Fresh from the Out 100

Eve Lindley tells us what it’s like to play her trans revolutionary icon onscreen

Star People, LLC

“This is really fucking weird,” Eve Lindley told me towards the end of our phone interview, “but I have always wanted to play Kurt Cobain. I think that for Kurt Cobain to be played by a woman, a trans woman, would be interesting. Like Cate Blanchett playing Bob Dylan. When I look at Kurt, I see someone whose brain I’ve always felt aligned with. And there’s so much information on him out there. His journals are published, so much material coming straight from the source. He’s somebody I’d really like to work on and embody. I’ve always wanted to play Amy Winehouse as well,” she said, adding that when she was a teenager she used to do her eyeliner like the late singer. “It wasn’t a good look.”

Those dream roles have yet to materialize for Lindley, but the 23-year-old actress, who TV viewers might recognize from her stints as Frida on Outsiders and “Hot Carla the local pyro” on Mr. Robot, has plenty to keep her busy in the meantime. There’s All We Had, her upcoming feature film debut starring and directed by Katie Holmes, not to mention rehearsals for Street Children, an Off Off Broadway production about a group of homeless queer and trans kids who hang around New York’s Hudson River piers. She was also honored as a part of Out magazine’s Out 100 earlier this week, and she recently wrapped reshoots on Happy Birthday, Marsha!, a short film about Stonewall revolutionary Marsha P. Johnson in which Eve plays another one of her non-Kurt/Amy icons, the “badass” Sylvia Rivera.

The Hollywood newcomer told me all about these projects during a phone interview on Thursday. She also touched on how Laverne Cox inspired her to pursue acting and why Sylvia Rivera’s story must be told. Oh, and how she and pre-fame friend Noah Galvin used to ditch class to get stoned and eat bagels. Can’t forget that.

Out magazine celebrated Eve Lindley as part of their annual Out 100 honors.Gavin Bond/Out

Out magazine celebrated Eve Lindley as part of their annual Out 100 honors.

Hi, Eve! Congratulations on the Out 100.

Thank you so much.

Have you seen your picture yet?

Yeah, I did see it. It’s always kind of weird to see a picture of yourself looking all glamorous and stuff, but it was great to see it.

I saw you and The Real O’Neals star Noah Galvin congratulating each other on Twitter for the Out 100. It looked like you go way back.

Yeah, Noah is one of my very best friends from high school. I had this very fragmented experience as a kid. My parents divorced when I was young, so I moved around a lot back and forth between parents all around the [New York-New Jersey-Connecticut] tri-state area. I never really had a solid group of friends until I moved to this one school in Westchester, which is where I met Noah. We just became the best of friends. We’d cut class together to go smoke pot in the woods. One day, we ditched to go see The Lovely Bones, eat bagels, and watch Intervention. I did not get any work done that year, but I made my best friend.

Actress Eve Lindley attends the "All We Had" premiere on April 15, 2016, in New York City.Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Actress Eve Lindley attends the "All We Had" premiere on April 15, 2016, in New York City.

Did you do any theater when you were in high school?

Yeah, I loved it. It was always my passion. Then, when I got a little bit older and started to transition, I stopped performing. It felt weird being in between these two places, not knowing which roles were appropriate for me. When that happened, I started getting into costume design and fashion. I went to FIT but dropped out after, like, a minute, and worked on painting and distressing clothes on Broadway at a studio in Brooklyn. Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Rock of Ages, Peter and the Starcatcher, Cinderella, and many, many others. We also did costumes for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show every year. I also interned at a really well known costume house, Barbera Matera’s. I did that for a while, but my passion for storytelling came surging back to me when I saw Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black. I immediately found out where she was taking acting classes and enrolled.

Had you had any negative experiences with acting class before that?

No, it’s more like… I’m a Capricorn. I’ve got a totally mathematic brain that’s like, “Oh, this works for this person, so this will work for me.” Oh, and I found out that another actress I’ve admired greatly since I was 13 years old, Jamie Clayton [from Sense8], had taken classes there, as well. So, it was a combination of the class itself having really great people in it and the fact that a lot of trans women I admire have enrolled there. After that, I started working and never looked back.

