Q&A — Evie MacDonald on playing a transgender teen in new series First Day
Miniseries now streaming on CBC Gem
The first day of high school is tough for everyone.
But if you’re transgender, there are unique challenges and anxieties that come with the new chapter.
That’s the subject of a new four-part CBC Gem miniseries First Day, starring 15-year-old Australian actor Evie MacDonald.
Evie plays transgender teen Hannah Bradford as she begins her first year of high school and tries to find the courage to live her most authentic self.
“I'm really glad First Day is out because it'll be able to help a lot of other kids.” - Evie MacDonald, age 15
Evie is the first transgender actor to be cast in the lead role of an Australian television series.
She came out when she was nine and has been a vocal advocate for transgender rights. She uses her social media platforms to educate people on what transgender means.
Generally, transgender refers to someone who identifies with a gender that doesn't match the one they were assigned to at birth.
Evie MacDonald, second from left, said she saw virtually no transgender representation when she was younger, so she’s proud to be that representation for younger kids. (Image credit: Ian Routledge)
Although Evie is vocal about her trans identity, her character Hannah on First Day is an introvert who keeps her transgender identity to herself.
CBC Kids News caught up with Evie to find out what the show means to her and what she hopes people will get from it.
The following conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: How do you describe the First Day series?
A: I think it's a wonderful TV series. It shows some really important things about trans diversity and even just what it means to be trans. And it was nice to see a person that was trans and it not be completely centred around her being trans. You actually get to see who she is.
The First Day series is a spinoff of a standalone episode, also called First Day, that was released in 2017 as part of the Girls Film Season, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Screen Australia initiative to celebrate what it means to be a girl today (Image credit: Ian Routledge)
Q: What do you think it means for trans kids to see other trans kids like yourself in these roles?
A: I really like it. I grew up not having that, and that was really special for me to see that on TV and that representation that I didn't get when I was little. If I had had that when I was younger, that would have helped me so much. So that's why I'm really glad First Day is out, because it'll be able to help a lot of other kids.
Q: How would it have helped you to see trans representation?
A: Well, I was so young I didn't even realize that I was trans. I didn’t know there was a word for it. I genuinely thought I was the only person in the world that was like this. The only way I could explain it to my parents was I felt like my body was a man, but my soul was a woman. If I had something like First Day to fall back on, I would have been like, ‘Hey Mom, see, somebody else is like me,’ and I never got that.
In the show, Evie’s character Hannah Bradford has to deal with issues like being deadnamed and being denied entry to the girl’s washroom. (Image credit: Ian Routledge)
Q: Do you think things are changing for trans people?
A: Everything helps with a little bit more support and education. So I feel like I've been doing my part to, like, try and help out with the trans community, but things always get better with time. And I've really seen that with the past few years. I mean, I remember being at a point where it was really hard to have a conversation with people about me being trans because of the ignorance and the lack of diversity. But now it's quite easy, actually. When I meet people my age and I tell them all I'm trans, I don't make a big deal out of it. They're actually more open to learning.
Q: You are vocal about being transgender on social media. How do you deal with online hate?
A: Trust me, I have been told many times to just give it up, but I'm ruthless like that. When somebody tries to pull me down, I'm like, absolutely no, I will not let you beat me. And that's just my personality. I've always been like that. And I'm not going to let these words take away what I want most in my life, and to be quite honest, they’re just a person sitting behind the screen and spreading hate on probably 10 other people's pages.
Evie says she hopes the show will help others see trans people as people rather than just, for example, ‘the trans girl at school.’ (Image credit: Ian Routledge)
Q: In First Day, Hannah doesn’t want others to know that she’s trans. Can you explain why she might feel that way?
A: To put it plain and simple, it’s not really anyone’s business. I’m not going to go around telling every single person I meet that I’m trans, and I myself told my school and all my friends that I was, but I know quite a lot of people who were happy just to live as themselves. I mean, it’d be nice to not have the constant reminder from all your peers. And for some people, they’re probably just scared or they’re happy with how their life is and they just want to be seen for who they are. Hannah wants to be Hannah and not just seen as the trans girl at school.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from First Day?
A: I really hope they will just see people for who they are, not what they are. I really do.
First Day is available for streaming now on CBC Gem.
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Ian Routledge