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Exploring different sexualities is nothing new for the media industry as a whole, but with Netflix’s newest action/sci-fi drama series Sense8, LGBTQ issues are front and center from episode one.

 

Written and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski of The Matrix fame, Sense8 follows eight people from around the world as they developed strange connections to one another. The characters are a cross section of humanity, with someone from almost every continent and creed represented, including a transgender woman, her lesbian lover, and a closeted gay man.

 

As their connections grow, so does a shadowy group hell bent on hunting them down for unknown reasons. The drama and action are only matched by the more heartfelt moments the characters experience as they learn from one another and try and find out what their new found skill means for the rest of humanity.

 

Lana Wachowski, herself a transgender woman, held complete control in the writing and character development according to the show’s transgender leading actress, Jamie Clayton.

 

“As an actor what I do is I bring my emotional experience in my life to the part so that when I’m acting up at things that are on the page I can bring you know some life to them,” said Clayton about her role as Nomi, a hacker and fledgling transgender activist who faces some of the worst challenges experienced in the show.

 

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Clayton has been acting since 2011, and is transgender herself – bringing an authentic experience to the often heartbreaking story of Nomi as she faces both the terrifying shadow group, and an overbearing mother and medical system who treats her gender identity as an illness.

 

Though Clayton admits Nomi is becoming known as the ‘shows trans-character,’ she sees the role as someone who has moved passed her identity as a defining characteristic, but is repeatedly forced to acknowledge it.

 

“There’s so much more to Nomi than her transition, her trans-ness…” Clayton said. “Nomi is so much more than that, but that definitely is something that appealed to me about her… it’s part of who she is. It will always be part of who she is, but she’s living her life.”

 

Clayton pointed out one scene where she is locked to hospital bed under the auspices of treatment for her gender identity – “those scenes in the hospital are so shocking because it’s forced back into her life.”

 

Another notable part of Nomi’s character is she’s also a lesbian. Her black female lover, Amanita (played by Freema Agyeman) never leaves her side, painting one of the strongest and healthiest relationships in Sense8. Through thick and thin (and a federal raid) the two lovers are unabashed in their affection, including a few explicit sex scenes.

 

“The thing that I love about Nomi and Amanita’s relationship is it’s such a middle finger to anyone who has you know a more conservative view of what a relationship is supposed to look like,” said Clayton, who jokingly referred to the couple as Nomanita. “Their interracial, and they’re trans and they’re lesbian. And so it’s this new way of looking at healthy love and saying it doesn’t have to look like what you were taught it was supposed to look like. And I love that. I think it’s extremely important.”

 

Nomi and Amanita’s relationship is not the only LGBTQ love story in the show, the story of Lito Rodriguez, another Sense8 and closeted gay Mexican TV star, and his lover Hernando (played by Alfonso Herrera) is equally as powerful, beautiful and explicit.

 

 

 

Lito, played by the Spanish born actor (so mind some of the quotes as English is his second language) Miguel Ángel Silvestre, spends most of the show trying to hide this same-sex relationship, going as far as bringing in a female ‘beard’ to pretend to be his traditional lover.

 

Silvestre, who identifies as a straight ally, said he was excited to play the role and similarly respected how the his relationship was portrayed in the show.

 

“I thought it was so tender to portray that way and I think it’s very beautiful because it shows the beauty of love whether the gender or whether the sexual orientation,” said Silvestre.

 

Scenes where him and Hernando are intimate are just as powerful as flashbacks to when they first met and fell in love. Though sexualized, their relationship is handled like any heterosexual relationship in modern TV.

 

“I thought it was real and beautiful. Love is like this,” he said. “I see that it really helps in the understanding of someone that can be away from these two couples to feel the connection and how close we are when it comes to love. So how close we are altogether because we are all looking for that kind of love, a pure love you know? So I really love it.”

 

The closeted nature of Lito’s character, a nationally known and exceedingly masculine telenovela actor who is forced to love in secret, couldn’t help but draw parallels to other closeted actors in the past. Silvestre said, in his home country, things have gotten a lot better for out-actors, but he remembers a time, under harsher governments, when who you loved could have landed you in trouble.

 

“There are some people from the past, from my family, that they have lived [under a] dictatorship and the repression of the government against people that was like feeling themselves being authentic,” he said. So I understood perfectly from the beginning what Lana — the Wachowski’s, what they were trying to say with this character because I could — I mean I could feel it looking at the past generations surrounding me… So I thought that because of them we had to surrender and work and battle twice because they deserve to be portrayed in a very modest beautiful way.”

 

Beyond the positive representations of LGBTQ characters throughout the show, no interviews with the cast of Sense8 could be complete without questions about the show’s orgy scene.

 

 

During episode 6, Silvestre said they called it “episode sex,” all eight sense8s go into a kind of trance and the full cast makes intense, passionate love to one another with little concern for gender or sexual preference.

 

Silvestre said the scene was shot his first day on set. The Spanish actor barely spoke English, but as he arrived he was asked to go to wardrobe and put on his ‘costume.’

 

“So I saw just a little piece of something, like the costume was only like a sock for your thing, and I asked the girl, the costume designer, I said like ‘Is that it? Is this like the way I’m going to meet all the people in the crew the first day?’ She told me ‘Yes, yes.’ So I remember that I went there for the first time and I thought ‘okay so if this is the first scene, from now on there’s no anything to be afraid or scared of because we’re starting with the most maybe uncomfortable scene.’”

 

Clayton laughed as Silvestre gave his behind the scenes take. She mostly remembered Lana Wachowski off set, yelling mid-orgy direction.

 

“‘Okay Jamie go in. Okay now Jamie go out’ and I mean there was Lana just on the side sort of like shouting out directions at all of us,” she said. “Like where our hands should go and like who we should kiss.”

 

But Silvestre and Clayton’s interactions during the interview proved how comfortable the actors had become with one another. While the orgy scene might have been a rough opening for some, for the Sense8 cast it seemed to only bring them closer together.

 

“All of them are my brothers, sisters so we are family. So it wasn’t uncomfortable,” said Silvestre. ”I felt very good to be surrounded by my family and I never felt uncomfortable. To be honest it was a nice — we laugh a lot doing it; so it was — nice, it was kind of nice. I have a good remember.”

 

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GayRVA is Richmond, Virginia’s go-to source for news, entertainment, and information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community.

 

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