Jamie Clayton spills Sense8 secrets: ‘That swim club scene really happened’

Jamie Clayton wowed the crowd gathered in London for ClexaCon, a multi-fandom event for LGBTI women and allies held on 3-4 November.

If such a thing as a down-to-Earth diva attitude exists, Clayton definitely has it. Charming, grounded and so funny you will want to see her in a comedy show ASAP, the Sense8 actress spilled some insider’s knowledge on the Netflix original series.

Clayton, who identifies as trans, explained how being directed by a trans woman, Lana Wachowski, had some interesting, sometimes unexpected consequences.

She revealed that the Matrix trilogy director put her own experience in the character of Nomi, but that Clayton wasn’t fully aware of it until filming season 1. There’s one particular scene that has stuck with the actress to this day.

The swim club scene really happened

Nomi opens up to Lito in season 1. | Photo: Sense8/Netflix

Clayton is referring to the pivotal scene where her character on the show, Nomi, who also identifies as trans, opens up to Lito (Miguel Silvestre). Nomi recalls being forced to go to the swim club by her father before transitioning and how she was physically abused by a group of boys while there.

Clayton told her fans in London that the traumatic scene was changed last minute.

‘When we were filming that, it actually wasn’t written that Nomi was in the flashback, that was something that was decided in the moment. We were supposed to be telling the story and then Lito and Nomi were supposed to be in the shower observing that situation, but in the moment we switched,’ she said.

Nomi ended up reliving the scene rather than just watching it.

‘I put on the shirt and then Lana had a full breakdown and I was like “What’s going on?” and someone came to me and told me “This happened”’.

She said she was suddenly invested with the responsibility of telling Lana’s story right.

‘I was like “Wait, this is for real? I had no idea”. So [Lana] left, they cut and we stopped filming. She and I had a moment and I was like ‘Fuck, this really happened’. I was like “Okay, let me do it, let’s do it”’.

‘We need to change the mind of producers and directors’

Jamie Clayton
Photo: Wikimedia

Clayton also weighed in on the controversy about straight cis actors playing LGBTI roles.

‘As an actor, I want to be given every opportunity to play any kind of characters, but I would never tell an actor to not play a role,’ she said.

‘The issue is that, as someone who identifies as trans, I’m not given the same opportunities as someone who isn’t trans. I’m not even allowed to audition for certain things. And if I do audition, a discussion has to be had with producers and directors about what is the audience going to think,’ she also said.

She furthermore added: ‘I have some casting directors who really believe in me and I’m sure that there are casting directors who believe in the other actors in the industry who identify as trans. I get brought in a lot. Now we need to start changing the minds of the producers and the directors.’

She highlighted that television and movies are so much more than just mere entertainment. Society gets their opinions about things from TV and cinema, she explained. And that’s why the stigma surrounding trans actors need to be dismantled.

‘I have people still to this day tweeting to me “I’ve watched all of Sense8 and I had no idea you were trans” or “I really wish they would have hired someone trans to play Nomi”. It’s funny because I’m like “what did you think trans is?”‘ she told Gay Star News.

‘I don’t understand all these ideas that we have in our heads of what a man is and what a woman is […] and what a woman is supposed to sound like… All this stuff that we all just need to fucking let go of.’

What’s next for Jamie Clayton?

Jamie Clayton with Freema Agyeman, who played her girlfriend Amanita on the show. | Photo: Netflix

What would she like to play next? Clayton is sure about one thing: she wants to continue acting and do something good and substantial, something her huge fandom can be proud of.

‘I want to be given the same opportunity that any other actress coming off of a lead of several seasons of a show would be given. That’s what I want,’ she said.

She also said she’s an avid Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime watcher.

‘There’s nothing I detest more than an actor who wants to be on television that doesn’t watch television. I watch everything,’ she said, mentioning the new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Pose and The Bold Type.

‘I want to be on a new show that no one knows and I want to be the lead on it. Being able to play someone complicated, and sexy and funny… all the things that I’m not,’ she joked.

Asked about trans representation on screen, she explained trans characters don’t need to exist exclusively because of their transness. Moreover, she explained what the problem is with many current trans characters, especially trans feminine roles.

‘I want to see a trans woman in a relationship with a man,’ she said.

‘I’m straight and I want to see that on television but for some reason, there is this resistance to that. If a trans woman is with a man, all of a sudden there’s this stuff about sexuality coming into question. All this rubbish that’s attached to gender and sexuality and people not knowing the difference. Yes, we need more representation, but I like to see a broader spectrum of relationships within those characters.’

Her role models

Clayton played a hacker and journalist on Sense8. | Photo: Netflix

Clayton, who initially moved to LA to pursue a makeup artist career, gave some advice to any trans kid who wants to become an actor.

‘Take classes, drop your ego, don’t think you deserve anything just because you’re different. Find actors whose careers you really identify with. That was some good advice that I got early on, so I picked a couple of actresses that [I identified with] physically…’

We asked her who said actresses are.

‘You’re gonna be like “oh come on”, but for me, it was Blake Lively and Rose Byrne. I really love their careers, how diverse they are.’

And she had some final piece of advice which we felt it could be applied to any field.

‘Work hard for it and then I think that the most important thing as an actress is don’t stop living. Because it’s all of our life’s experiences that are put into the work. So say yes to the dinner, to the coffee, to the road trip. Say yes, go experience, live life because it’s those moments that make it real.’

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