Tonya Mosley's new season of 'Truth Be Told'; Trace Lysette and 'Monica' : It's Been a Minute The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could approve certain psychedelic drugs for treatment of PTSD within the next few years, but what does this mean for Black people who suffer from Racial Trauma? Host Brittany Luse talks with the host of Truth Be Told, Tonya Mosley, about the latest season of her podcast exploring the healing potential of psychedelics. They talk about the latest studies, the war on drugs and what it's like to tell your new boss about your psychedelic journey.

Then, Brittany is joined by Trace Lysette, star of the new film 'Monica.' The two explore what it means to come home, the structure of family dramas, and the things we say without words.

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at

Psychedelic freedom with Tonya Mosley; plus, 'Monica' and ambiguous apologies

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


You're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Brittany Luse.

If you could find ultimate relaxation and, dare I say, freedom, would you take a trip into the unknown?

TONYA MOSLEY, BYLINE: Every single muscle in her body, she just laid there and was like, I could take a nap and wake up completely refreshed from this experience. And I've never felt that much rest in my life.

LUSE: Today's guest is award-winning host and journalist Tonya Mosley. As part of the new season of her Truth Be Told podcast, she's been diving into a potential new treatment for people who have been through it.

MOSLEY: They had veterans sit down with therapists and, over the course of several sessions, take either MDMA or psilocybin.

LUSE: You may be more familiar with their other names - molly and magic mushrooms.

MOSLEY: And they found that these vets would be able to face some of the traumas they experienced out during combat and talk through them with their therapists. They were able to grieve for what they did. They were able to see the good and the bad in what they did and not be retraumatized by it. And on the other side of it, they were able to then move through their daily lives with tools that allowed them to not hold on to that trauma.

LUSE: It seems like this kind of psychedelic therapy may soon be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And for Tonya, she's especially interested in what this might mean for people who have experienced racial trauma.

MOSLEY: It is the overt and the covert. It is the everyday-to-day microaggressions that you deal with. It is just the weight of living as a person of color in a racist world. It is a heaviness that we learn to deal with, we learn to compartmentalize in order to make it through each day. But there is an impact on it.

LUSE: Some say that racial trauma can potentially lead to PTSD or make other mental health problems worse. So this controversial treatment could be a game changer. Today, Tonya talks about the history of misinformation around psychedelics, the barriers to treatment for Black people and trying the therapy herself.

Tonya, welcome to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE.

MOSLEY: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

LUSE: So in the series, you talked to therapists who, as a requirement of running the clinical trials, they also have to undergo the therapy themselves. What were some of the most surprising things that they told you about either their experience or their patients or clients that they're working with?

MOSLEY: One of the most interesting parts of the research for me, 'cause I'm a brainy person, is how MDMA changed the brain. It actually helps parts of the brain talk to each other that don't normally talk to each other, and I think that was interesting. I am not a scientist, Brittany, so I just want to tell you that. Of course, you know this. But I thought it was interesting because what it tells me is that the brain is such an important component in, like, protecting ourselves. Your brain may repress certain memories. It may develop techniques to allow you to contextualize what might be happening to you. And what the psychedelics do is open up all of those pathways, so all of them are talking to each other. It's like, hey, this happened to you when you were 5 years old, but here's how you can put this into context with your daily life. Isn't that amazing?

LUSE: There are treatments in development and a wealth of research about psychedelics out there, but you lay out the hesitancy that you and your guests and other Black people may have about engaging with psychedelics.


LUSE: What are some of the narratives that exist within our community around psychedelics that prevent people - Black people from feeling like this is a legitimate form of treatment as opposed to...


LUSE: ...A scary drug where, you know, only bad things can come from it?

LUSE: Yeah. There are a couple of things. I mean, the war on drugs really did a number on us. I understand the hesitancy around altered states of consciousness more generally for us, as Black people. You know, we want to have control over our realities. When you are in an altered state of reality, you do not have control. And as a Black person, we don't want to be in a place of being out of control. There's also a lot of misinformation. You know, a lot of people think that, well, am I going to become addicted to psychedelics? I see the ravages of drugs in other ways, and I don't want to be addicted to anything like this. Am I going to go crazy? You know, Richard Nixon - during his administration, there was just this concerted effort to destroy any type of research around psychedelics as a healing modality.


