Exclusive: Isis King talks 'cool mom' Busy Philipps, non-binary representation on TV, and 'hurtful' ANTM comments

Have you watched With Love yet?

Fans of Amazon Prime’s With Love have fallen in love with Isis King, the 35-year-old actress who first found fame in 2008 as America’s Next Top Model’s first trans model.

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Fourteen years later, the star has left modelling for acting and has also appeared in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us and the rebooted series of The L Word. HELLO! spoke to Isis about the audition process, the importance of non-binary representation, and becoming an action hero…

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With Love was so wonderful - can you talk a little about your audition process and joining the show?

I auditioned earlier this year but didn't hear anything back for five weeks so I was kind of nervous that I didn't get the role.

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When I first read the script I thought to myself, "I need this role, Sol is so similar to me and it would be a joy to play a character like this."

Five weeks later I got a callback audition via Zoom that would include our incredible show creator Gloria and the rest is history!

Isis with her pup Zeus

How unique is it as an actress to read identity and sexuality as basic character traits rather than big story arcs?

From the very beginning, Gloria knew exactly who she wanted Sol to be. With Love takes place years after Sol came out, transitioned, so after all that possible drama they now have all of their family’s support.

Yes we have coming out stories but rarely do we get to see what happens down the line after, and for Sol this is what happens after. A brilliant non-binary writer name JT wrote episode four, which had the beautiful conversation between Charlie and Sol where they talked about being non-binary.

I think it's beautiful when the writers' room is as diverse as the show, and that goes back to having a leader like Gloria who really believes in inclusion.

How quickly did you and the cast bond? Your chemistry was fabulous, and it seems - on social media - you are truly friends?

First of all, we are filming holidays, how can you not bond over holidays!

We did a few Zoom readings originally (because of the pandemic of course) but once we got together I feel like the spark was just there. There was also a really positive environment that allowed you to get to know each other and I think we just kind of connected right away.

We also have a cast text chain so that was also another way for us to quickly bond. I really adore them!

Sol falls in love with a fellow doctor in With Love

Birdie Silverstein makes their debut on the show, what advice did you give them?

I didn't have to say much, Birdie already knew who they were and the character was fully fleshed out.

But then again they also have a cool mom who is already an actress so there's nothing I could tell them that Busy Philipps hasn't! We just had fun on set!

The scene between Charlie and Sol in the swimming pool was so poignant. As someone who has spoken about a lack of support when you began transitioning, what do you think 22-year-old Isis would make of the issues facing queer youth these days? 

I think 22-year-old me would be excited to see the younger generation getting opportunities to really explore and share who they are. I think it's a vital part of life to have freedom, to kind of just explore our identities, and to not be judged for it.

We still have so much further to go, but 22-year-old me would definitely be hopeful.

What would you tell that Isis now?

Look what hard work, faith, and not giving up on what I wanted, and who I wanted to be, got me.

It took you a lot longer than expected, but with each chapter comes growth and even more humbleness.

The costumes were 'definitely a collaboration' says Isis

The fashion on the show immediately caught my eye, how much input did you have in costumes and using them to help portray how Sol presents themselves to the world?

We had such an amazing costume design team, they always made me feel so nice and they would take the waist in for me when something was too big. Or even add shoulder pads if I wanted more structure (like the red dress in the Valentine's episode).

It was definitely a collaboration, usually, they would bring pieces and I would try them on and model them to see which were comfortable! I think from episodes one through to five, you see Sol's progression in style and I personally love that growth and story!

 

Isis found fame on America's Next Top Model

Fashion and modelling is how you found fame, what did ANTM teach you about yourself?

Top Model taught me that if I dream it, I can become it. It's very simple but I manifested all of that even before I knew what was possible for me. I always use that as my motivation to speak things into existence when it comes to my future and all the other things I want to accomplish one day.

Many clips from ANTM - the way models were spoken to, or how they were treated - have been resurfacing and are being judged differently. You were still transitioning at that time, do you feel you were treated fairly? Do you have any regrets or wish anything had been portrayed differently?

As hurtful as so much of that was to watch for me back then, if I was to change any of that back then, I might not have had the strength I needed 14 years later to be who I am now.

I had to go through that unfortunately but it helped push the conversation forward on a global scale. That is a moment in history and it all started with me believing in myself and following my heart.

What's next for you?

Hopefully, more seasons of With Love, hosting/judging in the realm of reality TV as well, and continuing to find new ways to express myself artistically. That's all I can really ask for. Oh, and I really want to be an action hero!

With Love is available now on Amazon Prime.

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