Shakina Nayfack has been stealing scenes in just about every project she's been involved in, and now she's taking her talents to new heights, becoming the first out trans actor to star in a network comedy. The actress and comedian plays Ellis, a trans woman who loses her job at the beginning of quarantine, on NBC's new social distancing sitcom Connecting...
Connecting... follows a group of friends trying to stay sane and stay in contact during the coronavirus lockdown, with the pilot taking place in March of this year. Nayfack talked with Passport Magazine about the show and her role. She says she knows it's a huge moment for her, but "it feels more like a win for the community," she says. "It feels like a victory for the collective siblinghood of trans people everywhere."
When it comes to lifting up other members of the community, Nayfack isn't just talk. When she was cast in the role, the character wasn't originally written as trans, but with her onboard, the show hired a trans writer. "So we had a trans person in the writing room, which also helped really bring authenticity to the story," Nayfack told the magazine, "that's the kind of stuff that really makes a huge difference.
You might recognize Nayfack from her role as Ava in last year's musical finale of Transparent. Or maybe from her standout role as a downright awful trans woman named Lola in Hulu's series Difficult People, where she also worked as a writing consultant. She also made headlines as the first trans actor to be the voice of Hana, a trans woman character in the English dub of the movie Tokyo Godfathers.
She says adjusting to filming during quarantine was an adventure, but a fun one. "The entire cast and crew had a big zoom call, which was used as a big feed for our cameras," she said. "We would shoot into one of the phone's cameras, and the director and DP were watching us, giving us feedback from another. They would tell us how to change our sitting positions or to move around objects in our apartments, it was crazy!" She says each actor basically had to be their own cameraperson, "it was such a unique experience."
When asked what she hopes audiences will take from seeing her on the show, Nayfack said that she hopes people feel less isolated. "I hope they can see a bit of themselves or their friends in us," she said, "and I hope they can feel their own experiences of the trials and triumphs of 2020 are valid from watching us.
Connecting... premieres tonight, Thursday, October 8th at 8pm ET on NBC.