Garcia, of Netflix’s ‘Tales of the City’ talks gender, representation and being a homebody
At just 23 years old, newcomer, Garcia, is starring in Netflix’s groundbreaking reimagining of Tales of the City, out 7th June.
Based on the series of nine novels written by American author Armistead Maupin this modern take on the story of 28 Barbary Lane championing the LGBT+ community, exploring the complicated subject of gender and sexuality.
Garcia joins the original stars Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis back in their roles as Mary Ann Singleton and Anna Madrigal, to play Jake, a young trans man who is finding his way and exploring his identity.
We sat down with Garcia to discuss their role in the film, how we can open up the conversation around gender, and what they have coming up next.
I KNOW THAT YOU IDENTIFY AS A NON-BINARY, TRANSGENDER PERSON. FOR ANY OF OUR READERS THAT MAY NOT KNOW, COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT THAT MEANS?
Well, for me, and I do have to say that it is definitely different for everyone—and I say that because the way that one queer person identifies, even though it could be the same label, they definitely could mean different things for them personally. So, for me, as a trans, non-binary person, I don’t fall anywhere—I fall somewhere in between, but also outside of the spectrum. I have a masculine appearance, but I still very much feel feminine in a lot of ways and my mannerisms tend to switch back and forth. I’m always questioning what either of those things mean, I’m honestly still always figuring it out and defining what that actually means for me.
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU START TO IDENTIFY AS NON-BINARY?
It’s kind of hard for me to pinpoint. Growing up I very much was a girl in the traditional sense, but I would fight my mother to wear dresses and to wear my hair down. I always dressed like a tomboy…or how I was told a tomboy dresses like. I was always wearing my older cousins’ clothes and his clothes were way too big for me. My behaviour was what I can now look back at and identify as non-binary, but I didn’t get that language until I was older. It hasn’t been until the last few years that I’ve been able to learn the language and be able to be like, “oh there’s a word for this!” At a young age, my behaviour was definitely not traditional, and it was always a weird thing, but also wonderful because I kinda didn’t care—I was like, why can’t I? I like wearing this because it’s comfortable, not because I wanted to look like anything or be anything. Then it started to move into these other realms of, well, maybe I kinda like looking like this and being perceived in this way.
YOUR ROLE AS JAKE IN TALES OF THE CITY IS YOUR FIRST ACTING GIG. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER AND WHAT HIS KIND OF ROLE IS WITHIN THE SERIES?
Jake is a resident at Barbary Lane, he is Anna Madrigal’s caregiver, he’s also going to school to be a nurse and that kinda carries over into his giving nature to Anna and the people around him. The series drops in on his life with his girlfriend Margo, and their relationship is kind of at this weird point where Jake is starting to become interested in men. He is now realising that the world is kind of looking at him differently, and he’s questioning what that means for him and his relationship. He’s a little messy but in the ways of wanting to explore, and it’s nice. It’s nice because it’s complex, it’s not simple, it’s not this traditional, stereotypical trans role that we’ve seen on screen before where this person was one thing and now they’re another.
DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE ORIGINAL TALES OF THE CITY, OR WAS THIS YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH IT?
No, I had no idea about [Armistead] Maupin’s books or the series on television. I think that made it so much more beautiful because I had no idea that this whole thing existed. I definitely would have watched it had I known it was around! I’m still learning about it, I don’t know fully about San Francisco and the scene there, but it’s been amazing finding out slowly but surely something new every time I talk to Armistead, Olympia or Laura about the series and about what it meant to people back then, and what it means to people now.
IT MUST HAVE FELT LIKE SUCH AN INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO PLAY THIS CHARACTER THAT EXPLORES A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE WHO ARE SO UNDERREPRESENTED IN TV AND FILM
Yeah, um. Sorry, I don’t know why I just got choked up now. It is, and every time I talk to a journalist, I still can’t wrap my mind around it, about how grateful I am to actually just play myself, and that someone would actually be interested in people like me and people not like me, and to put that on screen for everyone to see, and it’s global, I don’t even know what that looks like!
