The plight of any actor is difficult. Booking roles whether big or small is always a challenge: every audition can feel like a make it or break it moment. This is particularly acute for actors who stray in one way or another from what the industry has convinced us is “the norm.” Garcia knows this all too well. The young nonbinary actor, who’s currently playing a small role in the off-Broadway play Continuity, is part of the large ensemble that makes up the revived Tales of the City limited series over at Netflix, understands the reality of what roles they get to audition for but is intent on relishing the chance to be a part of such a landmark LGBTQ project.
The original Tales of the City books written by Armistead Maupin were groundbreaking. They depicted members of the LGBTQ community with grace and humor. The various miniseries that followed in their wake, including the original 1993 one on Showtime, were equally revolutionary, giving characters like trans woman Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis) and gay man Michael ‘Mouse’ Tolliver (played in the original by Marcus D’Amico) thrilling storylines on the small screen in ways that still felt all too novel. The latest and newest iteration of Tales is a limited Netflix series that brings Laura Linney’s Mary Ann Singleton character back to San Francisco’s Barbary Lane where she reconnects with Anna (Dukakis) and Mouse (this time played by Looking‘s Murray Bartlett).
Just as before, the cast of characters and storylines on display feel just as radical. In addition to those OG characters, viewers will meet a new generation of Barbary Lane residents, led by Ellen Page’s Shawna and get to meet new characters in flashbacks, which include Daniela Vega‘s Ysela. Viewers will also meet Jake Rodriguez (played by Garcia), a trans man who lives with his girlfriend Margot (May Hong) but suddenly finds himself drawn to other men. Even on paper Jake’s story strays from the kind of trans narratives pop culture has been portraying in recent years. Theirs is a much more complicated exploration of the ways gender identity intersect with sexuality: to go from being one half of a lesbian couple to questioning their attraction to gay men, Jake is a character that could only exist within the queer progressive lens of a show like Tales of the City. Which is what initially made Garcia all the more excited and terrified to be a part of it.
“Sometimes I was on set being like, ‘I can’t do this,'” they shared with Remezcla. “It’s very easy, at least for me, to fall into this like, ‘What am I doing? Why am I here? Should I be here? What is going on? Should I be doing this character?’ Because, I guess I very much identify with Jake and it’s almost like I’m playing myself. But it feels like I’m surrounded by these people that have been doing this for years and know exactly what they’re doing. That’s how I see it. And it’s very easy to be intimidated and not included in what I’m doing. Just because it’s almost like I’m undeserving to be in this room full of all these wonderful talented people.”
But on and off-camera, Garcia found a supportive cast and crew, attuned to their specific concerns. Morelli was open to discussing how the fact that Garcia hadn’t had top surgery would work while playing a trans man like Jake; there was an extra attentiveness on set when they shot their first intimate on-screen scene; and even Dukakis, who teaches at NYU where Garcia studied, was all too happy to give them guidance when they felt like they didn’t have a good handle on a scene.
While they recognize the serendipity of getting to be on an off-Broadway production at the same time as Tales drops on Netflix (during Pride month no less!), Garcia is well aware that future prospects are no brighter for that. “I’m extremely grateful, and it’s wonderful to book these things so close together,” they shared. “I think it’s very real, especially for trans and nonbinary people within the field, to not book anything for a while. Because there aren’t any roles for us. So I think there’s that reality that although this is wonderful, I worry that that’s all there is. Especially in theater, that there are small roles, but no lead roles. You know, especially not being seen as a cis male — being seen as just a trans/nonbinary person — and people feeling that they can’t cast me for cis roles.”
“There’s always these words in the back of my head,” they admitted, “while still trying to enjoy what’s in front of me.”
Tales of the City debuts June 7, 2019, on Netflix.