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EP 186: Bianca Leigh (autogenerated)

[00:00:00] Dane Reis: [00:00:00] ‘you booked it. Episode 186. Okay, let’s get this started. I am excited to introduce my guest today. Bianca Lee, are you ready for this Bianca? 

[00:00:18] Bianca Leigh: [00:00:18] Yes, I am. Dane. afternoon 

[00:00:21] Dane Reis: [00:00:21] you? It, Bianca is an actress, singer writer and educator. Miss acting roles include waxy Bush in MTCs the nap on Broadway, Mary Ellen in the groundbreaking film trans America time slash wind in Taylor Mac’s theater, Epic, the lilies revenge tales of the city, the musical Tatyana in Paul Lucas’s award-winning verbatim piece trans scripts, man in love addict.

[00:00:47] Kansas city rep and Dr. Rachel Sando in law and order SVU, Bianca wrote and performed her own solo musical. Busted about the challenges facing a young trans woman in pre Disney, New York, and her play  m B J R T was part of the Monday night playwrights series at Kansas city rep in 2018. She is featured in Laverne Cox, documentary disclosure and exploration of trans representation in motion pictures, and on television, and can be heard on the audible recording of John Barry hotel and butterfly club.

[00:01:23] Bianca. That is a quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done, but why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.

[00:01:37]Bianca Leigh: [00:01:37] okay. Uh, well, I grew up in the suburbs of South Jersey, right across the river from Philadelphia. I went to Rutgers , uh, got a BFA in acting I’ve lived in New York for quite a while now. Um, I am a working actress , uh, done quite a bit of theater, including Broadway, a couple of motion pictures, and a little television.

[00:01:57] I also sing and I’ve had a few gigs as a Sean twos over the years , uh, between gigs. I develop projects for myself. I’m currently writing a web series called trans Cougar and a couple of pilots.

[00:02:13]Dane Reis: [00:02:13] Brilliant. Well, let’s dig into this first section here and Bianca, look, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone?

[00:02:24] Bianca Leigh: [00:02:24] Allen, 80% of success is showing up

[00:02:28]Dane Reis: [00:02:28] Oh, isn’t that true? Can you, I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory but can you expand on that and how that has applied to your entire career?

[00:02:38] Bianca Leigh: [00:02:38] well. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I just keep going. I show up, I’m definitely a tortoise in this race. I also like the serenity prayer. God grant me the serenity to accept the things. I cannot change the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

[00:02:59] Dane you know, you know, this business can be overwhelming. Most of us grew up doing community theater than high school productions and college. Generally the role went to the actor who gave the best audition, and then we come to New York or LA and it’s about so much more being good at what you do is just the baseline.

[00:03:22]Dane Reis: [00:03:22] yeah, the tip of the iceberg.

[00:03:23] Bianca Leigh: [00:03:23] How you look, how you fit in with the other cast members, your height, your weight, age, ethnicity, your Instagram following. They all become huge factors. So for me, focusing at every level of my professional journey on the things that I can do and recognizing that there are so many aspects of this business that I am absolutely powerless over has been a lifesaver.

[00:03:50]Dane Reis: [00:03:50] Oh, I’m so glad that you said that because. That’s something that’s come up time and time again in this interview process with this podcast. And it’s so true. There are so many factors that are out of our control and you will drive yourself insane. If you try to control everything and  to be fair, you cannot even show up properly for an audition.

[00:04:11] You can’t show your best self. If you’re concerning yourself with all of the things that are out of your control.

[00:04:17] Bianca Leigh: [00:04:17] Absolutely. You know, I have met so many actors over the years and I always love to have a discussion like, like you do. I mean, I mean, what are you. What’s the career that you think you should have.  And a lot of them will name another actor invariably it’s somebody that is completely different and there’s reasons why that person had that career.

