Ian Harvie admits that his best takes usually are the ones where he has no idea what he is doing.
“That’s a good sign for me,” the transgender actor and standup comic says. “If I have no idea what I just did, that means I’m out of my own head and just in my own body. Plus I trust everybody in front of the camera and behind it. I’m in their hands.”
Harvie will appear in a four-episode arc on the ABC drama Mistresses. He plays Michael Hester, a wealthy financier who has just moved to Malibu and enlists April Malloy (Rochelle Aytes) to help with redesigning his lavish home. Their interest in each other becomes more than professional.
“There’s a spark between them,” Harvie says. “I mean, along comes this rich, wealthy guy taking an interest in her, making her question with each conversation if this is flirting or not.”
Harvie implies a choice on the horizon between his character and Mark Nickleby (Rob Mayes), the musician that currently has April’s heart.
“She’s questioning what kind of person she wants to be,” he says. “Does she want to be with this charming, rich financier or this relaxed, honest guy—the kind of guy she thinks she always wanted? We have a bit of a love triangle going on.”
Harvie was tight-lipped about whether he played a cisgender or transgender male character, but he did say that writers invited GLAAD into the room to look over the script and advise the cast and crew on working with a transgender actor.
“There really are not a lot of people casting trans guys in trans roles or cisgender roles,” he says. “Honestly, there are not a lot of trans roles out there. In just my opinion, if we as trans actors only play trans parts—if that’s the rule—we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face. There’s great progress in Hollywood about not just hiring trans people, but also hiring trans people who do not have to play trans roles.”
A veteran of shows such as Amazon’s “Transparent” and ABC’s sitcom “Young and Hungry,” Harvie is new to a drama like “Mistresses.” But he welcomes each new opportunity in front of the camera.
“People want to include trans people in storytelling, on every side of the camera,” he says. “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu. That’s to say, if you’re not included in that process, then you’re probably being objectified. If you are included, you’re probably being humanized.”
Still, the transition from comedy to drama can be jarring. But as television opens up more chances and challenges for transgender actors, Harvie sees a great deal of trust among showrunners.
“I can trust everybody in this process,” he says. “I tell myself, I must be able to this because all these other people think I can. Besides, you’re expected to mess up. That’s why they’re called takes.”
“Mistresses” airs Mondays 10 p.m. Eastern on ABC.