“Transparent‘s” restless and oft-dissatisfied daughter Sarah Pfefferman may still be on struggling in her search for self-fulfillment, sampling everything from sexual spanking to a spiritual salvation, but actress Amy Landecker knows she’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing.
As the acclaimed and award-winning Amazon streaming series returns for its third season, many of the Pfefferman clan and their intimates find themselves on the road toward a greater sense of themselves, but Landecker promises that Sarah’s path will be predictably pothole-laden as she dabbles in her diverse new interests in a season she says feels lighter while still true to the serious issues of transformation, literal and figurative, at its core.
On the opposite side of the camera, Landecker tells Moviefone that she’s definitely found her own way — and not without her own wobbliness — as a part of a show that’s had not only a profound effect on its audience but on the actress herself as well.
Moviefone: You look great — rested and relaxed!
Amy Landecker: I have to say, this is the first [press tour] that I’ve enjoyed. I realized in Season 3, because the whole thing started as kind of a — it was a shock to the system! I had never been a part of anything like this. And I think you’re terrified the first year; the second year you kind of have that, I don’t know, hangover — I don’t know how to describe it.
This is the first year where I’m like, “Oh you can be yourself, and it’s all okay. You can wear comfortable shoes. You’re not going to say something that’s going to destroy your life, and you’re not going to say something that’s going to make the world change.”
And I just really love the people on my show. These days are, like, a day to get to see each other, you know? And really, we don’t get to see each other enough. We wrapped in May and I’m like, “Oh my God, I get to hang out with everybody today!” So I’m actually having a really nice time.
And you finally get to let some little secrets out about the show! Now that you can talk about it, tell me what you’re excited about as far as what the audience is going to get out of Season 3.
I feel like Season 3, for whatever reason — and I could be wrong because I haven’t seen it in its entirety — feels lighter and deeper at the same time. It felt like Season 2 was really intense. I remember watching Season 2 all at once. I was in London shooting something, and we were sent the season and I was like “Oh my!”
I was almost just emotionally sort of wrecked by it, a little bit. And I feel [Season] 3 feels sort of like a coming out, and I think even the theme is coming out of your shell, and being more comfortable in the world. It just feels a little lighter. That’s not to say there’s still not incredible depth, because the show just carries that. But to me, as an actress, it felt more joyful.
Following that overall theme of moving into yourself, she clearly is taking further steps into this new BDSM subculture that she’s discovered.
Well, it’s interesting: that’s sort of the beginning of the arc of the season for her. So my exploration of BDSM actually doesn’t go very well — like all things that Sarah tries! Let me just say it doesn’t go that well. I won’t give away what happens, but she even manages to ruin a relationship with someone that she hires to take care of her needs.
I think what Sarah’s path this year seems to me to be like a spiritual exploration into her Judaism, and into the idea of God, and into the idea of community. So I think she’s trying to find something outside of personal relationships, or family relationships, to fulfill herself. So she goes more into Raquel and the temple, and trying to find a purpose.
You and your cast mates are constantly learning as actors as you explore the topics that the show brings to you. So tell me what was the interesting thing to learn about the BDSM community?
What’s interesting to me is — and I hope I say this correctly — I think there’s an idea that, “those people,” the BDSM people, the people who are sexually exploratory are somehow scary, and I as a “normal person,” are safe. And what I’m finding is actually the repressed safe person is way more screwed up than the person who’s exploring of sexuality. That’s been my experience.
I look at our culture and sexuality, our fear and our repression and how it manifests in rage and hatred, and there’s something about a group of people and what they taught me — and I’m obviously on expert on this, but I got to meet some. Actually, I was also dealing mostly with the queer BDSM community, so that might be different, but there’s a safety net. There’s a safety zone. And so there’s this freedom to explore that’s very, very safe.
I never thought of it that way: that it would be safer than a normal sexual experience because you would have these rules, you would have safe words, and I was told that if you misbehaved in any way, you were kicked out of the community. The community was very protective of other people in the community.
So it’s been a real education, including Jiz Lee who was my scene partner in that stuff and comes from queer porn, which was a world I knew nothing about. They were like one of the nicest, gentlest people I’ve been in a sex scene with. So I don’t know — I think the truth is often things are not what they seem.
About the faith side, what’s been interesting to you to take Sarah into that territory?
Oh, it’s been so fun, just because in her typical fashion, she wants so desperately for things to not be about her, and yet it always kind of ends up being about her. So even her religious experience becomes something that her ego can twist a little bit.
She’s still trying. She’s trying. She’s really trying. I think she’s really well-intentioned, but she gets carried away with herself, and what her perceived spirituality — “Oh, that’s God” — could very much just be her ego.
We hear Jeffrey Tambor in particular speak very openly about how this show has transformed him. Tell me about you: What this show and being part of the subject matter, what has it done to you over the last three years?
I mean, it’s funny: I was at the table today, we were having a conversation. I used to work for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, so it’s not like I’m totally new, that was my day job before I made my living as an actor, fundraising and working in the LGBT community in Chicago, so I’m not totally new to the issues on the table. But what’s new for me is this full integration into parts of the community that a lot of us have been separated from.
I don’t think a lot of cisgender people have gotten to really get to know a lot of trans people. Most people I talk to, that’s their experience. I am so fully in with that part of the show, that when I hear about discrimination against, I mean, one of our writers just said today … I mean, I’m sorry, it’s really upsetting — just name-calling. So the hatred in the world that maybe wants … I didn’t feel it so acutely personally, I feel so intensely, and the show feels so important.
I don’t want to, like, be pretentious because it’s a comedy and it’s entertainment, but, like, the world, this cruelty and separation, it’s got to stop. When you really get to know people, it will break your heart. And that’s why it doesn’t happen, is because people don’t know each other. But when we really know each other, you realize it’s just a difference of pigmentation and the spectrum of you genitals. I’m sorry, but that’s it.
So that’s been the biggest probably change. And I met the love of my life, but other than that…[Laughs]
“Transparent” Season 3 premieres today (September 23rd) on Amazon.