[00:04:43] And. We have our careers. We are individuals, w we’ve got to stop comparing

[00:04:49] Dane Reis: [00:04:49] parents. Yes. Well Well said, and let’s get into this next section here. And Bianca, of course you are an entertainer. I’m an entertainer. And I think that you’d agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest, personally emotional industries in.

[00:05:07] Existence and, you know, you know, as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like your having now takes a lot of dedication and hard work. And while yeah, there’s an outrageous amount of fun and excitement doing what we do, being an entertainer. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures.

[00:05:28] We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us, what is one key challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better? Because

[00:05:42]Bianca Leigh: [00:05:42] well, the biggest challenge for me was that the doors of the industry were absolutely shocked to actors of trans experience for so long. Uh, when I graduated Rutgers, one of my acting teachers said, go to New York, stay away from Hollywood. They want nothing to do with it. And she was right.  And even when things started to open up a bit around , uh, 2005, when I did trans America, the opportunities were still extremely limited.

[00:06:12] I met agents at the LA premiere of Transamerica who approached me and said your, the real deal, which is what we all 

[00:06:22] Dane Reis: [00:06:22] is what we all were here.

[00:06:23]Bianca Leigh: [00:06:23] I said, thank you, actually. I’m looking for representation. And they said, Oh honey, there isn’t enough work for you. It took me years to get an agent and a manager years. Things are a lot better

[00:06:37] Dane Reis: [00:06:37] are a lot better now.

[00:06:38]Bianca Leigh: [00:06:38] Infinitely better. I’m not sure that I overcame anything. Um, I just kept going. I just kept going. Um, and one thing I, I have to say is make sure that you give whatever project you’re working on the same dedication that you’d give to your dream role. I was called into an audition for the workshop of a musical in the Broadway pipeline because the librettist.

[00:07:07] Oscar nominated. Jeff witty had seen me do an underground culture show in an East village, basement years before he had me tucked away in his brain all that time. And that workshop got me into equity and onto a Broadway stage. Yeah. Um, most of my gigs I’ve gotten because someone saw my work , um, So always do your best because you don’t know, who’s watching.

[00:07:35]Dane Reis: [00:07:35] So well said, and I think your entire journey and your experience throughout your entire career really just goes back to your quote and you saying, look, I just keep putting one foot in front of the next and, and that you really, you can’t, you can’t control everything you say , well, I know I can keep moving forward and at least I can control that.

[00:07:54] And we’ll wait for this world to catch up with me.

[00:07:58]Bianca Leigh: [00:07:58] My manager Chichi  says you’re all only one audition away from stardom. I don’t know if that’s in the cards. Um, it is you, you know, you, you know, when the right role comes along at the right time, nobody can keep it away from you.

[00:08:18]Dane Reis: [00:08:18] Yeah, so true. And let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment. That one moment in time you realized, yes, I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes. This is what I need to be doing in the entertainment industry. Tell us about that.

[00:08:40] Bianca Leigh: [00:08:40] wow. Dan, I was five years old doing a local production of gypsy. I played a little cloud and uncle Jocko’s talent show. I was supposed to pester and annoy the older boy next to me, trying to tie his tap shoes.

[00:08:56] Dane Reis: [00:08:56] Yeah.

[00:08:56]Bianca Leigh: [00:08:56] Well, that curtain went up and I saw that audience and I knew that this was it. I wailed on that poor kid.

[00:09:07] And then I went after uncle Jacko , um, a big ham from the very beginning. Um, and I’ve been hooked 

[00:09:12] Dane Reis: [00:09:12] I’ve been hooked. Oh, so good. I love that. And let’s piggyback on it real quick and talk about your number one book. That moment, walk us through that day, the auditions and callbacks, if they happen to be a part of it, what was going on in your life? And what about that moment?

[00:09:31] Makes it your favorite book? That moment?

[00:09:34]Bianca Leigh: [00:09:34] getting a gig on law and order was huge for me.


