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Andreja Pejić: Trans in Real Life, Cis in Girl in the Spider's Web

Andreja Pejić: Trans in Real Life, Cis in 'Girl in the Spider's Web'

Andreja Pejić: Trans in Real Life, Cis in 'Girl in the Spider's Web'

The model turned actress talks her first film role and if straight, cis people can play LGBTQ characters.

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When Andreja Pejić was first thrust into the world of fashion in 2008, her gender identity wasn't at the forefront of her mind. But when her androgynous look made her the IT girl of high fashion and she came out publically in 2013, she became a champion for transgender models in the industry. 

"I didn't expect to be this kind of essay or a challenge to gender stereotypes and that's kind of what it became," she told PRIDE.

The now 27-year-old had no idea how influential her presence in the fashion world would be. "I realized that it was important because there was social weight around it, there were young people who needed someone to look up to and were drawing strength from what I was doing. So I just felt like, you know what, I'm going to be honest about this as much as possible. I'm going to tell my story."

Now, Pejić is making her film debut in The Girl in the Spider's Web, the latest film iteration of the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy novels.

The not quite sequel, not quite reboot follows Lisbeth Salander, this time played by Claire Foy, continuing with her vigilantism and hooking up with her flavor of the week, Maria (Pejić). Complex and fully fleshed out, women command attention throughout the story, often at the expense of the sparse male characters. "It's nice to see women kicking ass," Pejić says. The men might be sidelined but "that kind of happens to hot girls in sort of every action movie in the past 20 years, you know what I mean? So what?"

Maria is essentially Lisbeth's sexy Bond girl. She climbs out of bed with Lisbeth and asks her about her past, desperate to get to know the woman she's sleeping with. Distant and guarded, Lisbeth can't let her in, but the two share a knowing bond that is later exploited by NSA agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield).   

A revolutionary moment hides stealthily between Maria and Lisbeth's sheets. While they're intimate, neither character's sexuality or gender identity is discussed; they're just two women in a relationship with one another. Bisexual? Lesbian? Trans? Who cares! They're in love. 

But as Pejić is transgender, will audiences wonder if Maria should be read as trans? Pejić thinks for a moment, "When I was auditioning for it, it was a cis female role," she acknowledged. "It's not mentioned and there is no trans character in the series."

But she's not exactly confirming or denying Maria's gender identity, just that it wasn't vital to the story when she took on the role. "When I approach a character, I don't want to think about their gender that much. I want to think about what kind of human being they are, I want to think about what they do, not just how they were born."

Finding the humanity of the character was important to Pejić but with the recent controversies over straight, cisgender people playing LGBTQ roles, can trans people, who are a rarity in film and TV, take on cis roles?

While there need to be more opportunities for LGBTQ people, Pejić is wary of telling people which roles they can or can't do. "There are a lack of opportunities," she began. "I think that if you're different in any way, you can easily be kind of put into this box. If you are from the LGBT world, you can kind of be sidelined. For me, that's just made me want to work ten times harder because we have to. 

"I would love to see more support for LGBT actors. But I also think that in this time we're living in, it's really important to uphold artistic freedom and not hold things to a certain group. Cross-pollination, generally, is a beautiful thing. I think it needs to happen for progress. It goes both ways. I would like to be able to play many types of characters from different backgrounds. Many one day even different genders. But I want to play female roles. And I think that's what acting is, acting is about getting to the humanity. It's something deeper than these pillars of identity that we like to grab on to and hold on to which is part of surviving in this world."

Pejić hopes this is the first role of many and that The Girl in the Spider's Web opens doors for her and other transgender actors. 

"Artistic freedom is something very important to uphold in a time that's just getting more and more authoritarian. I, personally, just want to keep working so goddamn hard and really prove myself so that my work transcends my identity and my history and the way I was born, which I think great work does."

The Girl in the Spider's Web is now in theaters everywhere. Watch the trailer below: 

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Taylor Henderson

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one! 

Taylor Henderson is a PRIDE.com contributor. This proud Texas Bama studied Media Production/Studies and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where he developed his passions for pop culture, writing, and videography. He's absolutely obsessed with Beyoncé, mangoes, and cheesy YA novels that allow him to vicariously experience the teen years he spent in the closet. He's also writing one!