RICHARD NIXON: America's public enemy No. 1 in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive.

MOSLEY: And then there is religion and our faith as Black people. You know, we're not a monolith, but faith really plays a huge part. And to say, like, there is this potential drug, or plant medicine, if you want to call it, that could help you get closer to yourself when really, we have been taught that getting closer to God is liberation.

LUSE: That last point, it's kind of similar to the way that I think traditionally a lot of Black people have also talked about even therapy...


LUSE: ...And engaging with mental health. It's like, if I have my faith...


LUSE: ...What need have I for anything else? And I think we've seen over time that faith is not always going to be enough for everybody.

MOSLEY: Yeah. You can employ all of those things. That's where I've come to in all of this. I've actually had folks say to me, so you want all - you want, like, all Black people to get on the psychedelic train? No. I - you know, it is not for everyone. I want all of us to know about it and understand it.

LUSE: You want people to understand it as an option and actually be able to look at it with, like, an educated background, basically.

MOSLEY: Exactly. Yes.

LUSE: I'm curious to see how that all shakes out, too. But I want to turn now toward your personal experience. You went on your own journey with psychedelic mushrooms. Episode 1 finds you on a therapeutic shroom retreat in Jamaica. What were you hoping to heal within yourself by embarking on this shroom retreat in Jamaica?

MOSLEY: Oh, my gosh. So, Brittany, I'll first start off by saying I'm kind of a strait-laced person, but I will say the pandemic - 2020 really changed me in a profound way, just like it did many people. You know, being by myself, being alone, being alone with my thoughts, being holed up in a literal room doing my job day to day, my thoughts began to grow, and I started to see that I wasn't the person I wanted to be. I was depressed. I was doing the thing that I loved, but somehow, I didn't feel happy. Also, you know, there's a little bit of a midlife crisis. I'm in my early 40s, and I felt like, OK, what is the next leg of my life going to be?

And I had a friend who had gone on a psilocybin mushroom journey in Jamaica. And he had come back and he said, like, this was the most life-changing experience he ever had. And I was like, you know what? If I go to Jamaica and I trip out and I don't know what's going to come up for me or something bad happens, what am I going to - I'm a mother. Like, if something happens to me and I'm never the same and, like, what are my kids going to say? Oh, my mom went to Jamaica and was tripping on mushrooms and now, like, she's never the same. You know?

LUSE: Right.

MOSLEY: So I actually called up Dr. Monnica Williams and some other folks in the medical industry, and I really laid out for them, like, I'm interested in trying this. Please let me know what the pros and cons are. Am I going to be safe? And they really laid it out for me. They gave me a bunch of literature. We had nice long talks and I thought, OK, this is safe enough for me to try, and I don't have anything to lose at this point. I've been through a lot in my life, and I'm ready to turn a new page. And so I decided to embark on it.

LUSE: I mean, you went all the way down to Jamaica. You had this shroom experience. You thought it was going to be one way, and then you arrived, and the group that you would be dosing with was not exactly what you had envisioned. Talk to me about that.

MOSLEY: Yeah. So it was a private retreat. And so I just know from the price point that I'm going to experience this with white people, but I also thought there might be other people of color and definitely maybe a few Black folks. But I was the only person of color there. And it's even still in my - you know, my day-to-day life and experience.

LUSE: Right.

MOSLEY: I'm used to that, too. It was a little like, we're in Jamaica. There should be some Black people here, but there wasn't.

LUSE: Right, like this Black country. And (laughter) you're like, I'm the only person of color here. Right.

MOSLEY: Yeah, exactly. But what I did not expect was that the facilitators were surprised that I was there. The folks that were helping us through the journey, the therapists that were there, were surprised that I was there. And my particular facilitator, Jasmine, pulled me aside the night before and said, you know what? I don't know what it's like to be a Black woman, and I just want to let you know that. And so I am not sure if I can, like, hold you through all of what you're going to experience, but I will try. I was disappointed because there was a part of me that appreciated it, that she could see that my experience might be different. If I were talking to someone who was different, I would tell them, hey, I don't know what you've experienced, but we're going to get through this together, and is there anything you want me to know as I'm helping you through?

