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Leyna Bloom made history in 2019 when she became the first trans woman of color to lead a film at the Cannes Film Festival. “That was such a magical moment. It was an out-of-body experience being there,” says the actress and model. But Port Authority, the film in which she makes her big-screen debut, was held up from being released for more than a year, only finally making its way to theaters May 28 (and out on VOD on June 1). The tender romantic drama centers on a young white man (Fionn Whitehead) and a trans woman of color (Bloom) who first encounter each other outside New York’s Port Authority bus terminal. Bloom, as THR‘s review put it, has an “authenticity … that invests her performance with ease and authority, alongside a resplendent natural grace that the camera adores.” This year, Bloom also became the first trans woman of color to appear in Sports Illustrated‘s annual swimsuit issue; has a role in the third season of Pose; and appears in the revenge thriller Asking for It, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. She spoke with THR by phone from her home in Brooklyn.
What’s your character like in Asking for It?
BLOOM I play this character whose name is Jett, like Joan Jett, and she’s a gunslinger. She’s in this girl gang and the movie takes place in the South. With so many murders of transgender people [in the U.S.], this was an opportunity to put a gun in a trans woman’s hands and fight back. I’m manifesting someday being a potential action star maybe.
What drew you to audition for Port Authority?
It’s very on-topic to what’s going on in the culture right now. I’m really excited that this film could potentially start a conversation that people can pull from if they are trying to figure out things in their life.
How did you get cast ?
I was actually at a ball and the casting directors were scouting talent, and I auditioned. I was extremely nervous. They said no to me actually the first time and I auditioned two other times, and they eventually said yes.
(Bloom later clarified to THR to that the casting directors “approached me” at the ball, adding, “I auditioned and didn’t hear back. Months passed and I assumed they had cast someone else. But then out of the blue they reached out to see if I would meet the director and the rest is history!”)
And how did you end up doing the third season of Pose?
The director and the team reached out to me. They were saying, “You know, we are trying to bring on people from the actual community, who have actually competed in ballroom championships.” A lot of the actors on the show are not directly from the [ballroom] community.
How do you approach being a trailblazer for trans representation?
It’s a responsibility that was given to me. I’m happy that I’m born in a time when I can do that. I hope to continue just using this life as a vessel of change.
As right-wing politicians continue to push anti-trans bills across the country, how does that affect you?
The reality is that there are a group of people who are trying to erase our existence. So much of our history is about colonizing and taking over and killing communities. It’s a very scary world we live in, and I know it firsthand. But I have to keep living and inspiring and working. Hopefully 100 years from now, we can look back and say, “Everything we did to get here was worth it.”
Updated, June 22: Clarification from Bloom on her casting in Port Authority.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the June 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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