Stav Strashko may be just 26 years old, but she is already breaking ground.

The Israeli actress, who started her career as a model, recently became the first transgender performer ever to receive an Ophir Award nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the drama film Flawless. 

Strashko spoke to uInterview exclusively about her role in the film — which marks her first major acting role — LGBT representation in the arts and more.

“In the movie, I play the role of Eden, [who] is a transgender girl and she moves to a new school,” Strashko explained of her character. “She was bullied in her previous school. When she’s at home, she has two young sisters and a dad, she doesn’t have a mom so at home she basically plays the role of the mother.”

“[Eden] basically tries to start a new life in this school, hiding her identity,” she added.

Strashko went on to reveal that her character eventually meets two girls who develop a plan to travel to Kiev in Ukraine to get plastic surgery in order to look good before their prom and land dates. All three protagonists belong to lower-income families.

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“[Eden’s friends] reveal to her that their plan is basically to do it through a black market and sell their kidneys,” she said, adding that this aspect of the plot was based on a true story.

Strashko admitted she teared up when she first read the script because the film’s subject matter is very important to her.

“I think it gives people a good angle of what young transgender people are going through sometimes, and what happens when it gets to an extreme point,” Strashko explained.

Flawless premiered in Israel in July 2018 and was also one of the films featured at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Full interview transcript:

Q: Who’s your character in the film?

A: “In the movie I play the role of Eden, which is a transgender girl and she moves to a new school, where she was bullied at her previous school. When she’s at home, she has two young sisters and a dad, she doesn’t have a mom, so at home she basically plays the role of the mother. She helps her dad out with the sisters, like cook the food and wash the dishes. She basically tries to start a new life in the school, hiding her identity cause she was bullied in her previous school, and she knows what happens when people find out she’s trans. So she’s coming to this new school trying to hide it, and she meets two girls that have a plan to become more popular by doing plastic surgeries before the prom. She starts investigating and trying to find out because these girls coming from a poor background, a poor family, and she’s trying to find out where they got the money from. As they become friends, they reveal to her that their plan is basically, do it through a black market, and sell their kidney, and for the kidney they get their surgeries, which is actually kind of inspired by a true story that Sharon and Tal saw on the news.

Obviously, the intention of why we did the surgeries were just because we wanted to be loved by the boys and be more popular and then get a date for prom. By the end of the movie obviously we realized it was all a big mistake and that it didn’t really matter cause we were perfect all along. In short, there’s more stuff to the movie but like shortly saying, that’s the storyline.

Q: Is this your first acting role?

A: Yes, I did a couple of acting roles in a movie, in a series in Israel, and some music videos, but it
was really small roles, and this was my first leading role. Sharon and Tal contacted me when I was living actually in New York, so we did a Skype call and that’s how my audition went, they really liked me. First of all, when I read the script I was looking at it and basically once I read it, I started crying a little bit and tearing because for me this subject is really important, it really brings leading transgender role and gives it depth, and lets the viewers identify and see the problems I’m dealing with at school and at home. The father in the movie is not super supportive of the transition. So I think it gives people a good angle on what trans gender young people are going through sometimes and what happens when it gets to an extreme point, which is happening in the movie.

But then again, it was my first leading role and when I read the script I was like stop this is your chance, this role fits your perfectly, you have to do it. So we worked really hard and since I’m a non-actress I think we did even more rehearsals than usual. So we were rehearsing for almost three months before we started shooting the movie. The guys and the girls, my directors, were really there with me the whole time, and they really taught me a lot of things, helped me to do this role on the best side I could. At the end, I was nominated for an Academy Award in Israel for Best Actress, which made a little history because I’m the first transgender woman to be nominated in the category. And now Tribeca, and it’s been crazy, it was the last thing I was expecting from my first movie. I’ve been modeling for ten years, but I wanted to be an actress ever since I remember myself, just never had the chance and now I got the chance.