Saturday, 26 January 2013

Interview with Marlo Bernier

Monika: Today I am going to introduce you to Marlo Bernier, an American actress, writer, producer, US Air Force veteran, and creator of Myrna, an original drama television series.
She was born in Nashua, New Hampshire. After her USAF service, she spent a couple of years in Germany, playing music in a few bands on the club circuit until the end of 1985. She settled down n Baltimore, spending the better part of a decade on the stage, delivering great stage work in AXIS Theatre's; Angels in America, Love! Valor! Compassion! and God's Country. Hello Marlo!
Marlo: Hi Monika!
Monika: What are you doing these days?
Marlo: Well right this minute I’m attempting to behave during this interview – we’ll see at the end what the verdict will be.
"Under Construction" - a work in oil
 by Shelley Cassidy completed at
 the beginning of the transition
- Summer/Fall '07.
Monika: You have an outstanding acting portfolio with many movies and theatre plays. Could you elaborate on these achievements?
Marlo: Thank you. First, let me say how flattered I am that you would want to interview me in the first place – I am in a word; humbled. There are many others who have far exceeded anything I have been able to in my career, but I do feel very fortunate to have had the success I’ve had.
My career on the stage and in front of the lens goes back quite a ways and just for the record, all of those roles I played were from before I transitioned. So if anyone looks this up they won’t see any *Marlo* credits, but rather only credits for *Mark*.
During those decades I performed countless times over the course of two decades on both stage and screen. On stage (Mark) Bernier repeatedly delivered award-winning performances in roles such as Roy Cohn in Angels in America; Parts I and II, the twins John/James in Love! Valour! Compassion!, and Berg in God's Country. Along with memorable guest roles in COLD CASE, Homicide: Life on the Street, Las Vegas, and ALIAS. And on the larger screen in The Last Time We Were… and in Fincher’s ZODIAC (from which I was cut – all 8 days of my work ended up on the floor.
I am only left to wonder how horrible I must have been – haha!) ***these are partial credits, there were many more but I don’t want to bore you. Shortly after beginning my transition from male-to-female in 2007, I directed my efforts behind the lens. As to whether or not I’ll one day step back into the frame, well the verdict is still out on that. But anything is possible.
Monika: Which film directors or movies are your inspirations?
Marlo: John Cassavetes!

Marlo Bernier, Myrna Creator, Star, Writer,  Producer
Photo by Kerem Hanci Photography

Monika: What are the recent developments with Myrna? Could you say a few words about the project itself?
Marlo: Thank you for mentioning, MYRNA – to bring you up to date and in case anyone’s wondering, we’re in the process of looking to partner with another producer who will be able to assist us in raising the money needed in order to shoot the pilot – we’ve budgeted $30k and that’s really tight.
Basically, it’s a show based (loosely) on my life after transition – here’s the blurb: “After a successful career in front of the camera and on the stage, an actor is willing to sacrifice everything when she finally confronts her true gender identity and transitions from male-to-female. We follow Myrna as she struggles to find work as an actress, wrestles with a manager who still wants to send her out as her former-famous self, Michael, and deals with the drama of her friends' reactions as they make an effort to come to terms with Myrna and her life-altering transition. Myrna is comical, caustic, moving, and deliciously dark. *My career just wasn’t tough enough, so I got up one morning and decided to change my sex.*

My incredible hair was done by Dugg
Kirkpatrick for GLEE.

Monika: For the purpose of the project you invited other transgender actors such as Alexandra Billings, Ian Harvie, and many others. How did you convince them to take part in it?
Marlo: Well I hope I didn’t really have to do too much *convincing* - haha! But to set the record straight I only ever wanted trans people, both men and women to play the roles of trans people; period. I reached out to them, sent them the script and I believe they liked it (enough) to say, yes.
And let’s not forget the other members of the cast as well. All of them have been believers in this story/project from the beginning – trans, or otherwise. 
Monika: How does your transgender status contribute to your artistic perception of the world?
Marlo: I’m not certain it does. I mean, I would like to hope that I’ve always been open to the breadth of the world, our world has to offer.
Monika: Where did you grow up?
Marlo: I was born in New Hampshire.

"Glass Houses" not sleeping, just never been
so content. Apr 4, 2007; Foto-Kerem Hanci

Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Marlo: I’ve known since I was four. I’ll give you (again) the link to my personal story, it does a much better job than I could here, in telling it with all its wrinkles and warts. At Least I’ll Own a Dress (there are a couple other scripts up there as well).
Monika: For most transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college, or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Marlo: No not really. I mean, for all intents and purposes I had a very decent childhood, etc. I just had become very adept at *hiding* - (I’m not trying to dodge the bullet, but it’s much clearer explained in the above link).
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman? Was it a difficult process? Did you have any support from your family or friends? Did it have any impact on your job situation?
Marlo: I began in 2007 – my age at that time?! – Monika, please… (hahahahahahaha).

Hair by Dugg Kirkpatrick - what a
I have received in having had
work on (my hair) 
for my appearance on GLEE. 

Monika: Did you have any problems with passing as a woman?
Marlo: I (think) I am fortunate when it comes to this. Meaning; others don’t *read* me as anything other than female. But as with (I’m taking a guess) many of us, when I look in the mirror, I scream out – What kind of KOOL-AID are people drinking?! – Perhaps I have assimilated much better than I personally realize. Listen, it’s a tough road – regardless. And yes it has affected my career – please see and pray that MYRNA gets produced – we’ll hold nothing back.
Monika: We are living in times of modern cosmetic surgery that might allow to transition even in the late 50s or 60s. Do you think it is really possible? What kind of advice do you have for transgender ladies at such an age?
Marlo: Again with the age question – okay, Monika – I’m (currently) 54 and I began at 47? I think, … I can’t remember – hah! It must be that age thing creeping in on me… Of course, it’s possible. Anything is possible. Believe.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Marlo: I think, I hope, I believe it is getting better – bit-by-bit. I think we’ve come a long way in the past decade, especially with the (public) advent of the acceptance of trans kids being able to transition much earlier.
I realize that’s not the case for all, but it appears that it’s becoming more prevalent. Let us hope this continues. There is still much work to be done and all kidding aside, I hope that a show like MYRNA will assist in opening doors for us all, regardless of age.

Marlo at home.

Monika: At the same time sometimes we get horrible news about transgender women being killed or beaten just as in the infamous case of Chrissy Polis that was beaten by two teenagers in Macdonald’s because she used the ladies’ toilet. How can we prevent it?
Marlo: Again, horrible stories, and the list goes on. We must continue to inform by presenting good solid examples. There are many trans-women and men who are doing just that and have been. Seriously, Monika, you’re going to be interviewing till the end of the Mayan calendar. Oh wait…that already came ‘n went. Then I guess you’ve got till whenever…
One's Gender Identity is
 to everyone,
...except you ~
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Marlo: I’m a horrible Activist, Politician, Lobbyist – I’m just a filmmaker.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Marlo: 1) Yes. 2) The ones that make me look skinny. 3) The ones that make me look lean and skinny. 4) Did I say yet, the ones that make me look luscious? (I should shut up, now).
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Marlo: Yes I am. Listen, it is not all roses and red wine out here. But I think that when I finally became brutally honest with me, with myself, and stopped hiding, this was when I began to feel free. I’ll leave you with this - “One’s Gender Identity is invisible to everyone… except you.”
Monika: Marlo, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Marlo Bernier.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska

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