If you’d told me one of the most gentle, uplifting films of the year was set in a NorCal supermarket, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Yet Angus Benfield’s Yellow Bird, written by Tony Jerris, is just that: it’s a sweet, often sad story of people who are just trying to get along in a world that’s uniformly awful. The film’s brightest spot, unsurprisingly, is actress and model Plastic Martyr. Entering the scene with a flawless delivery of the three queerest words ever strung together in quick succession—”What a dump!”—Plastic Martyr adds a bit of much-needed sharpness and wit to a film brimming with the sweetness of ordinary life.
INTO spoke to Plastic Martyr about representation, wholesome sitcom vibes, and becoming the next Moira Rose.
INTO: I’m wondering if the character came as written, or did you contribute to like, who Crystal was on script level? The acting is so natural that I feel like you’re not so much acting as just vibing, which is great.
PLASTIC MARTYR: I knew the character was transgender. I was approached by someone directly, they wanted me to read for this role. I did the audition, and immediately they were like, yes, we want you. So I, I just kept energy. I just brought that to the film, and it was mostly a lot of my own personality. Because the character is so similar to me in a lot of ways that it was really easy to make the delivery natural. She was one of my favorite characters to play because she was so similar to me.
The movie has an interesting, sweet ensemble feeling, kind of like “Superstore.” And I feel like there were like, fewer roles for trans folks in those shows for whatever reason.
I was so happy when this project was brought to me. And it turned out, like you said, to be such a loving, fun vibe. I was worried going into it, too, because we were filming in Redding, California, which is not the most liberal place. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But when I got there, it was just so loving and accepting. And the cast and crew were wonderful. Getting to play a trans role that wasn’t just stereotypical and that was actually humanizing trans people was so wonderful. I turn down a lot of roles because they’re just not anything that I want to be associated with. And this was beautiful. There’s also very little about her being trans in the script. It was like just quick little mentions of it. She was just accepted.
It’s nice to see. Because yeah like, obviously, trans people work in supermarkets and at CVS and in service jobs but for whatever reason, I guess that that part of our representation has been very slow to show up.
Yes. A lot of the scripts that people sent me are just so stereotypical, they’re always roles where you end up murdered at the end of an episode.
Yeah that CSI crap. I just loved how Yellow Bird told a really simple story of people trying hard, doing their best, and it was really refreshing to see that and to see transness within that.
What you see in the movie is what it was like on set. We just became instant family and everyone was so accepting. It was such a wonderful film to work on. I’m so excited that it’s getting the play that it’s getting and the reaction it’s getting. We’ve already won four awards and we were just officially selected in the Los Angeles International Film Festival, like huge stuff.
It’s nice to sort of see a return to like a true ensemble comedy, because again, it’s like you only see this energy in sitcoms.
Yeah like, an “Office” vibe, or a “Schitt’s Creek” vibe.
Yes, “Schitt’s Creek!” We need more of that.
I could totally become the new Moira
Absolutely. Yes. Just the fact that she shows up and she’s the only person who knows how to dress.
When we were filming, the actual manager at the supermarket we used for the location was like: ‘if you really worked here, you wouldn’t be allowed to wear that outfit. And I looked at him and I go “well, then it’s a good thing I don’t really work here.”
Did you ever have a service job growing up?
No, this was a totally new thing for me. I transitioned really, really young. And obviously it’s such a toxic environment for trans people in this country. So my mom, who’s very supportive and very protective over me, always made sure I wasn’t put in situations where I was a target. I also started out very young in the entertainment industry. I started out modeling at 14. So I never had to work a regular service job, but my hat’s off to people who do because it is a lot of work, and it drives me crazy when people in the service industry are disrespected by people. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
Yeah, especially with COVID, it’s I feel like it’s been even worse. There’s a whole genre of TikToks about it.
So much entitlement, yeah.
Are there any other projects you can talk about that are in the works?
There’s a short film that I’m hopefully going to be doing. It’s in pre-production right now, and I’m really excited about that. And I can’t say too much about it, but the story is so fantastic: It’s kind of a metaphor for anxiety, and it’s just something that I related to so much. And I’m actually going to be releasing my next single soon. My first single, “Love in the Dark,” came out in 2020 from Capitol Records and then the pandemic hit, so I didn’t release the new song, but now I’m about to start that. ♦