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stonewall's jonny beauchamp is "a trans and queer ally"

Stonewall’s breakout actor schools us in self-expression.

by Colin Crummy
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Nov 6 2015, 3:50pm

A native New Yorker, Jonny Beauchamp majored in theater with a minor in gender and minorities studies. This academic focus has come in pretty handy for his breakthrough role in Stonewall, this fall's big-screen depiction of the 1969 riots that birthed the modern gay rights movement. Beauchamp plays Ray, a composite of the riots' main players including trans activist Sylvia Rivera and Ray Castro, who was arrested during the melee. "I played a young Sylvia, who was the leader of a gang of street hustlers in 1969," explains the 26-year-old. "We called her 'Sister Mother' because she was like a sister to all the kids but was also on the streets the longest so she mothered them with [fellow activist] Marsha P. Johnson." 

It's a good job Beauchamp is well-versed in his character's history because already the film -- directed by disaster movie veteran Roland Emmerich -- has attracted criticism. When the trailer was released in August, it prompted calls to boycott the film for appearing to omit trans and women of color from the Stonewall story. For his part, the actor says he's glad the controversy gave voice to Stonewall's heroes like Rivera and Johnson. He says simply: "There were a lot of rumors that there were no queer actors involved, no actors of color involved, that people like Sylvia Rivera were completely erased from the story and history. It's really not true." 

Whatever the film's credentials, there seems to be no real doubt that Beauchamp's got the part down. He's smart and informed, talking about how the law in the 60s actively clamped down on gender fluid dress -- each person having to wear at least three articles of clothing of the gender given to them at birth -- so that trans people and drag queens looked quite different from how we might expect today. Beauchamp's own education in identity history continued while on set for Stonewall, when he got a call to audition for Showtime's Victorian horror series Penny Dreadful. He won the role of Angelique in season two, a trans courtesan who has a full The Crying Game-style reveal in her debut episode and enjoys a wild love affair with an up-for-it Dorian Gray. Next up, he'll be seen imitating real life drag queen and Cher impersonator Scott Townsend in the biopic, Thirsty. There wasn't any grand plan to any of this, says Beauchamp, who got into performing arts after falling hard for the TV show Fame. "These roles just kind of came my way, and Angelique and Ray were amazing -- such rich characters. I see myself as a trans and queer ally, and if people see me in that movement and helping, then I'm honored by that." 

Still, all that growing up in the heart of the East Coast arts scene served as a good education for the Bronx-born Beauchamp, whose mother sold her house upstate and moved the family back to the city so he could fulfill his potential. Living in New York gave him the opportunity to see the shows and watch the films he wanted to become a part of, while the social scene schooled the fledging actor in the art of dressing up as someone else. "When I was a teenager in New York, I was so into self-expression," he says. "I tried on so many different personas and fashions and there was always somewhere to go and be seen; there was inspiration everywhere. So we dressed like lunatics." It was clearly fate, as Jonny's exposure to the Big Apple's most colorful of characters is most certainly paying off.

Credits


Text Colin Crummy
Photography Stef Mitchell
Styling Jessica Dos Remedios
Grooming Tim Nolan
Jonny wears Jacket Coach. T-shirt MM6.

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Culture
Stonewall
the here and now issue
johnny beauchamp