MAISIE RICHARDSON SELL­ERS.

From kick­ing arse in Leg­ends of To­mor­row to now ap­pear­ing in the West End’s 3Women, this Bri­tish-born ac­tress isn’t let­ting her sex­u­al­ity ever hold her back.

Gay Times Magazine - - POLARITY & PROXIMITY - Images Kanya Iwana Words Si­mon But­ton

Asked for her def­i­ni­tion of Pride as a queer woman of colour, Maisie Richardson-Sell­ers says: “For me, it’s com­ing to the point where you ac­cept your­self fully and you feel your sex­u­al­ity is some­thing that com­pli­ments you – some­thing you can hold up as some­thing you’re will­ing to talk about, will­ing to ex­plore and want­ing to ex­plore.” The 26-year-old Bri­tish-born ac­tress, best known as Amaya Jiwe aka Vixen on the DC se­ries Leg­ends of To­mor­row, has mainly worked over­seas. Maisie con­tin­ues: “The LGBTQ com­mu­nity has meant so much to me when I was grow­ing up and I hope to keep giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity. It’s such a spe­cial, sup­port­ive, unique space that I’ve found all over the world.

“Wher­ever I’ve trav­elled, I’ve found a com­mu­nity of queer peo­ple and there’s just this magic to it that I’m so proud to be able to be a part of. It’s a com­mon un­der­stand­ing. Of course, there are many dif­fer­ences, there’s no unan­i­mous thing for ev­ery­one who is LGBTQ and yet there’s this un­der­stand­ing and re­spect which is just beau­ti­ful. That to me is what Pride is about – lis­ten­ing as well as talk­ing, re­spect­ing each other’s jour­neys and learn­ing from them.”

Maisie’s lat­est project sees her back on Bri­tish soil as she stars in 3Women at London’s Trafal­gar Stu­dios. In the play, which is co­me­dian and writer Katy Brand’s first work for the stage, she’s Lau­rie, daugh­ter to Deb­bie Chazen’s Suzanne and grand­daugh­ter to Anita Dob­son’s Eleanor. Aged 18 and gen­der fluid, Lau­rie is at univer­sity. “She’s dis­cov­er­ing her freedom and her sex­u­al­ity and her pas­sions,” the ac­tress elab­o­rates, “she’s vi­va­cious and op­ti­mistic that the world will be­come a bet­ter place.” Lau­rie also sounds im­pres­sively quirky, given that she be­lieves the keys to a bet­ter fu­ture is tech­nol­ogy and ro­bots and gen­der neu­tral­ity. “She thinks women won’t have to have ba­bies in the fu­ture, that they’ll be grown in ex­ter­nal wombs – all these things that would lib­er­ate women. She’s a pas­sion­ate, modern fem­i­nist, gen­der queer, gen­der fluid and very open and con­fi­dent about that. For me it’s a lux­ury to play such a rich char­ac­ter and it’s very funny be­cause she’s try­ing to ex­plain all this to her grand­mother, who has no idea what she’s on about.”

Lau­rie is pan­sex­ual, hav­ing a dal­liance with a trans man as well as with women, and Maisie loves how nei­ther play­wright Katy nor the mul­ti­di­men­sional char­ac­ter she’s cre­ated make a big deal of it. “There’s never a sense of a com­ing-out as such, it’s ad­dressed in a quite ca­sual way which I think is beau­ti­ful. I don’t think you should have to an­nounce any­thing, it should just be ac­cepted. We should be able to tell peo­ple when and how we want and we should be free to love who we want when we want.”

It’s the first time Maisie has played a queer char­ac­ter and, tak­ing a break from re­hearsals in a London stu­dio ahead of the play’s lim­ited en­gage­ment in the West End, she’s fired-up about the prospect of es­say­ing a young woman for whom sex­u­al­ity isn’t all that de­fines her. “I think we’re all a com­plex puz­zle and that’s one part of her puz­zle,” she feels. “It’s a role I’m very happy to be por­tray­ing and also it’s given me the chance to ex­plore my own gen­der spec­trum a lit­tle more. She’s quite an­drog­y­nous, whereas most of the roles I’ve done have been quite fem­i­nine and very het­ero­sex­ual. It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to delve into the psy­che of the char­ac­ter and her gen­der flu­id­ity.”

Maisie’s also un­der­stand­ably thrilled to be play­ing a queer per­son of colour. “Representa­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant to me and now not only is it peo­ple of colour, it’s tex­tured peo­ple of colour – peo­ple who are queer and on all parts of the spec­trum, who are in­di­vid­u­als and multi-di­men­sional rather than sim­ply the per­son of colour who is the best friend. It’s so ex­cit­ing for me and a great sign of the di­rec­tion we’re mov­ing in. Also it’s not the cen­tral theme of the play, it just hap­pens to fea­ture a queer woman of colour. It’s ac­cepted and then moved on from.”

Per­form­ing is in the blood for the daugh­ter of act­ing par­ents who “grew up in dress­ing rooms and re­hearsal spa­ces”. She stud­ied ar­chae­ol­ogy and an­thro­pol­ogy at Ox­ford Univer­sity but also did some the­atre. Upon grad­u­a­tion she was spot­ted in a play and whisked off to do Vam­pire Di­aries spin-off The Orig­i­nals in the States, had a role in Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens, fol­lowed that with Bib­li­cal drama Of Kings And Prophets and then landed Leg­ends Of To­mor­row. Keen to get back into the­atre, she was of­fered 3Women dur­ing a break be­tween sea­sons of the su­per­hero show. “So the tim­ing is per­fect. I read the script and thought it was hi­lar­i­ous and ex­tremely mov­ing. It was a to­tal no-brainer,” she laughs.

Although Katy’s play is more about what it means to be a woman in to­day’s so­ci­ety than specif­i­cally ad­dress­ing the #TimesUp move­ment, Maisie recog­nises the move­ment has a rel­e­vance for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. “There has been world­wide abuse of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity and I hope we can view this as a move­ment for ev­ery­one, a move­ment to­wards safety and equal­ity. That should be across the board, not just for one group of peo­ple. There are some deep is­sues within the in­dus­try for women but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber they’re not the only group who have been op­pressed, but I fully sup­port any move­ment that is for safety and equal­ity.”

She’s also pleased to note the land­scape is chang­ing in terms of queer representa­tion in the arts. “Grow­ing up, all I ever re­ally had was The L Word. Now there are so many shows and it’s not nec­es­sar­ily that sex­u­al­ity is the cen­tral focus.” And she’s im­pressed by Black Light­ning’s por­trayal of Thun­der (Nafessa Wil­liams) as a les­bian su­per­hero of colour. “That’s in­cred­i­ble and it shows how far we’re go­ing. The fact the au­di­ence loves it shows there’s a de­mand for it and I re­ally think through ex­po­sure on screen it can help peo­ple be more tol­er­ant in real life. We still need more lead char­ac­ters who are of colour and who are on the LGBTQ spec­trum, but we’re go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Like­wise, Maisie is im­pressed by how Leg­ends Of To­mor­row has be­gun to flesh out its own queer su­per­hero White Ca­nary (Caity Lotz) by show­ing her in a re­la­tion­ship. “They went into the emo­tions of it. Same with Black Light­ning; you’re seeing the emo­tional lives of queer char­ac­ters and that’s re­ally ex­cit­ing.”

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