Why Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman is making waves with breakout trans star Daniela Vega
There’s a huge FOUR five-star reviews this month. Is this sweet enough?
THERE ARE TWO reasons Daniela Vega should be one of the most talked-about actors of 2018. The first, and most important, is her performance in A Fantastic Woman. For Sebastián Lelio’s drama, the 28-year-old plays Marina, a waitress and lounge singer whose much older boyfriend suddenly dies. Marina is left homeless and questioned about her involvement in his death. She just wants to grieve as any other girlfriend would, but her boyfriend’s family and various government authorities won’t allow it. The reason? Marina — like Vega herself — is transgender. The vast majority of people she meets treat her with suspicion, like some curiosity they’re trying to work out, and Vega plays the raw pain and determination of someone who battles every day just to be accepted as who she is.
The second reason she’ll be talked about: already, Vega is considered a serious contender in the Best Actress race this awards season.
Any nominations would be a major step for transgender actors. In 2016, transgender actor Mya Taylor won an Independent Spirit Award for Tangerine, and in TV Laverne Cox, of Orange Is The New Black, has twice been Emmy nominated, but an Academy Award nomination for Vega would be an Oscar first.
When Empire asks about all this attention, the Chilean actor, speaking via a translator, puffs out her cheeks and exhales heavily. “I just hoped the movie would be seen,” she says. “What happens next… We were never expecting this explosion of interest from all over the world.”
The level of talk around Vega, in her first major film role, seems a heavy weight to bear. With transgender issues in the public conversation more than ever before, any trans person with a public profile becomes in effect a spokesperson, expected to answer complex questions about LGBT politics, from Trump’s proposed military ban to Theresa May’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. It’s not something Vega is comfortable with. “No, no, no, I only speak for myself,” she insists. “Other people who are activists can answer the questions about the experience of being trans.”
Vega is keen to shift the conversation around
A Fantastic Woman from being a film about a trans woman’s grief and struggle to simply a story of a human’s grief and struggle. “I think everybody has experienced violence at some time in their lives,” she says. “I think that’s what makes anyone able to connect with Marina — whether man, woman, cis or trans.”
A FANTASTIC WOMAN IS IN CINEMAS FROM 22 FEBRUARY
Marina (Daniela Vega) with lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes). Below: Vega preps on set. Bottom: Fantastic woman.