Q&A with transgender actress Savannah Burton

Thousands of people have been watching the small screen and seen Savannah Burton, but may not have known it. She has appeared in television shows such as Killjoys and Beauty and the Beast. She has worked on a variety of films, including The Kiss, an upcoming film that will bring light the issues of the transgender community from the 1950s.

Burton has overcome many barriers to reach the success she has now. Being a transgender actress in the industry, many opportunities can be limited to trans roles only. That is not the case for Burton, a refreshing and promising change.

As she discusses in the interview below, Burton did not always know she wanted to get into acting, but once she had a taste of it, she knew that is where her future was. To find out more about her career and her story, make sure you read below.

 IF: Where are you from? When and how did you get into acting?

SB: I was born and raised in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, a town with a population of about 19,000 people. My father was a small business owner and my mother is in real estate. Growing up in such a small place a million miles away from Hollywood, you never really think about being in the entertainment industry. It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto, Ontario in my twenties that I took my first acting class. It was in the basement of a church and from the very first class, I was hooked. I love the feeling of making the audience have an emotional reaction to something I’m doing and taking them on a journey. 

IF: Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done?

SB: Some of my most recent projects have been on Beauty and the Beast on The CW network and Killjoys which airs on Syfy and Space. Being able to work with actors like Aaron Ashmore, Thom Allison and Ryan Blakely on Killjoys and Austin Basis and Nina Lisandrello on Beauty and the Beast have been wonderful learning experiences. While I’m on set, I try to be like a sponge and watch the actors who are where I want to be in their careers. It was a huge thrill to work on a show created by Michelle Lovretta who was also the creator of the popular series Lost Girl. She masterfully creates amazing, original story lines with characters who just happen to be LGBTQ+.

IF: What is it like being a transgender actress in the industry?

SB: Being a transgender actress in the industry is still a big challenge at this point. We are still kind of waiting for society to catch up to us as far as understanding what Trans people go through and have to deal with on a daily basis. Many people have this false narrative of what a trans person is from decades of misrepresentation of us on film and TV screens. Fortunately, shows like Sense8 and Transparent are helping to educate and create dialogues where none existed before. 

IF: When looking at a script, what makes you pick one role over another?

SB: I certainly wouldn’t want to limit myself when it comes to roles, though knowing what your “look” is and what types of roles you are more suited for is something that every actor should be aware of. 

IF: What has been your favorite role so far and why?

SB: I’ve played many roles from villains to incredibly sympathetic characters. My favorite to date would have to be Itchy Woman on Killjoys. First of all, the role isn’t written as Trans, plus she is a guard at a place for criminals to gamble their merchandise they have illegally obtained.  She carries a big gun and isn’t afraid to use it. I love seeing a strong powerful Trans woman on screen. It really goes against stereotype. 

IF: What is your favorite genre to work in as an actress?

SB: Honestly I like all genres. I grew up collecting comics like Thor, Captain America and Doctor Strange so I love what Marvel is doing right now. I also remember watching Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs for the first time and thought this is something different. The way he would mess with the linear storytelling and take the audience from 0 to 100 miles an hour in an instant made me want to be part of a film like that. People mostly see the violence in his films, but he also writes incredibly strong female characters to which he doesn’t get enough credit. Most of the female characters in Kill Bill, Jackie Brown and Inglorious Bastards are totally bad ass.

IF: What separates you from other actors?

SB: One of the most important things you can do as an actor is training. I’ve been training off and on for more than ten years. It’s necessary to stay sharp by going to classes frequently. Try different acting coaches and see what style works for you.

IF: What would you say your strongest qualities as an actress are?

SB: They say that the eyes have it. One way to tell good acting from bad acting is in the eyes. Being focused on the task at hand during a scene. The audience has to relate with you and put themselves in your place. This can only happen if they believe what you are doing and saying. It’s not really about acting; it’s about being real.

IF: What projects do you have coming up?

SB: I’m really excited about a film that I’ve recently worked on called The Kiss. It’s an LGBTQ themed period piece which takes place in the 1950’s. There are so few stories with Trans characters from this time as much of our history as Trans people has been erased or been completely misrepresented. Being able to tell a story like this is incredibly important and I hope will start conversations.

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