Though it’s still airing its first season, “Big Sky” has already featured a season’s worth of twists, carnage, and mayhem. In fact, one star went to therapy in preparation for the role.
Keitel plays a transfeminine sex worker and aspiring singer on “Big Sky.” She gets captured and held captive by Rick Legarski and Ronald Pergman before eventually getting rescued. She was trapped alongside two sisters, Danielle and Grace Sullivan. Together, the three of them went through a series of traumatic events while locked in a storage container.
But in real life, Keitel mentally had to prepare for the role and stepping into the spotlight.
Jesse James Keitel on ‘Big Sky’ Role
For Keitel, there was a level of preparation that went into bringing the character to life. Keitel is one of the first nonbinary actors to play a nonbinary series regular on a primetime television show.
While being an inspiration and paving the way for others, Keitel opens up about going to therapy before doing “Big Sky.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting to get a lot of hate. I started therapy before the show aired, mentally preparing myself to get ripped apart — and I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Keitel said to NY Post.
It was quite the opposite. Keitel got a lot of DMs, messages, and tweets from fans of the show. Most of the messages shared just how much people adored the character, Jerrie, on the show. The character allowed some people to change their perception of the LGBTQ community.
“I’ve gotten messages from 85-year-old women who are very firm in their beliefs and who have fallen in love with Jerrie, who changed their perception of, not just queer people, but trans people. It’s been kind of shocking to me in many ways. I don’t know if I’m necessarily the most optimistic person, but it’s sparked a newfound optimism in me,” Keitel said.
Keitel on Social Media and Activism
Besides playing a groundbreaking role in “Big Sky,” Keitel also uses social media to spread more positive messages.
In a recent Instagram post, Keitel wrote, “Being visible is a beautiful privilege and responsibility — but it’s also soul numbingly exhausting. Unpack your internalized biases, lean into your discomfort and unlearn your sour habits. Uplift the queer people in your life and demand that they are respected — because existing in 2021 is *hard* and I’m tired of trans people needing to pick themselves up when it feels like the world just keeps kicking us down.”
The post also had a number of articles attached to it regarding violence against transgender individuals or representation. One article headline says, “Murdered, Suffocated and Burned Alive — 350 Transgender People Killed in 2020.”
Besides acting, Keitel is a proactive activist and drag enthusiast. In an interview with Independent in February, Keitel said that performing with the Haus of Femanon, a New York City-based collective of drag artists, has been life-altering. Keitel calls landing the role on “Big Sky” a “dream job.”
“Drag not only saved my life, it gave me an acting career. I would not be a series regular on Big Sky if I hadn’t started drag. I wore an outfit that was completely duct-taped, stuck to my body … wore antlers, the make-up looked terrible, but that night changed my life. There’s something about allowing yourself the freedom to leave your comfort zone behind, and getting praised for it,” Keitel said.
ABC’s “Big Sky” will be returning with new episodes starting on April 13.