VIEWERS of nail-biting new thriller Baptiste were stunned last night after finding out the lead female character was once a man. But they will be e
VIEWERS of nail-biting new thriller Baptiste were stunned last night after finding out the lead female character was once a man.
But they will be even more gobsmacked to discover the beautiful actress who plays sexy siren Kim Vogel used to be known as Joseph.
Talisa Garcia had gender re-assignment surgery 28 years ago.
The trans actress admits she got the role in the BBC drama partly because there is no hint
she was once male — and believes most men will still want to bed her.
Talisa, 45, said: “I think guys’ reaction will be, ‘I’d still give her one.’ I’d hope blokes would look at me and say, ‘It wouldn’t bother me’.
“I’d just want them to go, ‘Here’s a woman, what’s the problem?’
“With a lot of the auditions for roles I’ve had in the past, they’ve always said to me I ‘wasn’t trans- gender enough’.
“But in Baptiste you’re not meant to know that she is. She’s not the obvious transgender person.
“With transgender characters it has always been the same — the 6ft tall builder with a wig tilted to the side. Thankfully we’ve moved on.”
Chilean-born Talisa, who has lived in the UK since she was four, is thrilled by her trailblazing role in BBC1’s latest Sunday night drama.
Kim is a sophisticated woman who lives with a man besotted with her — but unaware she is trans. The character holds the key to the disappearance of a girl in the underworld of Amsterdam.
The spin-off of TV hit The Missing reunites viewers with detective Julien Baptiste, played by Tcheky Karyo, who uncovered Kim’s secret at the end of last night’s opening episode.
The role is a high point in Talisa’s acting career, which could only begin when she had full gender reassignment surgery aged 18.
As well as starting a new life as an actress, the operation also meant she could embrace her sexuality.
Single Talisa said: “I always have men hitting on me. But I don’t say anything to them about myself.
“They’re going to start thinking of a million and one scenarios of what’s going on ‘down there’.
“They don’t know how good the operation is. When I’ve slept with men and after it’s gone a couple of months, I’ve told them.
“They’ve said, ‘It’s impossible, I’d know. No operation can do that.’ ”
The lovers she does tell usually don’t care. But there was one man who reacted badly and his family drove her out of the town she lived in at the time, threatening to mutilate and kill her. But Talisa said: “It’s instilled in my DNA to survive.”
She was born during the 1973 Chilean coup, in which the country’s socialist government was overthrown by the military.
In the upheaval, which killed thousands, Talisa was separated from her parents for ever and still does not know what happened to them.
She was found as a baby in the streets and adopted by a university lecturer and her engineer husband.
The family fled Chile in 1977 and eventually settled in Swansea.
Talisa said: “When I was a kid, everybody used to call me ‘boy girl’ and ‘sissy’. I used to wear lip gloss and I was the only boy in the school doing ballet. But no one ever picked on me. All the tough kids in school were my best friends.
“My parents said to me, ‘When you were three or four, we knew you were different.’ But they thought I was going to be a gay boy.
“When I was six or seven, I was playing with dolls. I didn’t want to cut my hair and I kept asking why the girls wore dresses but I had to wear shorts.”
But problems started after the family moved to London when Talisa was 13.
She said: “I became depressed and tried to take my own life. I’d taken sleeping pills and cut my wrists. I wanted to have a vagina.
“When I woke up in hospital they asked, ‘Why have you done this?’ I said, ‘I’m not happy because I want to be a woman and I can’t be.
“The doctors said to my parents, ‘Whatever happens, this child will commit suicide if you don’t do something.’ I could not live as a man. In the hospital, I wanted to jump out of the window. I was not scared of dying.
“They sectioned me when I was 13 and I was put on a psychiatric ward. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Talisa then met a doctor who diagnosed her as transsexual and gave her a book about transgender James Bond actress Caroline Cossey.
Caroline starred opposite Roger Moore in the 1981 movie For Your Eyes Only. Talisa said: “Reading about this Bond girl that used to be a guy, I had a light at the end of a tunnel.
“If she could do it, I could do it.”
Talisa studied at the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London and started appearing as an extra in kids’ TV series Grange Hill. In 1991, with the support of her parents, Talisa had a full, six-hour sex-change operation, which she described as “dangerous and brutal”.
She took her new name after being inspired by Puerto Rican model and actress Talisa Soto, who was a Bond girl in 1989’s Licence To Kill.
But she knew dealing with prejudice in society would still be tough, and was horrified by an experience at the funeral for a trans friend who died of Aids.
Talisa said: “She was an angel, but I remember her brothers and dad were there, spitting on her grave. They were disgusted by her.
“It was such a crazy time. People were dropping like flies. Some of my friends died of Aids aged 19.”
But the actress says she has faced little abuse in her private or professional life, even among people who have known she is trans. She is glad that attitudes have changed so much but feels militant sections of the trans community have taken things too far, too quickly.
Talisa said: “It’s so easy now to go and have operations. People aren’t seeing a psychiatrist for three years beforehand, making sure they really are transgender.”
She feels outspoken political figures are doing more harm than good. Talisa said: “Some people in society think we’re freaks.
“I sometimes look at trans people and the things they’re coming out with and I think, ‘No wonder’.
“They’re so aggressive about it. But if you try and shove something down people’s throats you’re going to get the opposite effect.
“A lot of people are just confused. As a transgender person, I get confused. We don’t know if we’re politically correct in what we say now, do we? In the LGBT community we’ve tried to get away from labels, but we’re making more labels now. We’re all under the trans umbrella. A man puts make-up on and he’s trans?
“So what am I? Am I the same? It’s the same with someone who hasn’t had the operation but just wants to live with a pair of boobs and a penis. What would that be? Are they transgender?”
Talisa eventually hopes to marry and have children, but admits committing to a family might be tricky if her acting career takes off.
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She said: “There’s two things I’ve always known: I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to be a woman. Now I’ve done both I am living the dream.
“I’ve always had this secret in the back of my mind.
“But now, with getting this part in Baptiste, I’m actually quite relieved that everyone knows. It’s a big weight off my shoulders.”
- Baptiste continues next Sunday on BBC1 at 9pm
Clues to thriller
HERE are five things you need to know about Baptiste:
- Detective Julien Baptiste has returned to help desperate British man Edward Stratton, played by Tom Hollander, find his niece. She is a prostitute who went missing in Amsterdam.
- Like many of their other dramas, writers Jack and Harry Williams set the six-part story in western Europe. They believe a foreign country adds tension and like to research the locations personally. Unfortunately, Jack hates flying and will only travel to places he can reach by train.
- Harry was so dedicated to getting a feel for Amsterdam he took cannabis there. He said: “I smoked a little weed. I don’t smoke it regularly so I find I just get very confused. I couldn’t write in that state.”
- Call The Midwife fans hoping to see actress Jessica Raine as Interpol officer Genevieve Taylor in last night’s episode were disappointed. Jessica, who was pregnant during the filming, does not appear until episode three.
- At the end of The Missing, Baptiste had surgery to remove a brain tumour. Actor Tcheky Karyo said: “He got through the op and he’s happy and just trying to enjoy his family. Then he is thrown into this case.”
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