As the first openly transgender woman to play a transgender character on TV, Alexandra Billings has earned the right to speak to her mind. Best known for her role as Davina on Jill Soloway’s Emmy-winning series “Transparent,” the actress stopped by WNYC’s Nancy Podcast last week to discuss her recent Broadway debut in comedy “The Nap.” Not one to mince words, she also spoke candidly about Jeffrey Tambor’s unceremonious exit from the groundbreaking Amazon series, which came following multiple allegations of sexual harassment from the set. (Tambor denies the allegations.)
“When this happened…it was very easy for me to say, ‘yes they’re absolutely right.’ Because people were going, ‘well, it’s opinion.’ … No, it’s not opinion. They’re absolutely correct. I believe them,” Billings said, emphasizing each word. “Even if I didn’t see absolutely everything, I can tell you without equivocation, they are not lying. Jeffrey Tambor is lying. And I said that very clearly. And I don’t have a problem saying that for the rest of my life.”
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Billings said she was preparing to quit the show before the allegations came out. “The last season with ‘Transparent’ was going to be my last season, because of…Jeffrey’s behavior and his attitude. I had every intention of walking in there and saying, ‘I’m not coming back.’ ‘Cause they were talking about doing Season 10, Season 11, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Because he was increasingly difficult to be around.”
Billings is good friends with both of Tambor’s accusers: Van Barnes, Tambor’s former assistant, and Trace Lysette, who plays Shea on “Transparent.” (A third woman, Tamara Delbridge, said Tambor forcibly kissed her on a film set in 2001.) Billings regrets looking the other way when it came to Tambor’s behavior, which she said was an open secret on set.
“The thing I’m gonna have to live with for the rest of my life is how complicit I was, and I only speak for myself, in allowing him to behave this way,” she said. “We employed trans people, more than, at that time, any other show. And they were traumatized. Because of him. And I did nothing.”
Tambor will not appear on the final season of “Transparent,” which is rumored to include a two-hour musical episode. The actor appeared in the last season of “Arrested Development” on Netflix, which led to many awkward and fumbled interviews. He is next slated to appear in Disney’s “Magic Camp” as the owner of a summer camp for children.
Billings, for her part, isn’t keeping silent anymore.
“I’m going to keep talking about this for the rest of his life,” she said. “No matter what he does, where he goes, or how often he pretends this doesn’t happen until he admits it. For the rest of his life. Just so he knows and we’re clear.”