Often perceived as male by confused casting agents, boxer-body builder turned actor Dallas Malloy felt a deep connection to the trans minister she plays on Eli Stone.
By Ross von Metzke
An Advocate.com exclusive posted December 30, 2008
Eli Stone may well be a victim of this year’s lengthy and destructive Writers Guild strike -- along with shows including Dirty Sexy Money and Lipstick Jungle, which all have grim futures after seeing their first seasons cut short following the strike -- but for boxer-body builder turned actor Dallas Malloy, the show was a career changer.
Malloy made history back in 1993 when, at just 16 years old, she filed a discrimination suit because females were excluded from amateur boxing. She won in court -- and in the ring -- and enjoyed a long and lucrative career in boxing and body building.
She later developed a passion for acting, but despite a brief appearance as herself in the film Jerry Maguire, gigs were few and far between -- until now. Cast as a female-to-male transgender minister who has been fired from his church and seeks the help of lawyer Eli Stone, Malloy called this the role of a lifetime. Trans, male, drag queen -- Malloy has heard it all while making the audition rounds, so relating to a character that was “just such a part of me” came easy.
And to think, given the current climate of television, the episode (airing Tuesday, December 30, at 10 p.m. Eastern) almost never saw the light of day.
Advocate.com: How did the gig on Eli Stone come about?
Dallas Malloy: It was an audition I went on. My agent told me about it and said they were having trouble finding the right person, They wanted someone who looked very much in the middle gender-wise. So they wanted me to come in. It was just one of those things -- and the thing is, from the moment he told me the description of the character, he totally resonated with me. I just kind of fall in love [with a character] instantly; I’d just never had the sort of response I did with this one.
You just said something very interesting to me -- that they were looking for someone who was “in the middle” gender-wise. What do you mean by that?
Well, I’m paraphrasing what my agent said. But they wanted someone who looked very androgynous and not specifically male or female. Even though I’m playing a transsexual male, they wanted someone who was very much in the middle.
Your history is so rich in the ways you might relate to this character. Through your history with boxing, you obviously know what it’s like to be discriminated against for your sex. How did that play into how you approached the character?
That’s just such a part of me ... the way I see it, you go through life, and every experience helps to shape you. And, in some instances, make or break you. A lot of it, I think, is subconscious -- I didn’t have to think about anything specifically; it’s just a part of me. I’ve always stood up for what I believe in, and to me, it’s a nonissue. That just never makes sense to me, discrimination like that. To me, the character’s passionate about what he wants -- he wants to help others, but he has to be true to himself, and he felt he had to complete this transition in order to be who he was born to be. In some people’s eyes that’s controversial. To me, it’s not -- it’s very simple. He just did what he had to do. It’s the same with me and boxing. I mean, I’m honored to have been the one to take that pass -- maybe someone else wouldn’t have taken it on -- but see, I can’t even imagine that. I’ve never stopped when I wanted to pursue something I loved.
So, in moving to Los Angeles and pursuing acting, have you faced down some of that same discrimination again -- in terms of what your “type” might be?
Yes, of course I do. On the one hand I could say every day I face it. A lot of times, though, it’s not blatant.
What’s something you hear over and over again?
Seriously, I can in one day have responses from people that are completely at the opposite ends of the scale. There’s people who think I’m the most beautiful female body builder there is, and then there’s other people who think I’m just horrible and hideous. Other people assume I’m probably a drag queen. None of this offends me -- I just roll with it because I love being who I am. So I couldn’t really pinpoint one thing.
Do people ever make the assumption that you’re not female?
All the time. Probably 75% of the time they assume I’m not female. And a larger percent of the time, they’re just not sure -- there’s always a doubt.
Does that make this character even closer to your heart, then? Because it sounds like what trans people face every day is, in a sense, something you face every day.
That’s very true. I think gender is very complex. We could talk about it for hours and still there’s more. I love that -- but it frightens some people terribly. But I just think, this life is for me. It’s for living, it’s for experiencing, it’s for expressing who I am and learning and growing. Labels are limiting. I use them because I have to function in this society, but they’re subject to change. I used to say I see myself as genderless, but a good friend of mine who knows me pretty well said, "I don’t see you as genderless -- I see you as genderful."
So this being your big network TV debut -- with Eli Stone canceled, was there a concern that they weren’t going to show your episode?
There was -- it has been such an emotional, anxiety-provoking time the last couple months. There’s so many things -- from the moment I heard about the role, there were so many parallels with me and the character, even down to things I would have said, to wording and description. Someone asked if it had been written for me, which is such a huge compliment. I felt so at one with it that, yeah, I was very concerned. For me, my Christmas wish was that I just wanted my show to air -- and Christmas is my birthday, so I got my wish.