[00:09:38] law and order SVU , uh, though had done quite a bit before that 

[00:09:42] Dane Reis: [00:09:42] that 

[00:09:42] Bianca Leigh: [00:09:42] being. On a law and order meant you were a real New York actor.  I have never been so nervous at an audition. I was trembling in the waiting room. Um, I get very nervous at auditions for jobs that will take me to the next level.

[00:09:59]So. I get the lines and the choices in my bones so that the nerves won’t throw me.  Um, I was called into the room and there were two chairs, one for the director, Arthur Forney, and one for me. And about 15 people behind a room divider watching the audition on a huge monitor, 15 people. Um, I read this speech several times , um, taking direction from Arthur.

[00:10:30]Uh, it’s really important to make adjustments , uh, when asked, they need to know that you can be directed. Um, they all seem to pleased with my reading. Arthur said some things about. How they wanted to do this episode , uh, which involved the death of a trans teenager with accuracy and sensitivity. I didn’t play the teenager.

[00:10:53] I played his therapist.  Um, he asked what I mind helping them to get it right by answering some questions about being trans. I said, okay. Give me the part and I’ll answer all the questions you won’t.

[00:11:07] Dane Reis: [00:11:07] there you go.

[00:11:09] Bianca Leigh: [00:11:09] And I booked it now, of course, I didn’t act as a gender consultant for the episode. That’s somebody else’s job.

[00:11:15]Um, I just acted in it, but

[00:11:17]I do think humor helped you don’t want to be a clown or a pest, but a good joke. Boop. Get your remembered. I’m also a director on a different gig, told me that the second I walked into that audition room, they said, that’s her. I try to keep that in mind when submitting tapes now, because everyone is good at this level, you have to be absolutely right for the part.

[00:11:49]Almost as if they know before you even open up your mouth. 

[00:11:52] Dane Reis: [00:11:52] Yeah, for sure. Because like you said, everything that’s meant for you will come to you and it’ll present itself. Right? So like you said, you walk into that room and they say, that’s it. That’s her that’s, that’s what we want. And you haven’t even done anything. Right. Right. It’s amazing. So, and how you, you can’t control that?

[00:12:07]Right. You just fit what was in their head and they’re like, this is it. And it just goes to show that you really have to just focus on the work, focus on what you can control.

[00:12:19]Bianca Leigh: [00:12:19] how I approach an audition or a video submission is as a step towards my goal  The casting director has to see you quite a few times before they cast you , um, being a known entity, sticking with it, building a relationship. Um, there have been roles that I knew were just 

[00:12:44] Dane Reis: [00:12:44] just felt you

[00:12:45]Bianca Leigh: [00:12:45] that they were definitely 

[00:12:46] Dane Reis: [00:12:46] definitely going to get a name,

[00:12:48]Bianca Leigh: [00:12:48] but I do it with the same enthusiasm. Because you want them to get to know you and maybe that role is going to, they’re going to get a 

[00:12:57] name for, but maybe her best friend, maybe her sister in a future episode.

[00:13:04] So it’s about building blocks becoming known. Establishing that relationship ,  and showing up.

[00:13:15] Dane Reis: [00:13:15] yeah. Becoming known and establishing the relationship that right there is everything. Yes. A lot of, I think the romanticized version of this industry is that you show up . To one audition and you get seen, they’re like, Oh, look at this star. We’ve discovered this person. And off you go and then that’s launches your entire career.

[00:13:36] Sure. Yes, that does happen. But that is like, that is the outlier of outliers. Right? What really it is it’s you have to, when I was on an episode the other day I was , uh, interviewing someone. They said it’s impossible to get booked. If people don’t know you exist and.  it seems very self-explanatory.

[00:13:53] I mean, I mean, it seems very obvious, right. But it’s so true. And we many times we don’t think that way. And it’s about showing up again and again, some making those submissions showing up in front of those casting directors again and again. So people get to know you, they get to know the type of work that you do, your range that you can handle as you go in for different roles.

