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‘Bros’ Star Ts Madison on Acting, the Future of Trans Film, and Marvel: ‘I Want to Be Everything’

With her powerful sample on Beyonce's "Cozy" and a hilarious supporting role in "Bros," there's nothing Ts Madison can't do. She tells IndieWire what's next.

Ts Madison Bros

TS Madison

Michelle Quance for Variety

Ts Madison is many things: Actress, comedian, singer, reality show producer, LGBTQ+ activist. One thing you may not know about her? She’s a huge Marvel fan. “I’m going to give my tea,” she said during a recent interview with IndieWire. “I read lots of things that are coming out with Marvel and I get the early tea and stuff. So I’m always glued to what’s going on over there at IndieWire.”

While she’s “really excited for the phase of Marvel that’s coming,” specifically mentioning “Black Adam” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” she’s ready to see a trans superhero join the MCU. “I would love to see us in power. I would love to see us as superheroes, but I definitely would love to see us as villains too. But good villains though, lovable villains.”

With her undeniable charisma and a recent slate of featured acting roles, Madison may be the one to fulfill her own dreams.

Though she’s been a pop culture sensation since 2013, when a viral Vine video catapulted her into album deals and reality shows, most cinephiles became aware of her talents more recently. Last year, she brought high drama and comedy to “Zola,” Janicza Bravo’s zany joy ride through the road trip from hell.

“Janicza is brilliant. What I like about Janicza is that she knows how to make people channel in on things that they wouldn’t normally do,” Madison said. “For instance, in movies, women are always showing their breasts. We didn’t see any breasts in ‘Zola.’ We saw penises. So she flipped it around. OK, well, so all these times that women are objectified, let’s see the penises. And then she cast me, come on.”

This year she takes on a slightly meatier role in “Bros,” Billy Eichner’s splashy gay rom-com with an all LGBTQ+ cast. While the distinction is a bit nebulous, the Universal Pictures flick will be the first theatrically released gay rom-com from a major studio. Why has it taken so long to get here?

“I do believe that it’s the fear of change for one. A fear of change and a fear of failure. Those are the two main points. I think from a studio’s perspective, it’s the fear of failure because they thinking that like, ‘Oh, nobody’s going to go out to watch a gay movie,’ when that’s not true,” Madison said. “We gay and lesbian and trans, non-binary, like the LGBT spends money. Hello? We spend lots of money.”

Bros Ts Madison

“Bros”

Universal Pictures

As often happens to public figures from any sort of marginalized group, Madison has had to become an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. While she speaks truth to power with masterful finesse and incisive honesty, that’s a role she had to learn to embrace.

“If I’m going to occupy a public space, I have a responsibility to my community to make sure we’re represented well,” she said. “I’m not going to tell you no lie. There was a time that I didn’t care about it. I didn’t give a damn about all that stuff. I would really be reckless with the things I would do and say. But when I stepped outside of me and looked back, I saw that there were so many people that are behind me that don’t have the privilege of having their voices elevated. … So I started to make changes within myself and say, ‘Madison. … You have lots of ears. And if you change one life, one life can change another.'”

With her quick comic flourishes and over-the-top charm, Madison can easily take complex issues and serve them to the masses as candy. As a longtime podcaster and pop culture enthusiast, it’s easy to envision her hosting a successful and outrageous daytime talk show.

“Well, Sherri Shepherd she has taken over Wendy. And I think that Wendy Williams show was a bit messy. Now, I would’ve fit right in,” she said. “But there was one time that I really wanted to be a talk show host. And now I’m at a place in my life where I’m going to take whatever is given to me. Because if I became just a talk show host, then I would’ve been just a daytime talk show host, then I couldn’t act, or I couldn’t make music. I don’t want to just be one thing anymore. I want to be everything.”

So far, doing a little bit of everything is working out pretty well for her. Her voice appears on “Cozy,” one of the breakout hits of Beyonce’s latest album “Renaissance.” It’s Madison’s voice delivering the powerful credo: “I’m dark brown, dark skin, light skin, beige, fluorescent beige. Bitch, I’m Black!” Along with “Cozy” producer Honey Dijon, they became the first Black trans women to land a top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

The next door she’ll be banging down? Hollywood’s.

“I would like to see more trans women of color in film. Because we have our ones that we see all the time, like Laverne [Cox], which I love Laverne. Listen, Laverne walked. Excuse me, Laverne crawled and scraped her knees up so that I can tip toe behind her,” she said. “But I want to see more. I want to see different stories. I don’t want us to all look the same or be the same. I want stories and characters from so many different trans women. And I want to see us in love, too.”

A Universal Pictures release, “Bros” is in theaters now.

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