“Sense8” star Jamie Clayton talks trans representation, Nomanita and LGBT leads

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Have you binge watched Netflix’s new sci-fi drama series Sense8 yet? Well you don’t need any more reason than trans lesbian lead Nomi Marks. Nomi, played by the brilliant Jamie Clayton, is a hacker and political blogger living in San Francisco with her girlfriend Amanita (Freema Agyeman). But Nomi is one of eight people (Sensates) connected to each other mentally who must fight together to keep their kind alive.

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Jamie Clayton let us know her thoughts on the series and her character during a press conference call on Tuesday.

It’s interesting to note (and lovely to see) that Clayton is a trans person playing a character who is trans. With out trans director Lana Wachowski behind the wheel, Nomi is in good hands.

“As an actor what I do is bring my emotional experience and my life to the parts of it when I’m acting out the things that are on the page,” Jamie said. “I can bring some life to them. But the part of Nomi was completely written by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski.”

Equally as interesting is the fact that the series doesn’t focus on Nomi transitioning: She’s already living the life she wants. Clayton says this is certainly an aspect of the part that appealed to her.

“There’s so much more to Nomi than her transition, her trans-ness,” Jamie said. “And it’s really funny to me that, for a show that has all the diversity that Sense8 has, and how excited everybody is about the diversity and the global scale. That every single one of our main characters has a job in the media, except for Nomi. Nomi’s the trans one. It’s really interesting. Nomi’s so much more than that. But that definitely is something that appealed to me about her. You know, it’s part of who she is. It will always be part of who she is. But she’s living her life. She’s moved on from it.”

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As the interview went on, it became clear that the media’s depiction of Nomi and trans people in general is a matter the actress takes a lot of issue with. Unless you want to face her ire, do not call Nomi a trans hacker.

“I don’t like the word trans being used in front of anybody’s job title, like trans hacker, trans actress,” Jamie said. “The media likes to use it as a disclaimer. Until the world at large and the media are more comfortable with trans people, and the word trans is used as an accolade, I’m not comfortable with Nomi being referred to as a trans hacker. She’s a hacker, who is trans. If you want to refer to somebody as an award winning actress, that’s an accolade. But trans is never used as an accolade; it’s used as a disclaimer, and I think that that needs to stop.”

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Nomi is a very special character, indeed. She’s an on-screen representation of the fact that gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate things. 

“As long as people don’t know the difference I think it’s incredibly important that we keep showing it, and keep showing it in a relatable way,” Jamie said. “The thing that I love about Nomi and Amanita’s relationship–Nomanita, if you will–is it’s such a middle finger to anyone who has a more conservative view of what a relationship is supposed to look like. They have the healthiest relationship as a couple on the show, as far as honesty–like just across the board, completely. And they’re interracial, and they’re trans, and they’re lesbians. And so it’s this new way of looking at healthy love and saying it doesn’t have to look like what you were taught it’s supposed to look like. And I love that. I think it’s extremely important.”

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Nomanita are a hella cute couple, but Amanita’s unshakeable faith in Nomi all throughout the craziness—well, it’s not for everyone. I had to ask Clayton why the hell Amanita believes Nomi’s unbelievable story.

“It’s one of the sweetest things I find about their relationship. I think it’s because Amanita knows that Nomi is living in her truth. And she’s living her complete true whole life. And she knows that she’s not this dramatic, like ‘I see dead people,’ kind of girl,” Jamie said. “And so when this crazy thing starts happening, I think that she just jumps in headfirst with her and is like, ‘No. I know you. You would not be making this up.’ There’s real trust and real honesty in their relationship. And I love that about them.”

Now with it being Pride season, it’s very timely that Sense8 chose to highlight San Francisco’s Pride festivities in an episode. But with more and more people questioning the need for Pride, why this move?

“It’s important because it’s part of Nomi and Amanita’s life,” Jamie said. “You know, it’s something that those characters enjoy. It’s a way that they celebrate their love. And their pride in their love. And I think that for couples that do that it’s a very important thing to show.”

Okay, now if you haven’t seen the show, spoiler alert: There’s a huge orgy scene that blew up the Internet. How did that work?

“It was Lana just on the side, sort of like shouting out directions at all of us,” Jamie said. “Like where our hands should go, like who we should kiss.”

So how does she feel about fans immortalizing her in GIFs this way?

“I mean it’s part of the times that we live in. I don’t think that going into it I knew that that was going to happen,” Jamie said. “But then, once it’s done, it’s done. And I think it’s flattering that people enjoy it that much that they’re doing–that they take the time to do that. That’s very sweet.”

Shockingly, that wasn’t her favorite scene to shoot. She preferred action of a different kind.

“The stunts for me were really, really, really fun because they were such a challenge,” Jamie said. “I learned to ride a bike for the show. And I went rock climbing to learn how to rappel down the apartment building. The stunts were such a challenge, and then like all of the fight choreography and all that.”

Nomi got to be badass on the regular because she’s a lead character, a fact we can’t lose sight of because it’s still so rare. The same goes for the other queer characters on the show.

“I think it’s important to show that these people are important enough that we can be part of the roots of the show. We’re the anchor that holds it together,” Jamie said. “It’s important that LGBT people be represented as much as we can on shows. And in any way possible. But I think what we’re doing that no one’s ever done before is that we’re being shown as lead characters, we’re being shown in love, we’re being shown having sex, we’re being shown at work. We’re stable people with jobs and with lovers and with whole rounded lives. You know, we’re not these fractioned people that have no friends, that are depressed. We’re living.”

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Living and doing their thing on Sense8. And now we all wait anxiously on word of a Season 2 (fingers crossed!).

You can watch all 12 episodes of Sense8 on Netflix now.

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