Trace Lysette and Patricia Clarkson recently sat down with Variety for an exclusive interview, shedding light on the highly anticipated film “Monica.” Directed by Andrea Pallaoro and co-written by Orlando Tirado, this poignant drama had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. They discussed the film’s captivating storyline, with Trace Lysette taking on the lead role as a woman who bravely confronts her past traumas upon reconnecting with her estranged mother (Patricia Clarkson) and the rest of her family, marking her first encounter with them since transitioning.
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Lysette and Clarkson have gone to great lengths to promote “Monica” and they expressed their deep affection for the film and emphasized its significance. Lysette organized a GoFundMe campaign to hire a publicist, they also reached out to their connections in the industry, including stylists, hair and makeup artists, and received assistance from organizations like Women in Film and PFLAG. Additionally, influential figures such as Laverne Cox and Tarell Alvin McCraney have shown their support. Lysette expressed her gratitude for the unwavering support of her friends, stating, “I am moved to tears when I think about how my friends have stood by me. It is their support that has brought us to this point, because Patti and I have been persistent, and these individuals genuinely care about the film.”
Lysette proceeded to discuss the film’s audition process and her relentless determination to secure the lead role. She revealed, “They made me audition a lot, which was fine. I knew she was worth fighting for. I first got the script in December of 2016. I auditioned and would check back in, and I heard they liked me but were still auditioning all over the world. I did multiple rounds of self-taping and went in person. It was extensive.”
The movie was produced on a tight schedule and limited budget, which required close collaboration between the actors and director Andrea Pallaoro to develop the characters. Lysette mentioned, “They did ask for a round of notes, which I gladly gave, and a lot of them got incorporated into the script. It was a constant dialogue on set with me and Patti and Andrea, and that’s the best way to work, when it feels collaborative. I always want to just take direction and make the director happy. But I really appreciated the gentleness of Andrea and the fact that he cared what we thought, and that he gave us room to play, and let it be organic.”
Clarkson and Lysette have been receiving letters of appreciation from fans all over the world since the film was released. Clarkson shared, “I’ve gotten some of the most beautiful messages of my career after seeing this film. Many of my friends couldn’t even get out of their seat after the New York premiere, they just were so knocked out about this movie and Trace. At 63, it’s rare to be proud of things but this film has filled me with — no pun intended — a lot of pride.”
Lysette proceeded to discuss her journey following the film’s release and her aspiration to create opportunities for fellow transgender women. She shared, “It’s been an endless stream of beautifully written notes, over social media and in person. Specifically from transsexual women who have felt so invisible for so long. I think it gets amplified by all of the legislation that’s been introduced this year — over 500 bills trying to make our lives harder. The violence that we endure every day when we go out into the world. I think about my younger self, that little queen on the playground who took the insults and the fists and how many other little queens are out there. And all the queer kids who are still enduring that for being different. And I see it reflected back in the messages I get about how important it is for our stories to be told and how important it is for us to not just survive but thrive. Not just to exist, but to have an actual seat at the table. And understand that if you’re lucky enough to get through the door, you have got to make sure that others get through the door, too. And that’s kind of like my life’s work in a nutshell. So yes, I’ve been overwhelmed by the heartfelt messages.”
Check out the full interview here. Monica is available on Amazon Prime Video, AMC+ and Apple TV.