Jeffrey Tambor had me in tears tonight from all the laughter and his heartwarming stories and wisdom. Nicest guy, truly hilarious, and so warm and caring. I honestly don't even know where to begin with how fantastic this Paley Live NY event was, how Jeffrey and Judith Light were utterly brilliant with the Q&A between each other and with us, the audience. Here were the highlights:
- When Jeffrey talked about his mother and father with as much honesty as with A LOT of humor. Especially with his father, how his father went "shh! shh!" to silence Jeffrey in times when he had life-achieving moments to share, because his father believed that positive things like that shouldn't be boasted about, if even talked about at all. That "shh! shh!" stays with Jeffrey, as both a blessing as well as something that bothers him. But it keeps him humble, to not let success/fame get to his head. He also talked about his father's death, which naturally, was a tear jerker.
- He divulged about his acting career, about how he spent many times trying to impress people who did not like him. But eventually came around to realizing, and telling us, only please people who DO like you. Who cares about the people who don't. We should never aim to please people who aren't for us.
- Glowing about his wife and son - who were at the event and in the audience.
- Jeffrey is a man of many talents. He had so many words of wisdom. I can't possibly explain or re-write all that he said, but one thing he said has stayed on my mind:
"Between action and cut, there's a beautiful life."
- Naturally, there was a lot of talk about Transparent and how he fit into his role as Maura. And he talked about how he'd shake a lot, knowing how privileged he is as a cis man to play a trans woman. He fully stressed very clearly that by playing Maura, it's "AS IF" he knows what it's like being an actual trans woman. Playing her has not only opened another peak in his career, but has made him realize what we trans people go through on a regular basis. He talked about his first time being at an event, debuting Maura for the first time, and how he was shaking, because he couldn't believe that he was her. He mentioned the dark, disapproving glares he got from people who didn't know he was Jeffrey, and he told himself "Never forget this" as he also told himself to never forget that night. In that same night, he used the woman's restroom for the first time. His co-star, Judith Light, asked Jeffrey (as Maura) if she should go with her, and Maura (Jeffrey) responded: "I must do this alone." And he never forgot that either. After that anecdote, he went on to say how at the end of the day, after he takes off Maura's clothes and into his clothes, when he's not playing Maura, when he's off the Transparent set, he carries on with life as a cis man, while Maura is yet still inside him. One of the most beautiful things about Jeffrey is that he's not self-serving/self-congratulatory. Yes, this is a cis man playing a trans woman. Yes, a trans woman should be playing Maura. BUT...Jeffrey contributes, and he's humbled, and selfless, in playing Maura. I'm not sure if this is common knowledge or something, but Jeffrey has been teaching young trans actors/actresses so they can have a shot at achieving their dreams. And he has been truly moved, even dumbstruck, by the talent he has been seeing from these trans actors/actresses. He had a specific story about a trans girl who would sneak out of home, go in the taxi, put her wig on, and go to class not as the boy that her father thinks she is, but as the woman she is, at Jeffrey's class that has also become a safe haven for her, and many more of these aspiring talented people. If that's not selfless...I don't know what is. This is a man who truly cares about helping the trans community, especially homeless trans people and especially if they are trans youth and aspiring actors/actresses. He is making a difference in his role as Maura. And he went into Maura, supporting her from the very beginning. He was sold immediately in playing her, after reading only 8 pages of the script.
He said to everyone: "I'M IN!"
And added: "Either you do King Lear or you do Maura."
He chose Maura.
I can go on and on, but here's another highlight that tickled everyone.
- Jeffrey is also a man who is not afraid to confess his faults. He told how one time on the set of Transparent, as Maura he went into the women's restroom, and as he was going, two of the producers went in and they said to each other "At least today Jeffrey's not so cranky!"
And he went on to say that as embarrassing and shocking that moment was, to be talked about behind his back, it made him self-evaluate and go, "hmm, maybe I need to correct this about me."
That takes real grace, such sweet humility.
This man is just wonderful, in every sense of the word. And FUNNY - I can't stress this enough. The man is HILARIOUS. He shared more anecdotes than what I shared here, the rest, you had to have heard it live and in person to truly get a kick out of it. He's just a riot. From talking about his life, his acting career, teaching, lecturing, the Emmys, fame, and celebrity, I doubt that there was anybody who didn't laugh and/or get a tear in their eye from this man. I was so honored and thrilled to have met him and seen him tonight. An evening with Jeffrey Tambor is an evening to remember forever.
(Photos courtesy of Paley Center)