[00:14:13] That, that is what really ultimately. Results in booking those jobs because you’ve had a hundred auditions and submissions before that and opportunities for them to see you and get to know you a bit.

[00:14:27]Bianca Leigh: [00:14:27] exactly. And there you, then, after a while they start to feel guilty. They’re like, Oh God, you know, we’ve got to get her something, you know,

[00:14:36]Dane Reis: [00:14:36] Yeah, for sure. And let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And it’s a weird time, right? Where it’s this global pandemic. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?

[00:14:56]Bianca Leigh: [00:14:56] well, um, right now I’m gearing up for pilot season.  Um, How many pilots are going to be filmed? I’m not sure. I know they’ve shut down a lot of filming in LA, a lot of my auditions in the past month or so have been for shows, filming in Canada. One was filming in Australia. Um, So, I’m not sure it’s gonna ha how it’s going to play out and how long this lowdown will last.

[00:15:25] But , um, the , um, the need for more content for streaming services pretty intense.  Um, so I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities. I’m just not sure how quickly , uh, They’re going to be filmed. Um, but vaccine is here, so it may take a while.  Um, but again, there’s, you know, we’ll find out as, as it plays out, I’m I’m ready, you know?

[00:15:47] Um, I’m having new pictures taken , um, obviously. You have to stay current. If a picture is over two or three years old, if your hair is different, you got to get new pictures taken.  Um, no, no agent or manager wants the casting director going. She doesn’t look like her picture. That’s not the person I called in.

[00:16:08]Uh, and when I was younger, I would just grab a couple of things and run to the photographer. Uh, but now I plan the looks carefully , uh, with my photographer, L Morgan Lee, my manager, Chichi on Yahoo and my makeup, artists, fairness morality. I put a lot more into it. What are the looks. How can I really reflect that in the wardrobe, the hair and the makeup.

[00:16:32] And I listened to the input from my team because a bad headshot will slow you down. It’s easy not to realize that, but if they look at your headshot and it’s not a good one, and I don’t mean you look unattractive in the picture. You know, there’s a lot more that goes into it. And there’s a lot of , um, there’s a lot of videos about that.

[00:16:54] It’s a lot of advice. There’s a lot of articles. Um, but you need a good headshot that looks like you on a good day. You don’t want it to look like, you know, I was talking to my manager the other day. It was like in the eighties, you know, You could put on a ton of makeup and you’d have this lighting. And, but it’s not like that.

[00:17:13] Now. They want pictures where you’re not wearing a lot of makeup where there’s not a lot of Photoshop.  Um, and it really reflects ex 

[00:17:23]Dane Reis: [00:17:23] yeah, absolutely. A hundred percent. Yeah. Having the right photo and the right headshot is so important. And it’s good to note that depending on the market that you are planning on, primarily working in, or you’re submitting for a job for it also will have impact. The ideal style of that photo.

[00:17:46] Bianca Leigh: [00:17:46] Yes, absolutely. And it’s really good to get input from other people ,


[00:17:50] because I’ve had pictures taken and Nope. Too much makeup. It’s not commercial enough. It’s it’s it’s too glamorous

[00:17:59]Dane Reis: [00:17:59] Yeah. Everything, every market has its own look. Right? Right? So you’re not going to show up in New York with something that you would use in Vegas or LA, most likely, you know, it’s just, you’re just going to get more of that edge editorial look on the West coast versus New York. And that’s totally, totally fine.

[00:18:15] But you need to have that as part of your arsenal photos, if you plan on working in 

[00:18:21] those different markets, 

[00:18:22] Bianca Leigh: [00:18:22] you should always have one option that is almost no makeup and very simple hair. Um, and then if you’re doing two or three looks, then you can work up. You know, maybe a little more makeup and a nicer outfit. And then I always like to try to get a couple editorial looks and , um, just in case. So, so on certain auditions, they can see what you can look like when a glam team has, has gotten a hold of you.