LUSE: How did the experience change you now that some more time has passed since you took that trip to Jamaica? Like, what changes have you seen in your own life?

MOSLEY: I had folks tell me it will take about a year to process what you went through when you go through a psychedelic experience of this kind. And I can see that because the experience happened last August, and you know, now we're in the spring, and I have lessons being revealed to me all the time. But I will say I went into it - I honestly thought, Brittany, that maybe a lot around my career would come up. I was not sure what was going to come up, because my career has been such a part of my identity. And it was all about family. Every bit of my experience was about family.

LUSE: Really?

MOSLEY: Not one thing came up about my career. I don't even - like, it was one-on-one experiences with family members, dead and alive, and those were so healing because I had a lot of unresolved issues around many people in my family who had died tragically. And what I have come away with in that is that I needed to resolve those things. I needed to resolve them because my family is me. I think I've also walked away with a sense of understanding of my place in the world. Being very connected to my family members and being able to have these conversations with them during a psychedelic experience allowed me to have a deeper understanding of who I am and what my role is in the world and with them.

And that is a gift that keeps on giving because - I will just tell you one very meaningful experience. I had an uncle who died by suicide when I was 10 years old, and we were very close. And I always thought, even though all of the adults in my life told me it was not my fault, I felt like somehow I was - it was my fault because I didn't talk to him enough, or I didn't let him know how much I loved him. And I know that's crazy, but that's - those are the things that you feel when you have a family.

LUSE: Yeah.

MOSLEY: And I had an experience during this psychedelic journey where we were sitting under a tree together, and we were holding hands. And we were just looking in each other's eyes. And just by looking in each other's eyes, he wasn't saying anything to me, but I understood that his death had nothing to do with me. And it had nothing to do with our family, and it had everything to do with him and him wanting to relieve the pain. And just like that, the tight grip we had in holding each other's hands, we started to loosen the grip, and I felt OK loosening the grip.

And then he just sort of faded away, and it felt OK. And it - I felt like, looking back on that experience, it was me letting go of that guilt and that understanding. And then the thought that came to me was, and your children need to know how amazing he was, because oftentimes when family members die violently, they become erased because the pain is so intense that it's hard to bring them and reconcile what are you going to say?

You know, the second thing is why they aren't here if you're talking about them, and then you have to tell the reality, that they died violently. But I was imparted with the message that my kids need to know about him because this helps them understand themselves. And that was such a great gift.

LUSE: Coming up, we break down the myths created by the war on drugs and what happens when you tell your new boss about your psychedelic journey.


LUSE: We talked about how some people may be hesitant to try something like this out if it's something that they're interested in - right? - or something they're curious about. What would you say to people who are still wrapping their minds around the possibility of using psychedelics as a healing modality?

MOSLEY: I would say that's OK, and it's right, and it's true for you. I want people to research it, to know all of the information. And if you're a person who you don't take substances or you would never want to try something like this, it's OK. The other message that I want people to walk away with in listening to this podcast is that stepping into your own healing work is important in whatever way you do it. You can do it through psychedelics, yes, and traditional talk therapy, yes. If you strip away all of the other stuff around it, what it is allowing you to do is to have an experience with yourself and understand yourself better so that then you can step out into the world and be the best that you can be.

LUSE: We can't have this conversation without touching on the war on drugs, which you made reference to earlier, and the double standard that exists for Black people when it comes to drug use and experimentation. With most of the interviews that you have, it comes up, even if it doesn't always come up in a direct way. It's often, like, when you're talking to someone, they're telling their story, and the ravages of the war on drugs are, you know, only a few minutes from some transcendent or healing experience that they've had with a psychedelic drug.

