Jen Richards is the co-writer and star of Emmy-nominated web series Her Story, about the lives and loves of two trans women in Los Angeles. She’s also a passionate activist with a kind heart and infectious laugh who’s not afraid to speak her mind. She took time out of her birthday to talk to DIVA about putting trans visibility at the heart of Hollywood.
DIVA: Your background is in activism and non-profits. How did you get into acting?
JEN RICHARDS: I’ve acted ever since I was a kid. I did theatre in high school, continued into college, and then as an adult I did community theatre. It was just something I loved to do, but I never had any professional aspirations. And then when I transitioned, I gave it up.
I just assumed that with this change, I would never act again. There aren’t many roles for trans people – certainly not enough to stay active in the theatre – and I couldn’t conceive of a time where I would feel comfortable just going out for a regular female role. That’s what I believed at the time. I feel differently now.
What changed your mind?
An opportunity came up to write a web series for a production company, which eventually became Her Story. When we started, it was just this little passion project that a few friends were doing, so we were going to act in it, too. I never anticipated that it would end up having such a gigantic audience and that there would be all this pressure on my performance! It ended up being very terrifying. I actually tried to pull out of it, last minute. The rest of team said “nope, that’s not an option”.
Thank goodness they did!
Her Story reinvigorated and reawakened my love for acting and reminded me that I do have some skill there. And it just happened to come out right at the time when this conversation began in Hollywood around trans representation. I had the right marginalised identity at the right time and in the right place!
You really didn’t anticipate the success the series would have?
No, no, no... [laughs]. It’s absurd. It was so outlandish it didn’t even enter into that realm where we could dismiss it as outlandish! We certainly thought it was
CARRIE LYELL CAUGHT UP WITH WRITER, ACTRESS AND ACTIVIST JEN RICHARDS TO FIND OUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A TRANS WOMAN IN HOLLYWOOD RIGHT NOW
“It just doesn’t occur to casting directors to consider a trans person for a non-trans role”