Veteran actor Patricia Clarkson thinks it’s time for her “Monica” co-star Trace Lysette to play the love interest of the “hot guys in Hollywood.”
“The next big step is to play opposite Brad Pitt,” she tells Variety. “It’s time for her to be the love interest of these stars. It’s where she belongs.”
The two actors are both on the awards circuit for the critically acclaimed drama which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last year, resulting in Lysette receiving an 11-minute standing ovation. The “Transparent” actor was the first openly transgender performer to headline a film in competition at the oldest running festival in the world. After acquiring the movie in December, IFC Films released it in theaters on May 12, 10 days after the start of the WGA strike.
Now, the poignant drama is among the first movies previously released in theaters to receive an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA allowing actors to promote specific productions. The producers of “Monica” received their approval on Aug. 18, before speaking with Variety.
From Italian director Andrea Pallaoro, “Monica” tells the story of a young trans woman (Lysette), who, after being estranged from her family, returns home to care for her dying mother (Clarkson).
Every awards season, The Little Movie That Could emerges in the race. Look at A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and the Sundance sensation “CODA” winning best picture over the past two years. There’s always lots of competition among independent films to be the one that breaks out, but the studio and filmmakers are giving “Monica” all they have.
It’s been 20 years since Clarkson received her Oscar nom for the indie dramedy “Pieces of April,” but the respected “actors’ actor” continues to take on challenging roles and complex characters across film and television, such as HBO’s “Sharp Objects” and last year’s timely drama “She Said.”
Clarkson recalls her time on the Oscars red carpet in 2004 when she competed for supporting actress, losing to Renee Zellweger (“Cold Mountain”). “I was on the red carpet at 43 years old. Everybody thought it was wild. That’s the beautiful move our industry has made. Aging in Hollywood is starting to not matter. Now, a 63-year-old…let’s hope that’s as ordinary [laughs].”
Lysette, 41, has been a rising star dating back to her breakout role as Shea in Prime Video’s groundbreaking series “Transparent” before she made her feature film debut alongside Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu in the critically acclaimed “Hustlers” (2018).
A pioneer for transgender actors, she remains one of the few to lead a feature film. For example, just five characters in 2022 movies identified as transgender, four of which appeared in Billy Eichner’s “Bros,” according the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
As intolerance and violence against the LGBTQ community continues, including the recent murder of a shop owner for flying a rainbow flag, Lysette says, “I’ve been dealing with this shit since the 90s. Fistfights were a weekly thing for me. Violence has been a steady part of my life as a trans woman. It breaks my heart.”
Clarkson adds, “No one is safe when you have people spewing the acceptance of hate. This is the rise of rage. Every young person needs to vote. We need change; the only way to change it is to rob them of their voices.”
The continuous battle can take its toll, Lysette explains.
“Sometimes I find myself needing to protect my peace. I want to post about the store owner. I want to show up for O’Shae Sibley, who we lost at a gas station in Brooklyn. In the past year, I’ve lost countless chosen family members in the ballroom community. It’s heavy for me. I have to find a balance between fighting the good fight and protecting my mental health. I’m no good to the world unless I can show up for myself,” Lysette says.