Actor Theo Germaine, 28, is best known for playing James Sullivan, the high school student who turns into a wily campaign consultant in Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series The Politician. Despite being a role intended for a male trans, the plot does not focus on the character’s sex, and it is refreshing to see something similar on the screen. Having said that, Germaine, who first tried to be a female then spent the last teenage years as a male to finally decide “fuck this stuff” and identify with the non-binary genre, would like to see more significant changes in the film industry. : “You know, being limited to playing just a few select transgender characters that Hollywood deems acceptable to bring to the screen isn’t exciting,” he says. “I want me and all my friends to be given the same opportunities as white male actors cisgender (the term cisgender is the opposite of transgender, so it means person who accepts the sex with which he was born, ed). ” With the second season of The Politician Having recently landed on Netflix, we met the actor via Zoom to discuss how it was growing surrounded by Eurocentric beauty standards and how since then you have been trying to dismantle them.
How old were you when you started getting interested in your appearance?
“I have always been a person who likes to express himself through the look, be it makeup or disguises. The first type of make-up I started having fun with was face painting. I liked to use my face as a canvas and make it look like an animal or something.
“As I developed my understanding of genres, I was like ‘I would say I feel like a boy, but I also really like to dress like a princess.” But then I started asking myself questions. I tried to push them away for a while around 12, 13 years old. I made great efforts to insert myself among the popular girls at school, looking at what they wore and what kind of cosmetics they used, but then I said to myself ‘It doesn’t work. I like it as a mask, but it’s not me “.”
How has growing up in the Midwest affected your concept of beauty?
“I grew up in central Illinois, in a tiny village. There was practically no diversity there, only very rigid gender roles and Eurocentric beauty standards. So my idea of beauty was formed in the midst of these stereotypes from which I then had to free myself.
Beauty relies heavily on binary genres. It must have been very difficult for you …
“You have to learn a lot to not listen to others when it comes to what is beautiful. Having grown up with these rigid gender roles, when I was 18 or 19 my coming-out process consisted of changing myself in the opposite direction to insert myself in this other part of society. So I started avoiding certain things, like putting on makeup or wearing bright colors. During this process, I was like ‘Yes, I am definitely a boy, I use male pronouns, nothing else’. At the time I still felt in the middle, but there was little space in the world for those who felt this way. The workplaces I was part of were very masculine, aroused my fear and therefore I tried to amalgamate myself. Then at some point, when I was around 22, I just stopped. I said to myself, ‘I will do what I want and I hope others will do the same’. “
Do you think make-up should be associated with gender?
“Much of this stuff is built. I started by asking myself ‘Why are there these rules? What story do they have? ’Because many of these stereotypes are based on Eurocentric standards, and this is truly racist. As a company, I hope for a strong push to question things. But I’m afraid it won’t be there because there are so many people working to legitimize them. Many would be afraid if they suddenly heard themselves saying ‘This does not mean that you are male and this does not mean that you are female’. But it doesn’t mean trying to make everyone gender-neutral, because I think everyone’s gender is personal. “
Theo Germaine as James Sullivan in The Politician.
© Photography Getty Images
What do you think the beauty industry can do to help break down some of these rigid stereotypes?
“I think it would be fantastic if we lived in a society where advertising and make-up brands conveyed a message like” Hey, anyone who wants to wear this trick and feel good about using it, go and buy it. ” Beauty companies make a lot of money with gender stereotypes, saying “Hey, you’re a woman, you need this product to be beautiful.” But it’s not true. Buy it only if it makes you feel good. Because the main motivation for wearing makeup is that it is fun. They also put a lot of pressure on males, because those who wear makeup are considered gay or non-virile. “
How do these gender stereotypes affect your acting career, where do you have to ‘look right’?
“In my experience, casting directors are more likely to say, ‘This trans is not good’ or ‘I can’t imagine this person in this role.’ It is a huge disadvantage. If I go to an audition where, say, they are looking for a white male of this age, I will probably be one of the few non-cisgenders who show up. Which automatically makes me a potential wild card. The casting manager sometimes doesn’t even know whether to put me on the audition list. So I know I have less chance than most people because of gender stereotypes. But this is part of a larger discussion. In Hollywood, there is so much pressure to have a certain aspect that there are a lot of actors who are not taken into consideration because we are too obsessed with beauty and / or because we are a racist society. Even though I have to face many challenges in the industry, being white saves me many. So we have a lot of work to do on this front. ”
Are things changing?
“I think they are changing, yes. I don’t think someone like me or many of my fellow actors would have appeared on television just five years ago. So there are some small victories, but overall it’s a very slow-moving money-driven freighter. “
What I found brilliant in The Politician is that even though James Sullivan is a part specifically intended for a trans male, the genre of the character is never mentioned. Is this the type of role that is good for you to continue playing or do you want to play cisgender male characters?
“There are a lot of roles that I would like to do and which are traditionally entrusted to cisgender types with a very specific aspect. I want to do science fiction; I want to do action; I want to do Marvels. And there are so many talented actors who don’t make them because they don’t look right. And do you know what? To hell with this bullshit! “
© Photography Netflix
What can we expect from James in the second season?
“I don’t know what I can say, but he’s still in school. It is very fast and I think there are some things that he is not yet ready to face. Maybe he’s a little prisoner of some of his old habits. There are some aspects in which it must grow. “
What do you hope for the film industry and for the world in general?
“I want to fight for more opportunities in the cinema. There is a great need for change. I think it will take a lot of new people to make their voices heard; I think so many people who felt comfortable should start to feel uncomfortable. I also hope that there is a real increase in art in general, because there are a lot of limitations there. And this can extend to the world, in the sense that there are so many things that we accept, and it’s really scary to find yourself saying, ‘Cabbage, this isn’t good enough.’ But I hope people will take more risks and start talking openly about things. “
You can watch the second season of The Politician on Netflix.