Transgender actor Ian Alexander opened up on how working on the Netflix series “The OA” helped his family accept his identity in an interview with “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Alexander, 17, shared how he first began to understand he was transgender through watching YouTube videos when he was younger.
“I was really just watching these videos on YouTube, like starting testosterone and top surgery videos and all this stuff. I didn’t really make the connection as to why I was so intrigued by these videos and so invested,” Alexander says. “It wasn’t until I was 13 when I met other trans people for the first time and I was like, ‘Wait, you’re allowed to do that? You’re allowed to change your pronouns and your name?’ That really gave me the courage to come out and accept who I was.”
Alexander says he comes from a religious family and they didn’t understand how he could be certain of his identity at such a young age. However, working on sci-fi series “The OA” helped them to better understand Alexander.
“They were kind of just like, ‘You’re too young. You don’t really understand what this means,'” Alexander says. “I think being on ‘The OA’ actually really helped them realize that I can be happy and I can be successful as a trans person and as a queer person,” he said. “Being on set for ‘The OA’was the first time I heard my mom use my correct name and pronouns, so that made my heart soar and made me realize they can accept this and other people can accept this and I can be just fully accepted for who I am in this environment.”
“The OA” creator, writer and co-star Brit Marling also appeared with Alexander and said she specifically wanted a 14-year-old Asian-American transgender actor to portray the role of Buck.
“They were telling us at the time, ‘You’re not gonna find all three of these things in the casting world,'” Marling recalled.
Marling says she put a notice for an open casting call online and received 400 submissions. Alexander, who is half Vietnamese and was 14 years old at the time, found the open casting call notice while scrolling through Tumblr and decided to audition.
Alexander revealed to DeGeneres that he hoped to see the Jordan Peele horror film “Us” for his 18th birthday but didn’t have enough money due to the high cost of living in Los Angeles and paying for health care.
“Living in L.A. is expensive, as you guys probably know. I also have a dog and a car, which have a lot of unexpected expenses,” he said. “I’m starting testosterones next week, which is something that I feel like I need in order to survive as a trans person, so I will be spending a lot of money on health care,” Alexander says.
In true DeGeneres fashion, the talk show host gifted Alexander a lifetime supply of move tickets from Fandago.
“The OA” season two is currently streaming on Netflix.
Watch the full interview below.