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Felicity Huffman Talks About "Transamerica"

Huffman on Researching Her Role as a Transgender Woman in "Transamerica"

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Felicity Huffman as 'Bree' in "Transamerica"

© The Weinstein Co
"Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman plays a genetic male about to take the final step to become the woman he's always dreamed of being in "Transamerica," written and directed by Duncan Tucker and co-starring Kevin Zegers.

The film follows Bree (born Stanley) as she embarks on a cross-country journey with Toby (Zegers), the 17 year-old son she never knew she had. Afraid to let him know she's his dad, Bree pretends to be a church woman trying to set Toby on the right path. In the process of becoming acquainted with her son, Bree discovers more about herself and her family than she ever anticipated.

Felicity Huffman Explains How She Prepared to Play a Transgender Woman: “…When I got this pastry role of I’m a woman playing a man becoming a woman, I was lost. Once I understood the internal journey, which took awhile, I started reading every article I could get my hands on. I saw every documentary I could and I think I read every biography and autobiography I could find. I started going to transgender conventions because, as with any segment of society, there’s a wide spectrum and Bree was in a particular place so I wanted to see a lot of different transgender women.

I worked with two transgender women…and we did everything from just going to the house and talking with them, what’s their story like, what was it like when they told their parents, and what it was like the first time you walked out the door as a woman and what’s the operation like? What’s the hormones like? I mean, everything to going through the script page by page to make sure that they felt it was true – different than their story, but true. Then I found a coach, which was helpful, who coaches men who are becoming women because most of the time men are older. Because it’s expensive – the hormones and the sexual reassignment surgery is expensive so you have to save up money for it.

It’s such a tough choice they’re given. Either you feel alienated from yourself or you actually do it and you’re alienated from society. You’re an oddball. So who can face that choice? It usually takes until you’re a little older to go, ‘I don’t care. I have to really be who I am.’ Consequently you get 30, 40 year-old guys who go, ‘Okay, tomorrow wear a dress and go work it [laughing]. And make sure you make the colors that work well on your skin.’ How to put on makeup…it’s a whole new world, to sound like Aladdin. So she coached me as if I was new to everything, which was really helpful.

With all this, I was trying to do some voice work. One thing the hormones do not change is your voice. You can look like Kate Moss - and some of these transgender women do, they’re incredibly stealth - but you sound like James Earl Jones. They have these deep voices. There’s a lot of training out there about finding your female voice and it is in there because you don’t want to sound like Tony Curtis in ‘Some Like It Hot.’ [laughing] We don’t have the chest capacity and our head’s not big enough for the resonance, so I worked with transgender women on it. They didn’t know how to work on it backwards. And I worked with a couple voice teachers in L.A. and it sounded fake or too deep. Finally I found a woman in NY named Katie Bull and we approached the voice work in the same way I approached the acting work, which was from the inside out. So what does your voice feel like when it comes out? What does her voice express? It expresses discomfort; it expresses loneliness. It expresses self consciousness and so we kind of worked backwards and finally found it and a warm up, and that’s what we would do everyday. And I had to stay in that voice.”

Felicity Huffman Says Meeting Transgender Individuals Changed Her View of the Role of Bree: “It did. When I got the role, the transgender community was an oddity at best. Some odd little group over there that don’t quite know what they’re doing. Once I started meeting with them, talking and working with them… I really understood the heart-wrenching dilemma they’re under. Of course, I always wanted to do a decent job on the film but after getting to know that community, I was desperate not to screw it up. I’m sure there’s a better way of putting it.”

Page 2: Felicity Huffman on the Make-up Process and What Grabbed Her About the "Transamerica" Script

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