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ABOVE: A photo from GQ’s “Welcome To Lee Pace Summer” (Photo: Tyrell Hampton)

Lee Pace On Playing A Trans Woman In 2003’s Soldier’s Girl, His First Film Role

The hunky actor reflects on his first feature film role, Soldier’s Girl, in which he played a transgender woman…

Actor Lee Pace recently sat down for an interview (and cover story) with GQ Hype and opened up about a variety of topics including his personal life (he confirmed he’s married to fashion label Thom Browne executive Matthew Foley, who he was set up by a mutual friend a few years back), the home he’s been building from scratch for the past decade, and his career reflecting on both his latest role in the horror-comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies and his first feature film role, Soldier’s Girl, in which he played a transgender woman. The part earned Pace a nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role at the 2004 Golden Globes.

2003’s Soldier’s Girl was written by Ron Nyswaner and directed by Dog Day Afternoon writer Frank Pierson. Based on a true story, the film is about the relationship between Army Private Barry Winchell (played by Troy Garity) and Calpernia Addams (played by Pace), a showgirl who works at a transgender revue in Nashville, Tennessee. When Barry and Calpernia start dating and word spreads among his fellow servicemen that Barry is dating a trans woman, he faces increasing harassment. Ultimately, while Calpernia performs in a pageant in Nashville, Barry is beaten to death in his sleep by a fellow soldier.

ABOVE: Lee Pace as Calpernia Addams in the 2003 biographical drama Soldier’s Girl

Pace’s role as Calpernia Addams comes up in Marisa Meltzer’s interview with GQ Hype. Of course, almost two decades later, Pace’s casting in the role would almost certainly generate controversy. And while the actor politely declines the opportunity to discuss “the ongoing debate on actors and identities” with GQ, he does agree that the part of the transgender showgirl would almost certainly go to a trans woman if the film were being cast today.

“Well, we did [have that discussion,]” Pace says. “Some of the actresses that I worked with were trans. And Calpernia was there the whole time helping me with her story and her truth. She was extremely collaborative with us, the entire shoot. They probably would. I don’t know.”

Clearly wanting to be sensitive around the topic and conversation, Pace also provides more insight into what the role meant to him at the time and how Calpernia’s story has stayed with him over the years.

“I was so convinced that I was like, ‘There, I’ve done it. That character is so far from myself. I completely transformed.’ But when I watched and I watched it back, I didn’t see someone who was different from myself. I just saw me and who I was then. Speaking with another character’s voice and stuff, but I saw more, much more of myself than I would’ve, than I expected to.”

For the record the real life Calpernia Addams, who today is a spokesperson and activist for transgender rights and issues, has always been supportive of Pace’s work.

Pace, who has been openly queer for a number of years, has played a range of queer characters throughout his career including his breakout 2003 film role as Calpernia Addams in A Soldier’s Girl; his 2011 Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, portraying Bruce Niles; as the bisexual former IBM executive Joe MacMillan in the television series Halt and Catch Fire from 2014-2017; and in the 2018 Broadway revival of the National Theatre’s production of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, portraying Joe Pitt.

The six-foot-five chiseled hunk is currently having a moment, appearing in both A24’s horror-comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies and Apple TV’s Foundation, which has been renewed for a second season and will probably arrive some time next year.

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