[00:18:52] But yeah, there’s always that one, that lawyer shot. Where you’re very, very, very little, because sometimes that’s how they want to see you. I mean, I look at it and I think I look like crap, but 

[00:19:06] Dane Reis: [00:19:06] for sure. You know, you don’t know what they’re trying to cast, so exactly right. Well, Well, it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightning round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another.

[00:19:28] Are you ready?

[00:19:31]All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career as an entertainer?

[00:19:37] Bianca Leigh: [00:19:37] shyness. Most of my friends who’ve done well, have a habit of just doing it. 

[00:19:46] Dane Reis: [00:19:46] there you go. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

[00:19:52] Bianca Leigh: [00:19:52] A choreographer named Vicki Davis once told me steal from everyone, then make it your own.

[00:19:58]Dane Reis: [00:19:58] Third question. What is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry went on? Pause

[00:20:08] Bianca Leigh: [00:20:08] Doing all these self-tapes has taught me so much about working with the camera, where to look the importance of minimizing movement gestures. I’m also getting really good at uploading and then forgetting about it. It’s a numbers game. I’ve auditioned for one network show four times. They’ll book me eventually.

[00:20:30] Dane Reis: [00:20:30] just keep showing up. And the fourth question, what is your best resource? Whether that is a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or piece of technology that you found is helping your career right now.

[00:20:44] Bianca Leigh: [00:20:44] YouTube is full of performer generated content. It really is fantastic and inventive and we can all participate. Casting really does look at this stuff, watch it learn from it. And your podcast is also a fantastic resource Dane.

[00:21:01] Dane Reis: [00:21:01] Ah, thank you. And the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it the same?

[00:21:19]Bianca Leigh: [00:21:19] I would be much bolder in my approach. I would drop perfectionism like a hot potato and I’d network more. I was very shy. It’s great to watch motion pictures and television shows to learn, but find out what your peers are doing right now in those East village basement theaters. They’re the ones you’ll be collaborating with in the future. 

[00:21:43]Dane Reis: [00:21:43] Such good advice. Love that. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our listeners.

[00:21:57] Bianca Leigh: [00:21:57] no acting technique is going to get you through every situation in every medium for eight shows a week, find out what works for you and get those acting teachers out of your head. Also, there’s always someone younger and prettier or a better singer or, or who has worked. With a producer before focus on what you bring to the table that is special and unique.

[00:22:24]Dane Reis: [00:22:24] Oh, that is golden advice. Everyone just rewind that real quick. Have a listen. And that will serve you very well throughout your entire career. And to wrap up this interview, Bianca, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to promote?

[00:22:44]Bianca Leigh: [00:22:44] I can be seen on Netflix and the Laverne Cox documentary disclosure. And in hurricane Bianca, I’m on the audible recording of Shakina Neyfakh play the chandlery hotel and butterfly club, which just came out. Um, My law and order SVU episode called transgender bridge is on Hulu.

[00:23:07]And follow me on Instagram at Bianca underscore Lee, L E I G H 2000.

[00:23:16]Dane Reis: [00:23:16] Beautiful. And for everyone listening out there, I have put the links to everything. Bianca just said into the description of this episode. So you can easily connect with her and also be sure to share this podcast with your fellow entertainers, coaches, teachers, arts, and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know, you know, aspiring to create a career in this.

[00:23:38] Industry you booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful entertainment career case in point, everything Bianca dropped here today. if you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit that subscribe button. So you don’t miss the next guest.

[00:23:55] Bianca, thank you so much for joining me today. Sharing all of your journey through this industry. 

[00:24:03] It’s been a pleasure. 

[00:24:04] Bianca Leigh: [00:24:04] thank you, Dane. It has been my pleasure. You’re wonderful. Keep doing what you’re doing.