.
Claire, thank YOU! Loved your questions, and I hope we get to do this again sometime. 😀
‘Boy Meets Girl’ is a funny, warm, romantic comedy that addresses love, life, sexuality, identity, friendship and above all, how important it is to have the courage to chase your dreams and live your life without boundaries.
‘Boy Meets Girl’ opens in select major markets in February of 2015.