‘Transparent’ star charting new path with ‘Goliath’ role


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Since the early 2000s, transgender actress Alexandra Billings has been cast as trans-specific characters on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “How To Get Away With Murder” and, most notably, Jill Soloway’s award-winning “Transparent.” With her new recurring role as Judge Martha Wallace on Season 2 of “Goliath” — a character not written as transgender — she sees herself in crossover mode. “When I came to Hollywood, a lot of my work was centered around what I was. Just in the last couple of years, it’s begun a shift away from being transgender and more about, ‘Let’s just get an actress to tell this story, and Alex seems to be right for it,’” Billings, 56, tells The Post. Judge Wallace presides over a murder case involving a teenage boy, represented by washed-up attorney Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton).

Billings, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts, will make her Broadway debut this fall in Manhattan Theatre Club’s “The Nap.” She spoke by phone from LA, where she lives with her wife, Chrisanne Blankenship.

How did you get the part?
My manager called one day out of the blue and said [“Goliath”] asked specifically for me, which is just shocking — unless you’re, like, superfamous, which I’m not. Because we’re all in the Amazon family and Billy Bob saw my work, perhaps that’s what happened. All I know is I got a call and said, “Heck, yeah.”

How does Judge Wallace keep McBride on his toes?
The great thing about the judge is that I’m a stickler for the law and rules; he is not. So I don’t allow him to indulge in his antics very much.

She seems to have a cryptic history with McBride and another character, JT (Paul Williams). What’s that about?
I have a history with JT and Billy; that’s all I can tell you. We discovered it on set as we were doing it and talked about it. That was really fun.

You improvised their history?
We spent a lot of time playing around and improvising. We could have just said, “Let’s just do what’s on the page,” as opposed to, “Let’s throw in a couple things and see what happens.” But Billy Bob works in a place of ensemble. He believes that everyone contributes and everyone has a say and everyone’s voice matters.

The judge isn’t written as transgender, correct?
Is the judge transgender on paper? No. But is the judge transgender? Yes, of course, because I am. I’m only speaking for myself as an actor. If they delved into the character and, say, this judge had a child, then in my actor brain the child would be adopted.

Last season on “Transparent,” Davina had a full-frontal nude scene, a first for a trans person on TV. How important was that?
The conversations we’re having about surgery are tiresome. I hope the casualness of the scene allows a conversation that is a little less medical. We’re going to be talking about humans being human and less about, “Are you a boy or a girl because of your genitalia?”

How did things change for you when “Transparent” star Jeffrey Tambor was fired after being accused of on-set sexual misconduct?
It’s given me a lot of clarity, strangely, because I have moved through my life assuming every single human being on the planet is basically good. I hope I’ll always believe that. Now I believe that even good people who have good intentions can do very, very, very, very bad things. So my job on the planet is to make sure I’m aware of it and that I call it out when it happens, and I do not allow it to happen to myself or anyone I love. That is the great gift this situation has taught me. — Eric Hegedüs

And here’s what else to watch this week:

Marvel’s Luke Cage

Friday, Netflix
Season premiere. After a sabotaged experiment gives him superstrength and impermeable skin, Luke Cage (Mike Colter) becomes a fugitive who tries to rebuild his life in modern-day Harlem. But he is soon pulled out of his neighborhood and must fight a battle for the heart of his city, forcing him to confront a past he had tried to bury.

Running Wild With Bear Grylls

Monday, 8 p.m., NBC
Dropped from a helicopter into New Hampshire’s White Mountains, Don Cheadle and Bear rappel a massive cliff, and climb to the top of a towering railroad bridge. What’s for dinner? Porcupine!


Sunday, 9 p.m., TNT
Desna (Niecy Nash), now doing the bidding of Riva’s sister, Zlata (Franka Potente), must generate more business for the clinic. Meanwhile, Quiet Ann (Judy Reyes) helps Dean (Harold Perrineau) and Virginia (Karrueche Tran, below) make a crucial appointment, bringing the couple joy.

The Proposal

Monday, 10 p.m., ABC
Series premiere. Ten single women vie for a chance at love with Mike, a cop from Bakersfield, Calif. By the end of the night, Mike will propose to one lucky gal! Then, the newly acquainted couple will exit the stage, possibly engaged to be married.


Wednesday, 9 p.m., Paramount
Series premiere. Rancher John Dutton (Kevin Costner) faces off against developer Dan Jenkins (Danny Huston) in this frontier drama of big vistas and old grudges. The setting is the countryside outside Bozeman, Mont., presented here as a gentrified town where hipsters flock in worrisome droves. Dutton has four adult children — three boys and a girl — whom he expects to help him drive off invaders. Then, tragedy strikes.

The Great British Baking Show

Friday, 9 p.m., PBS
Season premiere. Twelve bakers tackle upside- down cake, rum babas and other baked goods. Mary Berry is the ultimate judge.


Monday, 9 p.m., AMC
Plum (Joy Nash, below) advances to the next step of the New Baptist Plan, doing whatever it takes to become conventionally beautiful. With Robin Weigert and Julianna Margulies.

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