MOSLEY: Yeah. I knew that we were traumatized by the war on drugs, but I just didn't know how profoundly until I started doing reporting on this. Every single person I talked with would bring it up organically. And I think it's important for us to talk about because it is still a Schedule 1 drug. All psychedelics are Schedule 1 drugs. And so it's an important conversation to have to know that, hey, there's this wonderful thing and there's a lot of efforts to legalize or decriminalize, but that doesn't mean that you're going to have the same experience if you come across law enforcement as a Black person. So it was also important to have that part of the conversation too.

LUSE: Assisted psychedelic therapy is not going to be widely available to Black people in this country for a minute.


LUSE: In the meantime and in between time, what do you hope people take away from this series?

MOSLEY: I hope they see a part of themselves in it. I just want people to know it's OK to take the steps to heal, to know that if you are a Black person in this world, you have been traumatized. You're not crazy. The things that happened to you, they are real and they have impacted you. A big throughline for Black women in this series is this working ourselves to perfection - perfectionism. I just heard that over and over from Black women. And from Black men, I heard over and over again, oh, I'm able to step away from this idea of toxic masculinity and who I'm supposed to be as a man. I'm able to grieve for the first time. I'm able to cry. You don't know how many times I've heard from Black men, I - I'm not able to cry. But I had a psychedelic experience, and for the first time, I was able to mourn. I hadn't cried since I was a kid. Do you know how powerful that is?

LUSE: I can't imagine even - not having it in my life for decades and then...


LUSE: ...Feeling secure enough to finally be able to let go like that. I can't imagine it.

MOSLEY: That's a significant experience. So I want folks to walk away - maybe if you never try psychedelics ever in your life, you still can hear from people who are like you that say, OK, I am stepping into a healing journey. And it's OK for you to, in whatever way that works for you.

LUSE: For those who don't know, you are about to become Fresh Air's first-ever co-host.

MOSLEY: Oh, my gosh.

LUSE: It's interesting timing, like, that this season of Truth Be Told on psychedelics is happening at the same time there's this huge announcement that you're joining as the co-host of this public media - I mean, the show is, like, an institution in and of itself, you know? Would you be concerned how you'd be perceived professionally, as a Black woman, spending so much time looking into this topic - dedicating a whole season to psychedelics and healing and joy, let alone sharing your psychedelic experience?

MOSLEY: Yeah, well, first off, it wasn't planned this way. And, yes, I was concerned. My husband is a saint because he's basically been my therapist on the side. The amount of nights where I'm like, am I making a mistake? But he's like, no, you have to move forward. You have to keep moving in this. It is a sound series that is based on personal experience, but is then also based on facts and science. And we have now moved into an era in our society with psychedelics where it is not a taboo topic anymore, and now we understand the research in science. If Michael Pollan is able to go out into the world and write an entire book about it and be lauded for it, me, as a Black woman, and my experiences are just as important and just as worthwhile in me taking this experience.

And Fresh Air has been extremely supportive in it. You know, I remember the night before I was planning to talk with the executives over there, and, I mean, I was a nervous wreck about it. And I told them about it, and they were just like, oh, that's really interesting. Yeah, well, we look forward to it. OK, yeah, anyway, let's move on. I just think maybe it's my time where, you know, everything has aligned for me to do so for the betterment of my listeners.

LUSE: Tonya, thank you so much for coming on the show. I'm so excited to hear you on Fresh Air, and I have been thoroughly enjoying this season of Truth Be Told. So it's great to be able to talk to you about it.

MOSLEY: Brittany, thank you. It's just been a pleasure to talk a little bit about Truth Be Told.


LUSE: Coming up - I chat with Trace Lysette, lead star in "Monica," a trans story and the epitome of a good family drama. Stay with us.

Let me tell you something about me. One of my absolute favorite genres of film is the quiet family drama. I want the tension. I want the dysfunctional dynamics. I want the history. And I just saw a movie that totally scratched that itch. It's called "Monica."

TRACE LYSETTE: It's about abandonment and reconnection and making the most of the time we have left with people.

LUSE: That's actor and executive producer Trace Lysette. She plays the titular character, Monica, a trans woman who comes back home after having been disowned as a teen.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Is it true that you slept on the streets?

LYSETTE: (As Monica) I can no longer be your mother. That's what she said to me.

