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The Tenderness of Trace Lysette

The Tenderness of Trace Lysette

Trace Lysette
Getty Images

The trans actress opens up about playing a sex worker in Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart

Photo: Getty

From the creative minds of Seth MacFarlane and Jonathan Ames, creator of HBO's Bored to Death, comes Blunt Talk, a raunchy, new comedy starring Patrick Stewart as a misguided anchor with lofty aspirations of conquering the news.

While all the attention on the former Star Trek actor, who is seen snorting cocaine and getting whipped by his "manservant" in the first episode, it is transgender actress Trace Lysette (yoga instructor Shea on Transparent) who adds an unexpected levity in a recurring role of Gisele on the Starz series.

At first glance, playing a hired sex worker might seem like another trope designed to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of transgender people seen on TV. However, Lysette assures that part will showcase "a more humane side to sex work," revealing that Ames rewrote the part to make it more sensitive. "It's a more accurate representation," she says.

"I feel there's a huge stigma around 'survival sex work' and what trans women engage in," says Lysette. "This showed a sweeter side to the sex work industry."

She mentions seeing Tangerine, the indie film that tackles trans prostitution in L.A.'s underbelly, earlier this summer and what it meant to see Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez featured so prominently. "It was beautiful that we got to see trans women in leading roles and was unprecedented," she says. "That in itself was a victory. I think we're slowly getting to a place where we need to be for visibility."

Given the role of Gisele, Lysette does get topless when Stewart's character attempts to hire her for the night. Easily a raunchy moment, it stays tempered. "The biggest concern for me was that the tenderness stayed intact," she explains of the on-screen moment, which happens to be her first nude scene. "Who better to be my first than Patrick Stewart? I'm thankful that it was classy and sweet."

Of course filming was a little more awkward, revealing that the director kept yelling at Stewart to put his face closer to her breast. "He was already within a millimeter of my boobs," Lysette recalls and yet Stewart was instructed that he had to get closer. "Patrick said, 'He wants us to get closer? I don't know what he's talking about.' And we started laughing."

Blunt Talk premieres Aug. 22 at 9 P.M. ET on Starz. Watch the trailer below:

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