Trans actress Nomi Ruiz might be making her feature film debut this week in the action-drama Haymaker, but the Puerto Rican performer, who is also the lead vocalist of the Brooklyn-based band Jessica 6, has been offered movie roles before. She’s just never said yes.
“I’ve gotten a lot of scripts with trans narratives that are low-key offensive,” Ruiz told Remezcla during an interview earlier this month. “Sometimes writers think they have to spell it out for people, like the trans person needs to be seen as this before and after story. But that’s not realistic.”
In Haymaker, Ruiz plays her namesake character, Nomi, a trans singer who hires a retired Muay Thai fighter (Nick Sasso) to be her bodyguard. As the two travel around the world to different gigs, they begin to fall in love, but her bodyguard’s desire to get back into the ring could keep them apart.
Unlike other scripts Ruiz has read in the past, Haymaker, she said, felt like it was making a point to tell a progressive story by not overstating the fact that the trans character in the movie is trans. For Ruiz, there is so much more to trans people than their transness.
“Haymaker is about Nomi’s music and the choices that she makes and the way that she loves,” Ruiz said. “You can’t get to any of that if all you’re doing is constantly yelling, ‘I’m a trans person!’”
Ruiz also believes more heterosexual men should see that there are men like them who consider trans women desirable. Not every straight man in a movie must always be portrayed as transphobic. They can also fall in love with a trans woman.
“In Haymaker, these two worlds from opposite ends of the spectrum collide,” Ruiz said. “It’s important to see that, especially now when things are so divisive. To have this alpha male and this trans woman find themselves in one another is beautiful.”
Haymaker hits theaters and VOD platforms Jan. 29.