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Alexandra Billings Talks Playing Transgender Mafiosa in Broadway's ‘The Nap’

Alexandra Billings Talks Playing Transgender Mafiosa in Broadway's ‘The Nap’

Alexandra Billings on Playing Transgender Mafiosa on Broadway Play ‘The Nap’

The Transparent star talks the evolution of her career as a trans actress, and how it's all culminated with playing the iconic role of transgender mobster Waxy Bush on Broadway.

Dressed in a white 80s power suit, Alexandra Billings, or rather her character, Waxy Bush, bursts through the stage doors looking like a malevolent angel. Immediately, the audience goes wild. The juxtaposition of this beautiful, badass woman -- reminiscent of Marlon Brando in The Godfather and Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada -- stepping into such a dump of an institution is hilarious.

While The Nap, which explores the surprising underbelly of champion snooker, may be Alexandra's (who goes by Alex) first Broadway play, she is no stranger to the theater. The transgender actress, best known for her role of Davina on Transparent, has been performing on stage in Chicago and in TV/films for decades.

Still, at the age of 56, she didn't think she was going to make it to her Broadway debut. "I thought I was going to die and just faint from the thought of being up there."

Alex's wife is the one who calmed her down. "She said to me, 'Once you get into the theater, you'll remember what home feels like.' She was right. I'm nervous, frightened, and excited but that's true of everything that I do."

"But when I come into this space" she continued, "It's very sacred for me. I realize this is where I'm belong because I'm with my people."

Prior to her work in film and TV, Alex hadn't played many transgender characters. "That only happened when I got to Hollywood."

She started playing numerous trans characters who were in terrible peril. "Either they were dying, or they were preparing to die, or they were in the hospital waiting for someone else to die."

She told her manager she's done being in the hospital, and she's not playing any more murderers. After that decision, she didn't work for three years. It wasn't until Transparent where things started to change.

Thenap0093r"I love playing trans characters but I never made a career out of it, so this is new for me, but I absolutely love it."

Her character in The Nap, Waxy Bush, was given the name once the mafiosa transitioned. Waxy is without a doubt the most dynamic and fun character Alex has played to date.

"It's so stupid," she said, unable to control her laughter, "[Playing her] is the most fun ever on the planet of fun."

For her character study, she watched Marlon Brando in The Godfather and "was fascinated by how happy he was. It's strange to think because he's so evil, but he's also happy."

You can see the joy in Waxy despite her affinity for evil. She has fun doing bad things while looking fabulous in her lounging pajamas and power suits.

"What they've done is create not just a trans character -- but a character than happens to be trans -- and she is just so funny."

The Nap also manages to make humorous jokes about trans people (I mean her name is Waxy Bush), but in a non-offensive way.

Alex was pivotal to the show's depiction of Waxy, speaking up often to the show's writer, Richard Bean, and director, Daniel Sullivan. "Every time I did I was heard and seen and they honored what I had to say. If anything pinged me, they'd be like 'Okay! Let's take it out!'" she said while waving her arms frantically.

"So everyone was on board with trying not to cross any line but because it is a comedy, we can still skate that line."

Now, more than ever, Alex believes we need a Broadway play like The Nap to depict trans characters with an infusion of comedy.

"We're bombarded with this administration and the man who's pretending to be president, which is what I call him, and he has entered us all into an age of unkindness and lack of empathy, where that is really the norm."

"So these kind of plays that allow you to laugh for two and a half hours is more important than ever. And all of these people who have never seen a trans person before are looking at me and leaving the theater and thinking, 'Well, that wasn't weird.' So we're having some kind of conversation with people that never would have been reached before. And we're doing it through the lens of comedy. What better way is there?"

"Come see the show," Alex concluded, "to not only have a good time, but to have a conversation about something you wouldn't have necessary spoken about."

The Nap is currently running at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. You can purchase tickets here.

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