Speaking of work, I just saw the trailer for All We Had, the Katie Holmes movie you’re in. Can you tell me about your character?

I play a waitress who becomes very good friends with a single mother struggling with addiction [Katie Holmes] and her daughter [Stefania LaVie Owen]. Richard Kind plays my uncle who owns the diner, which was fucking amazing. He’s so cool. I have such a friend crush on him. Every scene we did, I was like, “Ahhhhhhhh what are you thiiiiiinking I knooooow you knooooow stuff!!!!” We form a sort of surrogate family for both of them. It’s a movie about healing, about woman-to-woman relationships in particular, mother and daughter, friend and friend. There’s a lot of healing in it, and I think at a time like this we need a lot of healing.

L-R: Actress and director Katie Holmes, Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, Mark Consuls, Stefania LaVie Owen, Eve Lindley, and Judy Greer attend the “All We Had” premiere on April 15, 2016, in New York City.Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

L-R: Actress and director Katie Holmes, Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, Mark Consuls, Stefania LaVie Owen, Eve Lindley, and Judy Greer attend the “All We Had” premiere on April 15, 2016, in New York City.

Did you learn anything from Richard after being on set with him?

Yeah, he’s rich with knowledge. I don’t remember anything specific, but just working so closely with him, Katie Holmes, Judy Greer, who I’ve loved ever since Jawbreaker.

Vyleeeeeeeette.

That is my favorite movie of all time. At least top five. She’s a genius. On set, I just tried to learn and observe. It was like a buffet of knowledge coming from all of these people, including Stefania LaVie Owen, who plays Katie’s daughter in the film and became a very good friend of mine. The people were so wonderful, so helpful. This was my first movie. Well, my first feature film. Before that, I shot a short film called Happy Birthday, Marsha! that hasn’t come out yet.

Oh my god, I wanted to ask you about that! I actually interviewed the filmmakers, Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel, about Happy Birthday, Marsha!, like, a year and a half ago, right around the time they cast you as Sylvia. [Tangerine actress Mya Taylor plays the title role.] I’ve been so excited about it.

I know! It’s such a good story. And the way [Gossett and Wortzel] have done it is so smart. These two women, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, lived halfway between reality and fantasy and used fantasy as a kind of coping mechanism. Reina and Sasha really brilliantly made that clear in the film. The levels of reality kind of blur throughout. This is still an historically accurate piece, but there is so much vibrancy and magic happening in it, down to the way it looks. Right now, it’s maybe 30 minutes long or less. I would love to see it turned into a feature or something.

"Happy Birthday, Marsha!" is a short film about Stonewall revolutionaries Sylvia Rivera (L) and Marsha P. Johnson (R).

"Happy Birthday, Marsha!" is a short film about Stonewall revolutionaries Sylvia Rivera (L) and Marsha P. Johnson (R).

Reina and Sasha even said that it could potentially act as a sort of backdoor pilot into a series.

I joked about that on set. “Well, when we get HBO money…” I do this thing where I repeat a joke long after it stops being funny, so when we were shooting I’d say things like “When we get HBO money, we’ll make the car fly!” It would make a really good pilot or maybe the third episode of something. They’ve created a beautiful, beautiful world. I really hope it gets some traction.

Did you know much about Sylvia before you got cast?

I didn’t know who she was when I was growing up. I knew about Marsha P. Johnson from, you know, just being in New York and falling down Wikipedia K-holes. I also have older friends who were alive in the ’80s and the ’70s and had known Marsha before she passed away. When I got the audition for Happy Birthday, Marsha!, I started googling her, watching her interviews, YouTube clips, learning about everything she did after Marsha’s passing. I began trying to mimic her accent and figuring out what she would wear, how she would do her hair. I kind of look vaguely like her: big nose, brown hair, we’re both Spanish [one of Lindley’s parents is Cuban]. She became kind of like an icon to me. She’s already an icon to so many people, but in researching the role she became my icon. She did so much for the trans community, so much for the gay community. She was such a badass. It was really cool to get to embody this strong, powerful woman who indirectly changed my life and everybody else’s lives.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.