Welcome to the newest feature on my blog, Peterson’s Quickie, in which I interview someone who interests me and is engaged in the world. I’ll feature folks involved with any number of pursuits that hold my attention: queer stuff, gender issues, faith, climate change, (and likely gardening since I am so obsessed these days.) I’m thrilled that the very first person I have interviewed is Marlo Bernier.
Likely you have seen her before on Television or in the movies. (She was in the Cecil B DeMented film! I love how in that movie Patricia Hearst plays the mother of one of the “cinema terrorists.”) Even though you watched Marlo on the screen that doesn’t mean you would recognize her if she passed you on the street. For most of her screen and stage work as an actor, writer, and producer, Marlo Bernier is credited as Mark Bernier and has appeared in male roles. About seven years ago Marlo began a transition process and today lives openly as the woman she knows she has always been.
Now Marlo has embarked on a new project, a television Dramedy in which she plays Myrna. Here is a synopsis from the project’s popular on-line crowd source fundraising page: (It’s not too late to donate!)
After a successful career in front of the camera and on the stage, an actor is willing to sacrifice everything when she finally confronts her true gender identity and transitions from male-to-female. We follow Myrna as she struggles to find work as an actress, wrestles with a manager who still wants to send her out as her former-famous self, Michael and deals with the drama of her friends’ reactions as they make an effort to come to terms with Myrna and her life-altering transition.
While this plot line may sound purely autobiographical, Marlo is quick to point out differences between her and her creation. We sat down for a fun and moving interview. Here is the first of three questions and Marlo’s answers.
Question: Marlo, you have been in theater, TV, and film for some time now (yet still look young and fresh) what initially drew you to acting, and given the nature of how challenging a profession it is, why do you keep at it?
Answer: I’ll be brief (but I’m a broad who loves to talk – HA!) but you knew that already 🙂
Why, thank you, Peterson – you’re the first person to ever refer to me as (still) “young”, but I’ve been called more than “fresh” forever.
Yes, I have been acting since I was in Junior High School where I had my first exposure through what was called; Prize Speaking. In 7th Grade, I delivered an “I Speak for Democracy” speech and in the 8th Grade, I delivered Poe’s “The Raven” and it’s been all uphill from there – HA!
I think for me, having started in the theatre, it was the place that was safest, the place where I was allowed to grow and a place that was less judgmental as to how particular roles in which I was fortunate to have been cast were open to me, as in when I did Roy Cohn in Kushner’s Angels in America, the twins John/James in L!V!C! and Alan Berg in Steven Dietz’ God’s Country. Those roles are a few of my best memories and ones in which I most likely wouldn’t have been cast, had they been film roles.
But I love film and television work too and I’ve been also fortunate to have been on both sides of the lens. And as an actor, I love to work with other actors from a director’s perspective, because (and I can only hope the feeling is mutual) I have a kind of “short-hand” when talking with actors on set. And nothing excites me more, than watching actors from behind the monitor, delivering killer work. There’s just nothing like it, for me.
I hope I continue to do this for the reason I began doing it (decades ago) and that would be because the theatre, film and television are places where we “tell the truth” within the parameters we’ve (or the play, script etc) created. We suspend (our) “disbelief”, so that the/our “Audience” is allowed to suspend theirs.
Simply, I remember as a kid that when I played “Make Believe”, I truly believed I was “that person”, going thru “those events”.
And I hope and pray that I never stop believing.