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TELEVISION Gender non-binary actor set to star on 'Billions'
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-02-15

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Performer, writer and director Asia Kate Dillon will be debuting in the groundbreaking role of Taylor on Showtime's Billions this season.

Both Dillon and the character they ( Dillon's preferred pronoun ) are playing are gender non-binary indentifying. This marks the first time a gender non-binary indentifying actor has ever been cast in a major television series.

"I will be appearing in every episode of season two," said Dillon. "Seeing a character like Taylor navigate the murky world of finance and step out of their comfort zone are the things people should watch out for."

When asked about their experience on set, Dillon said that everyone is kind, funny, charming and real. They noted that in terms of their character, co-creators/writers/showrunners Brian Koppelman and David Levien ( who are both self-identifying white, straight, cisgender men ) said it was an organic process to add a gender non-binary identifying character to the show as opposed to it being just a social justice statement.

"It wasn't until after I was cast in the role that I spoke with Brian and David about my self-identifying as non-binary," said Dillon. "They did seek out non-binary identifying people to consult with them as they were creating the Taylor character and writing Taylor's initial dialogue. They were extremely forthright in asking me questions, admitting their ignorance in certain areas regarding gender identity and were always willing to have any conversation I wanted to have about it. I admire and respect both Brian and David for the way they've handled my character and interacted with me on set."

Acting has been a part of Dillon's life since they were a kid growing up in Ithaca, New York. Dillon noted that they can point to three moments that stand out in their early life that awakened the performer in them—when they saw the movie Stand by Me for the first time when they were two years old, seeing a Michael Jackson performance when they were four years old and acting in a Hans Christian Anderson play while in kindergarten.

"I never questioned what I was supposed to be doing when it came to my acting career path," said Dillon. "I feel like I've always known this was inside of me and I've continued to uncover and discover it as I've gotten older. After that kindergarten performance, I continued to do whatever I could as a theater performer including the spring or fall plays or musicals. My mother enrolled me in the Next Generation School of Acting in town which was geared toward youth ages 8-18. I was in voice lessons and took dance classes."

Dillon also attended the Actor's Workshop of Ithaca—a Meisner training program—when they were still in high school.

"When I graduated from Lehman Alternative Community High School, I went to a two year conservatory program at the American Musical Dramatic Academy ( AMDA ) in New York City," said Dillon. "After I completed the program at AMDA, I went back to Ithaca to complete my Meisner training."

Prior to Billions, Dillon's other notable role was in the fourth season of Netflix's Orange is the New Black ( OITNB ) as Brandy Epps—a neo-Nazi skinhead with a confederate flag tattoo on her neck who joined Piper's white pride movement.

"Brandy is the polar opposite of me," said Dillon. "I'm a Black Lives Matter activist. Being a social justice activist has been something close to my heart for a long time. As an actor, what I want is a challenge in a role and playing Brandy was both an emotional and physical challenge. Part of my job as an actor and professional is to leave my character at work. The producers were counting on that so it was my responsibility to show up as myself, put on the wardrobe and play the character and leave it behind when I left the set for the day."

They also appeared in one episode each of Netflix's Master of None and TV Land's Younger.

"Younger was my first one-liner on a TV show," said Dillon. "I remember thinking while I was there how right it all felt to arrive on set, get into costume and perform my scene. It was wonderful."

Dillon remarked that working on Master of None was a revelation for them because Aziz Ansari had so many hats on during the episode—co-producer, co-director, co-writer and actor.

"I was very impressed with Aziz," said Dillon.

In early 2016, Dillon co-founded MIRROR/FIRE Productions Inc. and serves as its president. Through MIRROR/FIRE, Dillon created, curated and directed US.

"It's an evening of storytelling followed by a talkback," said Dillon. "It puts a magnifying glass to racism in the United States in an attempt to uncover the ideological systems that continue to purposely oppress and separate us from our humanity. The evening uses original text as well as audio and video footage to drive the Black Lives Matter conversation forward. The most recent talkback was moderated by myself and two of my former OITNB co-stars Amanda Stephen who played Alison and Miriam Morales who played Ramona."

Dillon's goal is to get US in front of as many audiences as possible because they want to spread the message of Black Lives Matter through art.

"I'm light-skinned but was labeled white at birth," said Dillon. "The opening of the US piece is a monologue I perform which explains my connection to Black Lives Matter."

When Dillon isn't working on their craft; they like to spend time with family and friends, listen to music, read books and listen to podcasts.

Billions premieres Feb. 19 and will run through the spring. Episodes are also available On Demand.

See mirrorfire.org/ for more information on Dillon's production company. Dillon can also be found on twitter twitter.com/AsiaKateDillon and instagram www.instagram.com/heeeysia/.


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