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TELEVISION Amiyah Scott: Rising 'Star'
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2017-02-22

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The Feb. 15 episode of the Fox show Star—about a girl group ( composed of actresses Jude Demorest, Ryan Destiny and Brittany O'Grady ) attempting to make it big—had transgender actress Amiyah Scott front and center.

In the episode, "Mama's Boy," Scott had a pivotal scene as transgender character Cotton, who agreed to meet with Pastor Harris ( portrayed by Tyrese Gibson ) in an effort to reconcile with her mother, Carlotta ( played by Queen Latifah ). What resulted was a powerful scene involving the minister, who sees Cotton's transgenderism as a sin; and Cotton, whose reaction led to an even more shocking turn.

Scott talked about the scene, cast and more with Windy City Times.

Windy City Times: Congratulations on the show, and this particular episode.

Amiyah Scott: Oh, my God—thank you so, so much. This is the episode I was looking forward to the most; once the scene with Tyrese, Queen and myself was done, [creator] Lee [Daniels] was ranting and raving. It was amazing.

WCT: I imagine that confrontation was the most difficult scene in the episode to film.

AS: Yes, it was. I imagine it was because it hit home for me; it was very personal to me. I have been prayed over—maybe it wasn't that intense, but it was still very painful. To know that I was going to re-enact that, and to be called pronouns I don't identify with, was really difficult.

However, I was ready to do that because I know that we could possibly help someone.

I think what hit home were the inspirational stories people sent afterward about how they watched the show with the children; it opened conversations and they were crying while they watched it. I had no idea it would be that [impactful] and it's humbling that I played a role in that.

WCT: You mentioned certain members of the cast. Was it intimidating to work with them, or did you just jump in and say it would be a learning experience?

AS: Well, of course, when people come with certain qualifications you can going to be slightly intimidated. But it quickly becomes anticipation, and to be embraced by people like Queen or Benjamin [Bratt], who are veterans and who helped me and are patient, provided great mentors.

WCT: And the cast seems pretty close-knit. For example, there's a [cozy] pic of you and Chad James Buchanan [who plays Hunter] on Instagram.

AS: [Laughs] Yes, yes. He's an amazing guy; he's an amazing actor. We actually share an acting coach, and we share great moments together. The girls and I are very, very close as well. I'm blessed to have a closely knit, family-oriented cast.

WCT: And with that pivotal scene with Cotton, there was a segment with Queen rapping that took me back to the '90s.

AS: Yes, yes. I think that scene was so intense that we needed to break for a moment.

Lee is notorious for that. I can recall in [Daniels' movie] Precious that, during the most emotional scenes, it would break away into a song or fantasy. I don't want to use profanity, but to quote Lee, you need to [heed] "the pain and fuck people's heads up." [Interviewer laughs.] That's exactly what happens, though: It goes from this highly emotional moment to a fantastic.

WCT: This is your first television project, correct?

AS: Yes, it's my first major acting experience. Well, it happens to be my first acting experience at all—and it happened to be major.

My fear, of course, was not being good or not being able to tell the story in a way the director wanted. I'm so glad that I was able to film in a way that pleased people.

WCT: What are your thoughts on being perceived as a role model?

AS: I totally embrace it. The thing is that even though I may be a role model, I'm just a human being like everyone else. I'm a young woman who's still finding my way. As inspiring as I may be to some, I'm still trying to figure my way out, too. I'll do whatever I have to do to step it up.

WCT: And, out of curiosity, who inspires you?

AS: My mother, my family. I come from a very large family: My mother has 10 brothers and sisters. My mother and father, actually, inspire me—as well as anyone who is brave enough to be themselves. That's so inspiring in a world where so many people hide, and don't or can't find the strength to be themselves. I've had to hide in the past; it's such an uncomfortable situation.

WCT: Obviously, there haven't been too many transgender actors and actresses, although I remember Candis Cayne in the ABC show Dirty Sexy Money. I'm assuming you're looking forward to the day when you're simply known as an actress, and not a trans actress.

AS: Exactly! I like the fact that Laverne Cox, in her new show Doubt, was just seen as a lawyer 30 minutes into the show, and not a trans lawyer. I do realize that our stories need to be told, though.

WCT: Now, is there anything at all you can tell us about Cotton on Star?

AS: I don't want to say too much, but I will give you some insight. Cotton and Carlotta are going to go through something, and that's not spoiling anything. I think Cotton has gone through different situations, and things will get really intense. Hopefully, Cotton and Carlotta can mend fences.

WCT: Hopefully—but, in that same episode, Carlotta wrongly assumed that the guy you brought home was a ...

AS: Was a john [Elliott, played by Jack Yang]. And it goes to show what she thinks. There are so many different layers to Cotton and Carlotta's relationship. Cotton is beginning to deal with some things. We're going to see a lot more of Cotton, and see her deal with some real situations.

By the way, Jack is an amazing actor; we had a great vibe.

WCT: Who would you like to work with?

AS: Oh, wow. I'd love to work with Angela Bassett, Lynn Whitfield and Jada Pinkett Smith—but I'm open to expanding my growth. But those ladies I've really watched over the years.

WCT: I'm so glad you said Lynn Whitfield's name because she's one of those people whose talent has not been recognized over the years.

AS: Exactly. My best friend and I love her. Lynn is from Louisiana, like I am, and she's done so many great roles.

Star is on Fox on Wednesdays.


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