Mzz Kimberley: ‘This show is going to have the first trans, interracial, lesbian kiss’

Mzz Kimberley Mzz Kimberley
by -

Mzz Kimberley is a cabaret performer, actor and singer. She talks to Tim Bano about starring in Summer in London by Rikki Beadle-Blair, the first play with an all-transgender cast

Why did you become a performer?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t performing. My mum was a television presenter so I grew up on a TV set, but I got into acting at junior high school. When I graduated, I went to New York and studied at the Academy of Theatrical Arts. Then, because my mum had had enough, I did musical theatre in London at City Lit. I spent a lot of time in Russia travelling around with Jean Genet’s play The Maids – I played Madame. I suffer from dyslexia. A lot of dyslexic people have a very creative mind, and I’m always looking to do and try new things.

Does your versatility help you find work?

Of late, I’ve been starting to work more because there’s more opportunity for trans actors now. Before it was just little bit parts here and there. There was a time when you didn’t see any representations of the LGBT community on TV, then they started using gays and then you saw a few lesbians. Now it’s a trans time. You can’t really watch a programme or film these days without a gay character or an effeminate character or a female who has a masculine energy.

Why do you think it’s ‘trans time’?

This is just my opinion, but with the internet everyone’s talking to each other. Also, [the popularity of] RuPaul’s Drag Race [a US reality TV series]. Even though that’s about drag queens, it’s still made people a bit more interested about a different part of life. In the past, a lot of trans people, especially trans women, were labelled as something deviant, something risque. A lot of people thought we were prostitutes. It’s just not the case. Now you see more trans people coming out. At one point I hid, I would walk around with a baseball hat and big sunglasses. Now I’m out and proud. I feel safer in the streets now because people are more aware.

You’ve been something of a trans activist in the last few years too. Why is that important to you?

I don’t see myself as an activist, but I will stand my corner for trans issues, for disabled issues, for obesity. I’m into social justice for everybody. It’s not about the Caucasian, heterosexual male all the time, you know?

Tell me about Summer in London.

I’ve always wanted to work with Rikki Beadle-Blair. I’d seen his work, it really interested me. Then an actor friend of mine got in touch with me and said: “Rikki’s auditioning, you should go along”. I felt a little bit insecure, I didn’t know if he was going to like me. But it’s been absolutely amazing, I’m working with some extraordinary actors. This production is going to have the first trans, interracial, lesbian kiss. I say to people: “I’m playing a lesbian,” and they say: “Are there trans lesbians?” Which I think is ridiculous. But I’m so glad the play touches on that. This play is not about being trans. All the actors happen to be trans but it’s actually a love story. You’ve got a lesbian story, a gay story and a heterosexual story. It’s a beautiful piece and they’ve been really good here at the theatre: they’ve changed all the toilets to be non-binary.

CV: Mzz Kimberley

Training: Academy of Theatrical Arts, New York; City Lit, London
First professional role:
Madame in The Maids, Russian tour
Agent: Universal Talent Group

Summer in London is at Theatre Royal Stratford East until July 29