MAKEUP  Mari Shten
HAIR Geo Hennings
STYLIST Anthony Pedraza
TEXT Min A. Lee

Jesse James Keitel is a name you must not forget. As Network Television’s first nonbinary actor to play a role as such, more progressive changes in Hollywood continue to open doors, and it’s been amazing to watch her on-screen. Not conforming to a specific gender and representing the LGBTQ community on primetime comes with a fair share of stress and responsibility, but it will never prevent Keitel from giving a powerful performance. Since high school, being on a stage grew into a passion Keitel trained for at Pace University. “After college, I worked in nightlife in New York as a drag artist and found a new relationship to acting,” she shares. “It showed me a profound authenticity in myself and how my place in this industry is uniquely sacred.” 

Working with writers as a consultant on her Big Sky character Jerrie Kennedy, and more so in Season 2, gave Keitel the chance to make sure the character arc was authentic and the trans community would be represented as it should be. She is brilliant on-screen and tackles the complicated emotions and relationships of the story like a seasoned actress; we asked more about the breakout role and what attracted her to the script. “I was terrified when I first booked Big Sky because it was what I always wanted to do, and getting the opportunity to work with David E. Kelley, whose work I’ve always been a fan of, just made it even more intimidating,” Keitel tells us. “But I found comfort in the pilot script being so strong, and you really cared about Jerrie Kennedy from the very start.”

As the popularity of Big Sky continued to grow, Keitel spoke to us more on the development of her character as “so strong and emotional, Elwood Reid has done such a gorgeous job of bringing Jerrie’s story full circle.” Success always comes with positives and negatives. We asked Keitel how she’s kept herself grounded through the rise and with the response from fans and the general public. “Enjoying the work and not taking myself too seriously,” she says. “I enjoy the process, and baths are a constant source of reset for me. The love for Jerrie has been overwhelming, and it’s something I’m proud of. There’s been some to-be-expected transphobia, but the support has far outweighed the hate.” 

Fans were suddenly heartbroken when season two became a sort of departure. Though it felt sudden when the role was no longer listed as a main one anymore but rather a recurring (which makes us still thrilled at the prospects Jerrie will pop up in future shows), it’s because there are exciting new projects for Keitel that will give fans more of her fantastic acting! Great announcements are the type of news we live for! “I’m currently working on the Queer As Folk reboot, and girl… y’all ain’t ready,” Keitel expresses. The energy brewing, the glow of Keitel herself on set for her CM cover shoot, we pray filming goes quickly because we can’t wait to see her debut on the new TV series. Prepare and be ready to watch Jesse James Keitel continue bringing compelling characters to life for decades to come!

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