Karla Sofia Gascon in Cannes on Being Trans: ‘I’m the Same Person’

Six years ago, his stage name was Juan Carlos Gascón.

Today she calls herself Karla Sofia Gascón, the transgender actress who arrived at the Cannes Film Festival starring in the film “Emilia Perez,” by French director Jacques Audiard, which also stars Zoe Saldaña, Edgar Ramirez and Selena Gomez, among others.

It is the story of a powerful drug trafficker, who decides to change his sex and his life. Gascon plays both characters.

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The actress was born in Madrid, Spain but she says she feels Mexican by adoption since she has lived and worked for many years in that country in films and novelas.

Our meeting with Gascon was on the rooftop of the Palais at the Cannes Festival, where all day she has been giving interviews to media from around the world after the premiere of the film, achieving enthusiastic applause.

The emotion she felt that night was so great that tears appeared.

“It’s crazy, this is madness in the festival. Now it seems to be very peaceful but the days I’ve been here, I haven’t stopped. It has been very exciting, many moments that I no longer knew where to put myself, crying, laughing. It is a place that I will remember for a lifetime, a place that has given me the opportunity to have my work seen all over the world,” Gascon said.

On 25 May, the jury expanded the definition of “best actress” and gave the award to the entire cast of the film, as well as awarding it a jury prize.

How did you get the opportunity to star in the film?

“I was in Mexico and the Mexican team (producers) contacted me, who are wonderful, and they told me that there was a French director who wanted to meet me and they told me ‘Let’s see if you can learn these 18 songs for tomorrow’ and I told them ‘yes.’ I got to work and they brought me to Paris and I met Jacques and we started talking; it was a mutual love.

“At first we were going to film in Mexico but then it was changed to Paris. We filmed it there, and (Mexico-based) production company Pimienta is involved, which also worked on the film ‘Roma.’

“The most impressive thing for me was the first day I entered the forum and saw an entire Mexican tianguis (market), I couldn’t believe it; it was impressive, it was as if we were in Mexico.”

In Mexico, Gascon had worked in several productions such as “Nosotros los Nobles” and some soap operas but under the name Juan Carlos Gascón.

“I adore Mexico, I have many friends there through Mexican residence and look, the first time I arrived, it was with Julián Pastor, a director from the golden age of Mexican cinema. The first thing I did was with Televisa, the production ‘Corazón Salvaje,’ a wonderful character alongside Angelique Boyer and Sebastián Zurita. That has been one of the most beautiful things in my career.

“Then I made the novelas ‘Hasta el Fin del Mundo’ and ‘Llena de Amor’ until ‘Nosotros los Nobles’ arrived, which, as you already know, is one of the biggest successes of Mexican cinema and from then on I said ‘I’m going to (change) everything’ — and I totally changed my life and here we are.

“My wife asked me a very nice question when I decided to do this she told me ‘and now what are you going to do? What are you going to do? What is going to become of us?’ I responded, ‘Do you know what I’m going to do? It’s about surpassing everything I did before’ and look where we are.”

When did you become Karla Gascon and why do you decide to do so?

“I made this decision while I was in Mexico at the age of 46, a short time ago, and it was because I already needed it, I was determined and that is the only parallel I have with the character in the film. I said ‘I do it now or I never do it.’ I have always known what I was and what I wanted to do but there was no opportunity to do it because I had developed in a different way and I have also had a lot of fun on the other side, I have done wonderful things in my life and I don’t regret anything.

“I decided that it was the only moment I had or it was that or never, I decided to make a watershed in my life and I did it more because it was the time since there was a gender identity unit in Spain that supported me wonderfully because if not, I wouldn’t have done that.”

Did it make you afraid, uncertain?

“Fear of suffering, anguish, I have gone through a whole series of horrible things that I do not wish on anyone, especially because of insults, wishing me death simply for existing is something that people think is a joke but it was a hard time,” Gascon commented.

And what was it like acting with Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez and Edgar Ramirez?

“It is incredible to act with these people. Also in the film is a Mexican person who has won the Ariel three times, Adriana Paz, who is a wonderful actress and we have done some incredible sequences including, for me, one of the most important musical numbers.

“At first you get a little dizzy working with these Hollywood stars and you say ‘Ugh, what’s going to happen, how is this going to happen? What am I going to do?’ They are wonderful people with a desire to work, with a love, a passion like the one that we have, Jacques and I, for the cinema and for what we are doing; they have given their maximum.

“Note that Zoe was the only person in Paris who was at my house on my birthday. She was alone and she told me ‘I’m coming to your house.’ She was the only one who celebrated it with me.”

“Selena is such a pretty girl, so good with so many things inside to give. And Edgar Ramirez, he is a brilliant actor; it is a great cast.”

In your own words, how do you describe the film ‘Emilia Perez’?

“It is about the fight between darkness and light and how people, no matter how bad they are, they can get ahead and above all from feminine power, from the power of women,” she noted.

Do you think that by participating in the Festival as a transgender actress you will help more people be encouraged to live their life and try to fulfill a dream, like you have done?

“Look, first of all, something that I would like to be an example of is that the actors, actresses who have been working hard all our lives… to work, let them give their best with love. I am part of those actresses. I want to be an example for those who sees that yes, you can do it…

“I want to be an example for anyone that if it is possible, that is the main thing. And on the other hand, what corresponds to me as a person from the LGBT community, of course, is that I want to be an example of normalization towards transgender people because at the end of the day, after all, we are people who have the ability to do what we want.

“Being trans didn’t make me dumber or smarter. I’m the same person who knows how to act the same way or even better because I have more freedom now to work than before.

“What I do ask of parents who have people who are different or who have other concerns is that they support them, that they give them love.”