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Lio Tipton Talks Empathy, Villainy & Exploring Gender In A New Way

Lio Tipton in A Friend of the Family
Courtesy of Peacock

Speaking with PRIDE, the A Friend of the Family star opens up about their role since coming out as nonbinary.

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Some may be shocked that Lio Tipton doesn’t see their character, Gail Berchtold, as a villain in the miniseries A Friend of the Family, but they can’t help but feel empathy for her — and that’s precisely what makes Tipton so compelling in the deeply complex role.

The mini-series is based on the real-life story of the Broberg family, whose horrifying and harrowing story involved their daughter Jan (Hendrix Yancey and McKenna Grace) being kidnapped and sexually abused by an obsessed “family friend,” Robert ‘B’ Berchtold (Jake Lacey). The series also stars Anna Paquin, Colin Hanks, and Tipton, of course, as B’s wife.

A Friend of The Family | Official Trailer | Peacock Originalwww.youtube.com

“It actually surprises me how many people see Gail as [a villain]. I did not,” they tell PRIDE. “I saw a woman, a mother, and a wife in an extremely confined situation — an enclosed environment who is desperately trying to keep her family together.” For Tipton, Gail was another victim both of B’s manipulation and of the culture that hemmed her into the relationship. “Divorce wasn’t a thing. Especially in the LDS community. To divorce as a woman, it was bad. She wouldn’t be able to take care of her kids,” they say. “So everything I did in Gail’s head was for my family. And I find that hard to villainize.”

Lio Tipton and Anna Paquin in A Friend of the FamilyCourtesy of Peacock

Gail’s story is also a cautionary tale about how repressive cultures make the victimization of marginalized people much easier. This was very apparent in how gender plays into Gail’s vulnerability, which was particularly interesting for Tipton to explore in their first role since coming out as nonbinary last year.

Tipton opened up about their identity on Instagram during Pride month last year. “Hi. My name is Lio,” they introduced themselves. “My pronouns are they/them. I am proud to announce I am queer and I identify as non binary. I hope to give as much love and support back to those who continue to show love and support for the Pride community at large,” they continued.

“Since I’m newly out — a year now — as nonbinary. This is the first role I’ve really approached from this very good place I’ve made,” they share. “It was interesting because I feel like now when I play female-presenting, I’m putting on a costume and because of that, I feel like I get to explore some of those dynamics in a safer way than I ever have.

Lio Tipton in A Friend of the FamilyCourtesy of Peacock

For Tipton, it really highlighted how embracing their gender identity has improved their life. “I am happy to be who I am honestly. [It] really helped with slipping Gail on and feeling that tightened down so much and put away felt restrictive. And I tried to use that and incorporate it. But being nonbinary, especially as this project was so gendered and very specifically gendered I think, allowed me to play Gail without hurting my own mental state,” they share. This is fortunate because the role requires Tipton to go to some dark and fascinating places, and their performance has to be seen to be believed.

A Friend of the Family is airing now on Peacock. Watch PRIDE’s full interview with Lio Tipton below.

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Rachel Shatto

EIC of PRIDE.com

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.

Rachel Shatto, Editor in Chief of PRIDE.com, is an SF Bay Area-based writer, podcaster, and former editor of Curve magazine, where she honed her passion for writing about social justice and sex (and their frequent intersection). Her work has appeared on Elite Daily, Tecca, and Joystiq, and she podcasts regularly about horror on the Zombie Grrlz Horror Podcast Network. She can’t live without cats, vintage style, video games, drag queens, or the Oxford comma.