LUSE: She takes care of her ailing mother, played wonderfully by actor Patricia Clarkson, who doesn't recognize Monica as the child she kicked out so many years prior. It's beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and it hits all my criteria for a perfect family drama. I sat down with Trace Lysette to talk all about the craft behind her performance and what we say without words.

Trace, welcome to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE. We're so excited to have you.

LYSETTE: Thank you for having me.

LUSE: Our pleasure. So, Trace, we are here today to talk about your new film, "Monica," and it's your first lead role. Congratulations.

LYSETTE: Thank you so much.

LUSE: I don't know if I could conceive - like, even conceive of what 11 minutes of applause is like. It just seems so long. But I read that you received an 11-minute standing ovation for the film at the Venice Film Festival.


LUSE: What was it like to get that kind of response for your first leading role in a film?

LYSETTE: It was absolutely insane. It was an out-of-body experience for me. I think we were at the 11 1/2 mark, and the ushers were telling us we had to leave and that that's why it stopped...

LUSE: Wow.

LYSETTE: ...Because there was another film coming in after and they needed the theater. So I think...

LUSE: Wow.

LYSETTE: ...They were going to keep going, and we just walked out (laughter). But it was crazy. I went to the bathroom and cried, I mean, 'cause to me - first of all, it took seven, eight years to make this film. But beyond that, my life's journey has just been such a roller coaster. The similarities between myself and Monica being a '90s femme queen, a '90s transsexual woman and all that comes with that, without diving into too much trauma - but I'm sure you can read between the lines what the girls from my generation went through - survival sex work, all of that.

So when I went to the bathroom, I really lost control of my bearings. And I just sat on the toilet and cried and, like, boo-hooed. It felt like, oh, they see me finally. But also, it was coupled with, you know, what does this mean for me? Will this translate to us getting distribution? Will this translate to it doing well? Will people even care? Even though it's a good piece of art, which the 11 1/2 minutes standing ovation confirmed that it was a good piece of art, would the world at large care? Would it allow me to finally have an abundant career finally? I had to, like, pull myself together and go down and, you know, have a cocktail. But it was an emotional day. It was a beautiful day. It's probably one of the most intense days of my life.

LUSE: Yeah, I imagine it's a day that you never really forget.


LUSE: You said that this film took seven, eight years to come together. I'd love to know how this project came to you and what you saw in the script of "Monica" that spoke to you so much.

LYSETTE: So I got the script in December of 2016. I think I auditioned early 2017. I knew the story was special just because - well, not only because it centered a trans woman in a title character for once, but this was also a family story. And I thought maybe this could be the connecting point for a lot of middle America and trans folk. And I knew - even though it was not dialogue-heavy, I knew that if I got the shot to play her that I could get in there and get it done. I just knew I could. So...

LUSE: I want to make sure that I compliment you on an incredible performance...

LYSETTE: Oh, thank you.

LUSE: ...In particular the phone acting. I mean, there are so many scenes (laughter) where Monica is on the phone cursing people out, crying.

LYSETTE: (Laughter).

LUSE: And, like, nobody was there. It didn't even - like, it didn't even fully click for me until, like...

LYSETTE: I was talking to myself.

LUSE: Yeah. I was like, wait. I mean, I was like, she wasn't acting. She was talking - she was really talking to Jimmy (ph).


LYSETTE: (As Monica) Hey, Jimmy. I know you said you wanted some space, but I miss you a lot.

LYSETTE: Yeah, I'm one part - that's where my one-part crazy becomes beneficial because I was basically talking to myself a lot of the time. Thank you.

LUSE: You really brought Monica's interiority to life in an incredible way. How did you think about developing Monica, especially in her moments where she was alone or - you know, or even on the phone, where, you know, she's really having to bring the fullness of a conversation, a relationship to life on her own?

LYSETTE: Believe it or not, I was less worried about the internal and the heart of it all. But once I figured out the outside of her and how she talked, how she moved through life, how she moved in general, what kind of music she listened to, her friends - who her friends might be, who her family obviously is - once I figured out that stuff, I was able to just zoom in more on the emotion. I think the trick for me is just finding the parallels in life. I mean, if you've lived a rich life, you have a infinite well of things to kind of bring to your character. And so when people say, oh, how are you such a good actor? How do you do the thing, right? And I'm like, well, if you haven't lived a rich life, I don't always know that that is something that can be taught. Do you get what I mean?

