Actress Nicole Maines represents a new generation of transgender activists who are growing both artistically and publicly.
Maines was assigned to being male at birth and at three years old showed that was incorrect. Later in life, she became Susan Doe to fight for bathroom rights in the landmark case Doe v. Regional School Unit 26. In June 2014, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the school district violated her rights and she was awarded compensation.
Following the victory, her acting career took off with the USA Network show Royal Pains and The CW series Supergirl. Maines began a recurring role on the fourth season of Supergirl with a character named Nia Nal aka Dreamer, a relative of DC Comics Legion of Super-Heroes member Dream Girl. She continues on crossovers with another comic-based series called Legends of Tomorrow.
Her new queer film, Bit, mixes vampires and feminism in unexpected ways and with edgy humor. She won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Performance at Outfest for the film in 2019.
Maines has taken home many important trophies for the important work she has done for the trans community such as the Roger Baldwin Award, the Young Women's Social Justice Award and the Visibility Award ( the latter from the Human Rights Campaign of Chicago ).
She wrote a book, with the assistance of writer Amy Ellis Nutt, called Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family that shared her background and became a New York Times Best Seller.
Windy City Times: So, your last name is Maines and you are from Maine?
Nicole Maines: Yes. Even weirder is my dad's name is Wayne and there's a town in Maine called Wayne. We took a road trip there and went to their general store. We bought a bunch of merchandise and the workers there thought we were crazy until we explained his name.
WCT: You are currently with their parents in Austin during the pandemic?
NM: YesAustin, Texas.
WCT: I watched the HBO Documentary The Trans List, in which you explained about how your dad evolved in terms of your trans journey.
NM: Yes and it's also in the book Becoming Nicole. My family went through a lot of transformations, especially my dad. That's why it is so powerful when he and I go around the country speaking together at schools and community centers. He went on such a 180 with everything. He had to totally rewire his thinking and reevaluate his stances on many things. He's come a long way.
WCT: We all still learn new things.
NM: Totally. It's a testament that we never stop learning.
WCT: You represent a young population of the trans community. What advice do you have?
NM: Right now specifically I would tell people to stay the hell indoors. Through all this, I think it's important to stay connected. While we are isolating and alone, we are not emotionally isolating. People shouldn't feel alone.
I think that is hard for all of us who are in a situation where we have to stay in the house with unsupportive parents. That can be really hard.
We should take advantage of social media and the internet. We need to keep connecting with our community in those ways.
WCT: [Switching topics,] what is your favorite meme currently?
NM: The one where all the people going outside right now are the same people that would hide a zombie bite.
WCT: Speaking of bites, I saw your film Bit at Outfest…
NM: Oh, good segue!
WCT: What can you tell our readers about Bit?
NM: I want to tell people that it will be coming out soon. It was supposed to be this month, but the coronavirus has thrown everything up in the air.
Queerness and transness aside, it's such a fun movie! People will have a really good time watching it. It's got horror, comedy and an important message. Who doesn't love blood orgies and grenades?
WCT: Is there someone you would bite right now?
NM: Someone I don't particularly like, although one rule of Bite Club is you kill what you eat, so they don't necessarily live forever.
WCT: Was it scary making a movie with no formal training?
NM: It was terrifying! That has been the scariest part of acting in general. Bit was my first movie project and I was the lead, so I had to carry the whole thing. I am acting against Diana Hopper and James Paxton. They are insanely talented. I tried to act like I knew what I was doing.
After that, I went straight to Supergirl where I am doing scenes with Melissa Benoist and David Harewood. It has been terrifying to say the least.
WCT: How did you land the role in Supergirl?
NM: That came with an audition through my agent. I was still living in Maine and making audition tapes in my basement. It was an open casting call for trans talent. I decided to shell out a few bucks and not film it on my laptop. I paid a kid $70 to come film and edit itbest $70 I ever spent!
WCT: Has there been a favorite special effect on Supergirl for you?
NM: My favorite one so far was in the 100th episode where there was a big dream shield that Dreamer did. I have a GIF of it saved on my phone that I look at. The way they animated it was so cool!
WCT: Do you perform your own stunts?
NM: As much as I can. For fight scenes, I learn the choreography and do the whole thing. I'm not particularly graceful. The stunt people are shot from behind. If watchers think it looks good and don't see my face, then it's probably a stunt performer and not me! [Laughs]
WCT: What would you like to see the character do on the show in the future?
NM: I would like them to explore the lore of Naltor. I go crazy when there is a slight mention of Dream Girl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. I would love to dive deeper into that and see my character's heritage. I think the planet Naltor has an unexplained history.
WCT: Were you into comics before this show?
NM: A little, but not in the way I am now. They sent me some Legion comics and I tore through them.
WCT: Do you make appearances at comic conventions?
NM: I do and have a blast at them. We started doing at home conventions for people quarantined. We did panels over Twitch. People could pay to have one-on-one Zoom calls with actors in place of a meet-and-greet. A portion of the proceeds went to first responders.
I did FAN Expo Vancouver before all of this happened.
WCT: What is next for Nicole Maines?
NM: I am excited for the release of Bit and the sixth season of Supergirl. I want to play different kinds of roles, like a villain at some point. Maybe there will be an episode of Nia having a red kryptonite moment that turns her evil. I hear playing the bad person is cathartic.
WCT: Come visit Chicago sometime soon.
NM: My twin brother, Jonas, just moved there. He's working on being a stage actor. He is a rising star in Chicago!
Supergirl is on the CW Sundays at 8 p.m. CT.