Rain Valdez Has A Razor Tongue
When I first heard about Rain Valdez, I was like, who is this beautiful woman? Oh, beautiful transgender woman? Oh, she acts and writes? Wait, she is redefining transgender roles in her productions so we actually see transgender people as the people they are.. WHAT?? This woman is awesome! Please read Jejune’s exclusive interview below, to learn more about the multitalented Rain Valdez.
Where are you based?
I'm based in Los Angeles.
What got you interested in acting?
I've always wanted to act since I was at least five or six years old. As soon as we got a television, I was fascinated by some of my favorite actors I saw on screen. I remember wanting to be as intense and sexy as Michelle Pfeiffer, and I wanted to be as funny as Whoopi Goldberg. As soon as I moved to LA, I got myself into an acting class.
How long have you been writing? What got you interested in writing?
I started to write poetry and short stories when I was in junior high. Sometimes I would act out the stories in my room playing all the characters. My parents would knock on my door, asking who I was talking to. Here in LA, it can get very frustrating to not act. The one thing I wanted to do, no one would let me, I wasn't getting cast in anything. So I thought, I"ll just write something and cast myself. I started writing because I wanted to act, but realized I was actually good at it too.
Let’s talk about Razor Tongue. What inspired this fascinating show and your character?
I wrote Razor Tongue in the midst of the #metoo movement when it started in late 2017. The movement triggered so many things for me, and how I have been complacent to the kinds of behaviors that shouldn't be happening to me, my friends, and female colleagues. So I created Belle, who got to say some of the things I never got to say. And she's a symbol for the times, when I did stand up for myself. I also wanted to do a fun spin on the idea of calling out culture. As women, we're also taught that vulnerability is a weakness, and Belle is a character who finds strength in the most vulnerable moments. It's very empowering to see that, and we need more of it.
Where can we see it?
All seven episodes is available now on youtube. You can watch it all here: https://www.noweverartists.com/razortongue
When is Season 2 out?
Season 2 is written, but we haven't shot it yet. We're hoping that Season 1 will help shepard the way for Season 2. Season 1 ends on such a cliffhanger. I'm hoping that people will get excited about wanting to see more of these characters, and hopefully we'll be able to shoot it soon.
Transgender actors/actresses always end up playing transgender roles where their whole story line is about being transgender. I found it very refreshing that this isn’t the case at all with Razor Tongue. Can you share your thoughts on what it means to branch out from those types of roles?
This happens a lot, mainly because those roles are usually not written by trans people. So they go to the most obvious storyline, which is our gender history and transition. It can be very limiting as a trans actor and creator. Being trans isn't our whole story, and our talent isn't based off of it, it's just a part of who we are. To me, it's instinctive to not have my show be entirely about gender. Razor Tongue is what it looks like to not fetishize or stigmatize a trans woman. It's a how-to on establishing trans existence in a humanizng way. I think the world is starving for content that goes beyond the binary. That's what I'm interested in feeding. I want to play roles that are challenging, complex, human, and fun, and just happen to be trans or isn't trans at all. I think that's going to be the future for trans actors and I'm excited for that.
I think it is very powerful that Belle doesn’t come out as transgender until the last episode. What was your intention with this?
When I started to write it, I wrote it as if Belle is just a woman who is going through some shit and needs to get stuff off her chest, which gave me a lot of freedom to focus on story. When I got to writing episode 7, I knew we would get a little bit of Belle's backstory and experience as a woman. For a second, I was hesitant to make her trans, but it made sense that she'd be this dexterously vocal because life is a little harder for her, because she's trans on top of everything else. Making Belle trans in the end made it more of a reflection of my own experience because misogyny and microaggression happens whether people know I'm trans or not. I also didn't want the disclosure to be a big deal either, so putting it at the end gave us so much room to have her just be a woman. She is a woman first and foremost, and that is the message I wanted to get across.
Most of the issues raised in Razor Tongue are related to being a woman and or a woman of color. What made you decide to not address any transgender issues?
What I love about this season is that Belle exists in a world that is true for women of all kinds. Microaggressions, race and misogyny are national issues that all women face including trans women. So in a way, it is a transgender issue. Belle being trans makes it clear that we have so much more in common with cisgender women than we think, but because media isn't created to reflect that, we don't know this to be the case. Also, we get into very specific trans issues in Season 2, which I'm really excited about.
Will Belle and Austin stay together??
Oh my God, such a great question! I think the podcast episode uncovered so much more than they thought they can handle about each other. In Season 2, I think we're starting off with Austin and Belle on their separate ways. I have a feeling that they'll find a way to be back into each other's lives, but I can't say more than that. You'll just have to stay tuned!
You have a history of acting in romantic comedies. What draws you to this genre?
I've always loved rom-coms. I grew up during the height of it. I wanted to be like Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock, because I can see myself in them and wanted to grow up to be like them. I love physical comedy and cheesy high stakes plot lines. I also have a hopelessly romantic side of me, and believe there is someone out there for everyone.
Do you feel there needs to be more roles for transgender people in romantic comedies?
Romantic comedies are an easily digestible genre that historically and continuously establishes to the world who gets to be loved. And trans people are often absent from this genre or made to be the butt of the joke. As an Asian American trans woman, I have yet to see a declaration to the world, through this genre, that we get to be loved too. So with Ryans, my rom-com short film, I went and created it myself, with my best friend Natalie Heltzel. It's unfortunate that what we mostly have is media perpetuating the idea that that trans people are less to be desired. I think it's time Hollywood takes on the responsibility to reshape this archaic mindset. Representation matters in all genres and it could save lives.
I know you have spoken out about Victoria's Secret being transphobic in the past. How do you feel about them finally including a transgender woman?
I think it's great that they've included Valentina into the brand, and I'm really happy for her. But I don't think it'll be enough to erase the tarnish it caused. It's a little late in the game, and if they really want to make a statement of inclusion there are so many other trans models they can employ instead of just one. And there are so many organizations that they could be donating to if they're really for transgender rights and representation. At this point, with Valentina, while it's great for her, I'm afraid we're back to tokenizing for the sake of appearing to be diverse. So, you know, we see right through it. And I still think there are better brands out there that do a better job at being inclusive.
You actually hid that you were transgender for a long time to the entertainment world. What made you decide to come out, and how does it feel?
I was laid off from my post production job, and then a few months later got a job working on Season 2 of Transparent. Jill Soloway was the first person that made me feel like being trans is a beautiful gift that needed to be declared to the world. And Jill had just won a Golden Globe, so I thought, well, they must know what they're talking about. No one else in my life at the time made me feel that way. It would be my first job as an out and proud trans woman. At this time, Geena Rocero just did her Ted Talk, Laverne Cox was on Time magazine and Janet Mock's book had just come out. It was almost as if the universe was getting us all in formation. I was no longer the only one, and it felt amazing to know there were so many more like me just kicking ass and living their best lives.
What is next for Rain Valdez?
I have a few projects in the works. I have a half hour comedy pilot that I wrote, and hopefully will be going into development. I'd love to shoot Season 2 of Razor Tongue. I won a pitch contest for my short film Re-Live: A tale of a 30-year-Old-Cheerleader; so, I'd love to shoot that soon too.
What is your motto in life?
Find a community or a person you want to move mountains with and for, and you'll find that you'll move great mountains together.
To learn more about Rain Valdez and her project please follow her on the below platforms:
Instagrams: @rainvaldez and @noweverartists
Please subscribe to our youtube page and watch Razor Tongue and let us know what you think!
Here is the link: https://www.noweverartists.com/razortongue
All photography by: Kanya Iwana