LUSE: Like, you've got to have something to draw upon. There has to be a there there. It's - yeah.

LYSETTE: Yeah. It's like when Lauryn Hill talks about why she never made another album. It's like, she needed something - she needed inspiration. She needed more. And, you know, the constraints of the music industry didn't lend itself to that.

LUSE: Well, it came through. One of the things that I was talking to our producer Liam about was about how - I mean, in general, a lot of characters aren't written with a lot of interiority, especially a lot of marginalized characters. A lot of women are not written with interiority...


LUSE: ...There on the page. And the story was - is beautiful in "Monica," but also, like, there's a lot of contemplative space in the film. I felt like what was happening behind your eyes was Monica's interiority. It was there. It felt rare and exciting to see in a movie.

LYSETTE: Oh, thank you so much. I love that word, rare. That's a bit - yeah. Yeah. I tried to leave my soul in Cincinnati that summer.


LUSE: Coming up, Trace on what's next for "Monica" and for herself. Stay with us.


LUSE: As you said, your character, Monica, comes back home as an adult after many years of being away from home. And as adults, we all become unrecognizable to our families in certain ways. But it's also, as my producer Liam said, a very trans feeling to be among family that literally no longer recognizes you, which I imagine can be both a reassuring thing and a painful thing. How did you balance both of those feelings in portraying Monica?

LYSETTE: With grace. I felt like she just needed to have grace. I think there's several scenes where my instinct was like, maybe I would be a little angrier. But then I had to kind of think about, OK, this is real life. She really is having grace for her mom, for her brother. And so for me, there was, like, a quiet strength, a quiet grace that I see in Monica.

LUSE: Speaking of which, I was really amazed by the moment. I was - I mean, I really was. I was amazed by the moment of reconciliation between Monica and her mother - if you can call it that, even.


LUSE: There are...

LYSETTE: I love that everyone makes that face when they talk about it. They're like, was it? Wasn't it?

LUSE: (Laughter) Yeah.

LYSETTE: And then it provokes all this feeling, which is a good thing. That's what art is supposed to do. It's supposed to be provocative. It's not supposed to be laid out in A-B-C. You know what I mean?

LUSE: Yeah. Yeah. No, I mean, and that's how it was. I mean, it was like - I was watching the screener at home and I was like, is this what I think it is? Like, is this - you know, because at that point, so much emotion has built up and so much investment and I'm like, wow.


LUSE: But, I mean, I'm not even sure if you can really call it a moment, capital-M moment, because there are no words said. There are no big declarations, which is what people, I think, expect when you have sort of a movie about family reconciliation on the table.


LUSE: But the quietness of that change in their relationship, it felt very true. But I also kind of felt like I wanted Monica - who's, like, the hero of this story, right? She's our hero - to get her apology - right? - especially since Monica spent so long comforting the woman who disowned her, her mother. How did you think about that wordless moment as an artist? And I wonder if or how you felt differently about that moment as Trace.

LYSETTE: Going into it, I felt similar to you. I felt...

LUSE: Yeah.

LYSETTE: I felt like, somebody owes this b**** an apology.

LUSE: Yeah.

LYSETTE: But after I saw how Patricia played it, I felt differently because I saw a dying woman with her child. I saw her say sorry with her eyes and her hands reaching out to me. The way Patricia played it was enough for me to get all that I needed to get from it without words. I don't know. I think it was really a strong thing for Monica to not press for that apology. I'm not saying I would have gone about it that way.

LUSE: (Laughter) Right, right, right, right, right, right.

LYSETTE: But everybody...

LUSE: But it made sense for her.

LYSETTE: Yeah. I have girlfriends who have family members who just still call them by their dead name, and they're just like, it's my family. I give them that pass. Like, you know, we make concessions. We do, for better or worse. Not everyone - everyone handles it differently. And so I had to kind of honor how Monica was handling it.

