Moviegoers took in a free preview of one of the year's most talked-about performances at the Back Stage screening of Transamerica at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Hollywood Nov. 16. Felicity Huffman, who stars as a male-to-female transsexual on the verge of her sex-reassignment surgery, answered questions from the audience and Back Stage National Film & TV Editor Jenelle Riley after the screening.
Co-starring Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Graham Greene, and Elizabeth Peña, the story follows Sabrina "Bree" Osbourne (Huffman) who discovers she fathered a teenage son and travels to New York to bail him out of jail. The petite, feminine Huffman steps into Bree's skin seamlessly, but the actor said she constantly worried about doing her character justice while filming. "I was deeply frightened every day, and you know how that just stymies you and shuts you down," she told the audience. In her opinion, the scene in which she wore a prosthetic phallus, which she nicknamed "Andy," was the most difficult to shoot.
Huffman found out she'd gotten the role in writer-director Duncan Tucker's film during the first table read for her hit nighttime soap Desperate Housewives, "which I thought would be another pilot that hit the dust," she said. She added that perfecting Bree's distinctive voice was crucial during the two weeks of rehearsal before shooting began. "The hormones don't change your voice. So, you can look like Kate Moss and sound like James Earl Jones," she noted.
Her transformation was so complete that her daughters didn't recognize her when they visited the shoot in Arizona. The film was executive-produced by Huffman's husband, William H. Macy. "So, I had to sleep with him," she said, laughing.
"Transamerica" opens in New York and L.A. Dec. 23.