HOW IS THIS REIMAGINING OF THE SERIES DIFFERENT FROM THE ORIGINAL?
There’s that clear visual difference, the original series is a completely all-white cast. When it came out in the early 1990’s they showed two men in bed, which was a really big deal. In this new series, there are people of colour, there are multiple queer people across the board. It’s not just lesbian and gay, it’s trans, non-binary, queer, it’s drag queens, you just have everyone. It doesn’t mean that this is the exact—t in the show, these people aren’t representing everyone in the community, they’re representing themselves and it’s just one example of the many people all across the spectrum.
I’VE WATCHED THE FIRST THREE EPISODES, AND IT’S HONESTLY LIKE NOTHING I’VE EVER WATCHED BEFORE. HOW DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE RECEIVED? OBVIOUSLY, WE HOPE IT’S POSITIVE!
I have no idea. I mean, and I don’t have much knowledge about everything that’s happening outside of the US and I know people are slowly being liberated, but we’re taking steps back with our presidency and we try to move forward and there are things that hold us back.
I still think that the good outweighs the bad. I still think that there is hope and there’s just so much good, so many people are working towards a better place for multiple people.
If it’s not perceived well, I will then hope that it can open doors for other people to be like, “Well, I didn’t like the way Tales of the City told this story, so I’m gonna do this.” And that’s cool, I think that’s great because Tales of the City can’t tell everyone’s story. But, I hope it’s just one of the multiple that are to come and be created to be put on screen, and that it will be seen that people are interested in this, they’re actually watching. I think either way, whether received positively or poorly, it’ll open so many doors.
I THINK THAT PEOPLE CAN FIND IT HARD TO ASK QUESTIONS ON THIS SUBJECT FOR A FEAR OF INSULTING OR OFFENDING
Definitely, and I’ve experienced that multiple times where, people were asking me something and it wasn’t the best way, but I mean, they’re trying and I think that’s what matters—it’s like, oh you’re asking because you want to understand, not because you’re trying to cause harm. I mean there is also always the other side of it, where people are being asses. I think that it’s always important to just ask nicely and you know, yes, you’re right, it opens the floor to conversation and let’s talk about things that make us uncomfortable and go from there, and how do we make it comfortable, you know?
ABSOLUTELY. HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR BALANCE DAY-TO-DAY?
Honestly, I just surround myself with my really good friends. I made sure that before this whole thing, I didn’t tell anyone when I booked it, I kept it a secret for some months up until I actually had to move to New York and do it. I just wasn’t sure what it would mean for me, I was always sceptical. I have four really close friends here in New York, and they’re just the most supportive, wonderful people I could ever surround myself with. We’re homebodies, we don’t go out, we’re very much those people that we stay in, we’ll play charades or have a bottle of wine, and we’ll just hang out and talk.
I do a lot of yoga, they have yoga for the people here in New York which it’s free, and I actually just started a few months ago and it’s helped me tremendously. I also love to read. Right now, I’m reading The Inheritance by Matthew Lopez—it’s a play, it premiered in London, so I’m reading that right now currently.
WHAT’S UP NEXT FOR YOU? DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING IN THE PIPELINE?
Right now, I’m in a show at the Manhattan Theatre Club. It’s an off-Broadway play called Continuity, it’s directed by Rachel Chavkin, and that runs until the end of June—and then after that, I don’t know. Everything is up in the air, this is an entirely new world for me, I don’t know if I’m going back to school, I don’t know if I’m gonna continue to work, it’s so scary but also exciting because I have no idea. At the end of the day, I think as long as I’m acting and creating work that matters, the future can remain a question mark—honestly, I think that as long as I’m continuing to do work, that’s enough for me.
Find Yourself at 28 Barbary Lane on June 7th when New Limited Series Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City Launches Only on Netflix