LUSE: This is a bit of a spoiler, but I really loved the ending. I won't say specifically what happens at the ending, but I love the ending where Monica has this little moment with one of her niblings. And it kind of showed that there are other members of the family. After this long period - right? - of no contact, there were - Monica discovers that there are other members of the family who want to have a relationship with her and who really need her - like, who really would benefit from her presence in their lives in a foundational way.


LUSE: Like, it's not - it kind of felt to me as a takeaway, like it's not all about Monica trying to slot back into her "space," quote-unquote, in the nuclear structure that hurt her, but kind of finding a new way of her choosing to connect with family. How did you feel about where the film left off, and what do you think is in the future for Monica?

LYSETTE: I thought - I loved the ending. I thought it was timely and a little bit patriotic and a little bit passing of the torch. The mixture of that and what we're going through with trans folk right now, with all the legislation and everything - the song choice I thought was super powerful, especially given, like, the feminine qualities that were being displayed in her nephew. They might need Monica around, you know? And I think Monica felt that. I mean, that's what I got from it, was, like, the journey continues. And whether Monica stays there and continues on this Midwest life or, you know, goes back to where she was and flourishes, I really didn't - I kind of like that I don't know. I kind of like that she has options.

LUSE: You know, I'm thinking about what's next for you. You know, you said in another interview that you thought about building your own production company. Tell me more about what kinds of projects you might want to look into and what you want for your career going forward.

LYSETTE: I'm really invested in trans joy right now and comedy because there's this whole funny bone in the trans community that we've not gotten to see yet because I think most of the trans stories that we do get just haven't ventured into that territory yet. I'm into all of it. I mean, we're not a monolith. There's so many trans stories to tell. And beyond trans stories, I just feel like I'm wanting to see the world that we live in reflected on screen more often and in a way that doesn't feel divisive or preachy. But it would - I think I feel like I need to kind of get into a place where I feel safe enough to do that.

LUSE: You mean like safe, like, as in, like, like having the support and access to be able to put forth the ideas that you want to put forth and, like, they're going to be handled the way that you want? Is that what you're saying?

LYSETTE: They're going to be handled correctly, and they're going to get made. I just want them to meet us where we're at, and, you know, let's walk the walk.

LUSE: Well, I am hoping that maybe, you know, down the line, we could see maybe - perhaps a romantic comedy.

LYSETTE: Oh, my God.

LUSE: Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

LYSETTE: That would be so amazing. I would love to do a romantic comedy.


LUSE: Right? You know what I'm saying? The full shopping montage...

LYSETTE: Yes. I live in those...

LUSE: Crying into some ice cream.

LYSETTE: OK. Those '90s rom-coms were my jam.

LUSE: (Laughter) Oh, my gosh. Well, look - your lips to the industry's ear. I am ready to see it. Well, Trace, thank you so, so much for joining us today. I really enjoyed watching "Monica," and it's a privilege to be able to talk with you about it.

LYSETTE: Oh, thank you, Brittany. It's nice talking to you, too.

LUSE: Thanks again to actor and executive producer Trace Lysette. Her film "Monica" is out now. Before I go, I wanted to let you know that IT'S BEEN A MINUTE will be hosting a live show in New York City at the Tribeca Film Festival. I'll be interviewing author and podcast host Aubrey Gordon. You may know her from the hit show "Maintenance Phase," which debunks the junk science behind fad diets, trends and wellness scams. During the festival, Aubrey is premiering a new film that follows her journey from blogger to New York Times bestseller. It's called "Your Fat Friend." So come see me and Aubrey live in conversation on June 13 in New York City. To get your ticket, head to That's And get on it because these tickets - they are going fast.

This episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE was produced by...


ALEXIS WILLIAMS: Alexis Williams.



LUSE: Our editor is...


LUSE: Engineering support came from...


LUSE: We had fact-checking help from...


LUSE: Our executive producer is...


LUSE: Our VP of programming is...


LUSE: Our senior VP of programming is...


LUSE: All right. That is all for this episode of IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Brittany Luse. Talk soon.

Copyright © 2023 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.