Alexandra Grey is a name to know and a talent to watch. The actress recently made her debut on CBS’s hit show MacGyver as Parker, a transgender woman engineer at the Phoenix Foundation who assists secret agent MacGyver and the team on their unconventional quests to save the world.
Before cracking cyphers and solving cases on the primetime hit, Grey had already made a name for herself with other notable roles in television and film. She recently appeared in the indie drama Gossamer Folds, as well as the HBO LGBTQ+ rights docuseries Equal. She also held a recurring role on Empire as Melody Barnes, a transgender woman singer signed to the record label, a character who trended on Twitter thanks to Grey’s stellar acting.
She is quickly becoming known in Hollywood as one of the most versatile performers in the business. She’s glad that having roles such as Parker has allowed for more visibility of trans performers, and believes that at the end of the day, people just want to see good acting from whoever shows up on their big and small screens.
We spoke with Grey about her love and commitment to the trans community, her new MacGyver role, the journey to this point, which involved being homeless for two years, and her excitement for what’s to come.
MadameNoire: Congratulations on landing a recurring role on the new season of MacGyver! Was there a lot of pressure being the first transgender woman to play on the show?
Alexandra Grey: I wouldn’t say that I feel pressure. I feel happy that I’m in a position where I get to be a voice and get to be a face for my community. I love who we are. I love my community. I’m so proud of us and how far we’ve come and how resilient we’ve had to be. So, I don’t look at it as pressure. I think that sometimes there can be roles that come up over the years that people have raised their eyebrows at. I think that now, especially with this role on MacGyver, it’s so wonderful to be playing this character, this engineer, who’s helping solve cases. That’s something you don’t get to see trans women of color do. And we know that already this year, I believe 14 trans women have been murdered in the country. This is something that is going to give hope and give a face and a voice to the world to say hey, this is who we are. We’re people.
There has been some ground breaking in the trans community lately. For example, the first transgender woman of color was featured in Sports Illustrated. How do you feel about trans representation on TV and in the media in general?
I absolutely love it. Leyna [Bloom] is a friend of mine, and I’m so happy for her. We’re just breaking ground everywhere. I love that it’s happening in all these different fields. We are models, we are writers, and dancers, and doctors. I’m so glad people finally get to see that. I’m feeling like we’re having a tipping point where people are really starting to see us. And we’re not going anywhere [laughs]. So, get ready. It’s not an agenda. Trans people have been here for years, and we’re here to stay. And we should be on covers. We should be everywhere. I love it.
In the beginning, the fight was to hire trans women to play trans characters. That also intersects with the fight for women of color to not be typecast but to have access to a broader range of roles. What are your views on this as a Black trans actress in the industry?
You know, I think for me, I don’t feel like I see enough roles written specifically for Black trans women. I’d love to see that because I’d love to see the stories of those women being told. So for me, I’d love to see that more. With MacGyver, it was open ethnicity, but it was a trans woman. I love that because we want to feel like we have an opportunity to play a character that is representative of who we are. And so I do love that. I have been doing so many auditions for non-trans roles. I love getting that opportunity because I think we can all play everything. The only problem is, trans people weren’t even invited into the room back in the day. It’s not to say who can play who, but at least bring these people in. Bring minorities, bring disabled actors in, give them an opportunity as well to thrive in this industry.
You’ve had previous roles on shows like Empire and Transparent. What was your journey like just breaking into the industry to where you are now, and how would you hope that inspires someone else?
For me, I just came here homeless. My family disowned me. I just had nothing to lose. So I packed up, moved to LA, lived homeless for two years, and during that time just worked on my craft. I went to college and studied theater and just really pounded the pavement. I don’t think there’s a road map for this journey. I think it’s just being positive, being creative, doing the work, and really believing that you have the talent and that you can do it. Those opportunities will come, or you will create them for yourself and they will come. So that would be my advice and my journey. It took a lot of years. This is the tenth year now [laughs]. And I’m just so happy. You want to look back and say wow, I did something I believed in and look at what happened.
So right now, there’s MacGyver. Is there anything else you have in the works?
You know, I’m so happy. I live each day in the moment. I love being on this show and being part of this family. It feels like home. It feels like a safe space. Also, I’m doing my own writing. I have some projects in development that I’m writing. And I’m just so excited about telling more stories that are representative of my community and who I am as a person. I’m just so excited about the stuff that’s in the works.