Actress Amy Landecker has finally hit it big, playing Sarah Pfefferman in the breakout Amazon Studio hit Transparent.
Her roots began in Chicago as the daughter of radio personality John Records Landecker. After a theater career in the Windy City, she moved to L.A. when she was 38 to begin films and TV commercials. She struck a chord in the Coen brothers movie A Serious Man and had a supporting role in the film Dan in Real Life.
It was in Transparent where she has really made a mark as the daughter of actors Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light. The family tree is shaken when Maura Pfefferman, played by Tambor, comes out as transgender late in life in L.A. Now in a second season with more to come, Windy City Times talked with her about her Transparent train ride recently.
Windy City Times: Hi, Amy. Where in the world are you calling from?
Amy Landecker: I'm in Beverly Hills. I'm on my way to a fitting for the SAG Awards. I'm going to talk to you while I drive, if that is okay with you.
WCT: Sure. Last time we chatted was at lunch in Chicago.
AL: I wondered if you remembered that! It was at Hub 51. I think I was meeting with you because I was on that Paul Reiser television show and it was cancelled two weeks later! [Laughs]
WCT: I was so bummed. How did you get on Transparent after that?
AL: Well, you know, Jill Soloway is from Chicago. She grew up listening to my dad and had me on her radar. She said she saw me on the show Louie on FX. I played a girl he went on a date with on season one on an episode called Bully. She thought I should play Sarah Pfefferman.
I turned down the audition for Transparent because I didn't want to do on-camera sexual nudity, which was required for the show. She asked to have lunch with me and I immediately fell in love with her. She assured me as a female director that this would be from a woman's perspective.
I watched Afternoon Delight, which was her feature film at Sundance and I was blown away by her abilities as a director and writer.
I went through a series of auditions because Amazon needed me to prove that I could take on such a large role. Luckily they let me do it. I almost missed out on the greatest role of my life!
WCT: Speaking of nudity, are you okay with your character moving into S&M territory this season?
AL: [Laughs] We certainly went the other way, didn't we!?! Yeah, I am okay. We actually do don't that much on camera nudity. I do on camera sex and on camera nudity. When I separate the two I am much more comfortable. That might seem like a strange distinction but it actually makes a big difference on how I feel doing it.
It is a funny little rule of mine that we worked out and discussed. I will say when I am uncomfortable Jill will change the situation to make me comfortable. There is something about that trust level that makes you even more free in a weird way because you know you are being taken care of.
I can trust her and the show pushes boundaries and explores sexuality in a way that is really important. It is not just to titillate; it is to teach. People can laugh, learn and be inspired. It is a show I am willing to go all the way for.
WCT: Your character certainly goes on a journey so maybe that is good for you, personally.
AL: Yes; it is an incredible ride and we have only done two seasons. I think I am going on to a more spiritual [and] less physical exploration for season three, from what I am hearingbut that can always change.
WCT: On the episode with the makeup being dropped on the carpet, did you only have one take for that?
AL: Everybody loves that scene! Jill came in and directed that scene. She is tired of me calling her a genius, but it was so brilliant the way she did it. She had me kneel down with the makeup almost like it was an altar. It is so cool the way she motivates your actions because it is so far out of the range of what you might think.
No, that wasn't one take. There are little tricks in there. I think the actual color palette one, you are right, was one take but we did other ones with a dummy set.
It seems to resonate with people in a big way.
WCT: The women's-music festival was a highlight for me from that season.
AL: It was incredible, hot as fuckbut really fun. I loved filming the festival. For my character Sarah it was a rising after a rough year. She may have been the freest and the most alive at that festival. We had the Indigo Girls there. I don't know if people even noticed there was a small cameo with Sia there singing to me and Gaby Hoffman a capella as a wood nymph.
WCT: It was based on a festival where transgender people were not allowed to be a part of, correct?
AL: Yes, I believe that festival is not happening because of that controversy. The feminist movement really grappling with this topic is interesting that it comes up on the midst of transgender and women's civil rights.
Personally, I don't agree with the separation but I can understand the argument coming from women who were traumatized or felt unsafe around men. We all talked about it, and it was discussed. Jill takes on topics like that. As long as we are having a conversation about it I think it is good.
WCT: Does the Transparent cast feel like a family after filming two seasons?
AL: Yes, except it is a really happy family, so maybe not like a regular family. It is sort of like an idealized family. I have never been part of an ensemble as close as this. Jill is very intuitive about assembling a cast who really care about the core issues of a show, which is love, acceptance and giving voice to someone who doesn't normally have a voice.
In some ways, all of us come from strange worlds a little bit. Some of us are older, most of us are female, many are gay or trans. It's a group of artists that are normally relegated to doing theater at Cafe Voltaire in 1992 who are actually being given millions of dollars from Amazon to create art. I think there is a root to that, keeping us moved and inspired at work all the time. We are very much in love with each other. Everyone is very smart, sexy and funny, so that helps.
I know Gaby and Jay truly feel like my siblings. I call Judith Light my mom all the time. Jeffrey is Maura on the show but has a patriarchal feel to us off camera. He is very good at taking care of everybody.
WCT: I heard you have part in the new superhero flick Doctor Strange.
AL : I am, but not allowed to speak of what I do in the movie. I think the reason I got the role was a throwback to the movie I did: A Serious Man. I found out the director had a real soft spot for that film. That is why I found myself in England for a small but lovely role in the movie. That cast is outrageously good. I would have swept the floors if they wanted me to!
Amazon Prime members can stream both seasons of Transparent currently at www.amazon.com .