Adam (played by This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ Gavin Crawford) used to be Melanie. Now in transition, he’s on testosterone but is awaiting the surgery that will complete the process and provide him with the life he was meant to have.
But a phone call from ex-girlfriend Miriam (Naomi Snieckus, Mr D) changes his life in ways he never imagined. She’s just received an artificial insemination kit in the mail and is looking for his help to impregnate her with it. Still carrying a bit of a torch for each other, they wind up fooling around. And as Adam is still technically Melanie on the “inside”…the unthinkable happens and they both end up knocked up.
The debut feature from Maureen Bradley, TWO 4 ONE also stars Gabrielle Rose and Andrea Menard in a sweet, heartwarming comedy about a man living the ultimate complicated life. Simultaneously honest and sensitive, this no-frills film is a transgendered romantic comedy that is a first of its kind.
I spoke with Crawford about the movie and the tough role he very much enjoyed playing.
What first drew you to the script and what were some of the specific elements you found most appealing?
I hadn’t read anything like it before, so that was appealing right away. Initially I was just drawn to the way it was about the relationships; the incidentals of the pregnancy and so on were there and they were plot points…but really it was a story about people trying to connect with each other. It wasn’t this heavy-handed thing, and that was appealing to me.
Tell me a bit about working with Maureen and Naomi. Did you know either of them prior to this project?
Maureen, I had never met. She just contacted me and we had a few Skype meetings. I think for her and me both, we just had to check each other out. ”Am I the right person to play this part? Can I play it?” I wasn’t sure and I’m not sure she was sure either…but then after a couple of meetings somehow it just settled into “Yeah, I think this is doable”.
Naomi and I had crossed paths from Second City and various CBC things, but we’d never worked together. So when I knew she was going to be in it, I was excited to work with her. She was great fun – I’m so glad it ended up being Naomi who was there! We had a very short amount of time to shoot the film and had to cultivate a pretty close relationship in that time. Because of the budget we were asked if we minded sharing a condo. And so Naomi and I actually lived together in the same condo – which proved to be amazing. We were able to shoot all day and then go home and have some wine and rehearse our lines for the next day. It forced this super-fast, close relationship that we had to emulate on film.
It’s a good thing it worked out then!
Oh yeah, it could have been an entirely different movie had Naomi been much less of a nice person than she is! I told her when we first moved in: “I talk all the time…so treat me like a radio. If you hear me saying things, don’t assume you have to respond and we’ll get along fine.”
How do you approach a role like that? It’s a tough character to play and as you said, you only had a short amount of time to film. What kind of preparation did you do?
I spent an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube videos of different people going through different stages of transition; of which, fortunately, there are actually quite a few out there. That was an invaluable tool for me, to be able to see someone documenting their transition on a daily basis over the course of four years. “This is what I sound like after two years on testosterone”…“This is what I sound like after four years on testosterone”. I’d see the way people would carry themselves, how their bodies would change, how their movements would change…that was interesting.
And I have a couple of trans friends who I was able to ask. I ran the script by one of them just to make sure that I was clear about the tone. “Do you feel that this is exploitative” or “is this making fun of you in any way?” Because this movie isn’t a heavy slapstick kind of character comedy. All the humour in it comes from a place of truth – so it has to ring true with the audience or it doesn’t work. That was the main thing that I was focused on – how do I play, as best I can, the reality of this person.
Certainly it’s a hot topic in our society right now – I would imagine there are obvious benefits to releasing a film in an environment where a lot of people are already discussing the main issue at hand. In that same vein, are there any drawbacks? How do you feel about the timing of TWO 4 ONE’s release?
It’s fortuitous for us, because it is definitely a conversation that’s happening in a broader sense these days than it would maybe even a year and a half ago. Obviously you can’t predict that someone who’s part of the most famous family on the planet is going to suddenly go through transition! But it works – especially with this film too, because the subject matter is a little bit beyond just transitioning. With shows like Transparent and Orange is the New Black, people are getting more used to hearing more than just one story about transgendered people. And that allows this film to start in a place where there isn’t a complete lack of understanding right from the get-go. You don’t have to spend so much time going through the coming out part or things like that. You can just focus on “well here’s the issues and this is the story of these people”. So in that way it’s been really great.
Plus, when you work in Canada, anything that can get a little more attention towards your work is always good!
The film has done very well on the festival circuit. What have been some of the reactions you’ve experienced on a more personal level?
I actually got to see the film in Calgary with most of my family – almost all of my brothers and sisters were there. That was an interesting thing, to sit there and watch a movie with members of my family and have them say “That was great…I forgot that was you”. Which is a really nice compliment! Because of anyone, they know me best in the world. So for them to be able to forget that it was me and just start watching the movie made me feel very good.
A lot of times comedic boundaries seem to only be pushed for the sake of shock value. Now it seems like they maybe are being pushed to bring attention to important issues people have been hesitant to discuss. As a longtime fixture in comedy, perhaps Canadian comedy in particular, have you seen a change in the environment or the openness of your audience?
Wow…that’s a large ball of yarn to untangle! For me, I don’t shy away from any particular subject because I think it’s going to necessarily be offensive. I don’t know if it’s actually changing so much – it swings back and forth all the time. In the age of social media, we’re hearing so many more people’s opinions about so many more things, both good and bad. So we’re getting more people expressing opinions and we’re also getting more people kneejerk reacting to those opinions.
I think comedy has always been a place to explore the topics that are hard for us to talk about. And I think that’s just continuing. There are always people who do it well, there are always people who do it just for shock…but if it’s handled well, humour can really tackle a lot. I love Amy Schumer’s show; she handles topics that you might think are taboo, but they also have a really good way of getting to the heart of what the real problem of the issue is.
That’s one of the things that’s great about comedy. It’s always easier to just shock – but to distill down to the point of what it is that’s driving everyone crazy about a particular subject, that’s a little harder. It does continue to get done and I guess maybe it’s done more often now, I’m not really sure. There’s definitely a larger platform for people to do it. It used to be that there was no internet, only television – and with television there’s always a layer of executive that you have to get through. There were just certain things that we couldn’t do on 22 Minutes because it was that 8:30 time slot! For myself, just doing my own standup is great; that’s one of the reasons why I do live shows, to just go out and be able to talk about what I want to talk about and how I want to talk about it. Everyone will laugh at jokes about the Maple Leafs and Air Canada – but at a certain point, you want to be putting something in the world that’s a little more creative than that.
TWO 4 ONE is available on iTunes.