'The Conners': Alexandra Billings Opens up About Playing Trans Character on Hit ABC Series

The reboot of the reboot of Roseanne, The Conners, has been doing interesting work to portray a modern take on the world and the progressive sensibilities that go along with that. This mindset is reflected in the inclusion of Robin, a transgender woman who is a supervisor at the factory where Darlene and Becky work. Played by veteran trans actress Alexandra Billings, Robin's an interesting character with many facets of her personality beyond being trans.

Viewers might recognize Billings from shows like Grey's Anatomy, Transparent, How to Get Away With Murder, Never Have I Ever, and Goliath. Billings spoke with The Advocate about her time as a guest star on The Conners, and she had only great things to say about the show. "The cast and crew are so smart and funny and kind and open, they're just great. It's a wonderful set," she said. "They were really smart about making this show a reflection of who America has turned into, but to throw in a trans character, I thought, took a lot of guts, and they did it with great aplomb, and they were smart about it."

Billings also was grateful to her costars for being so open and for having such a great opportunity for work at this point in her career, especially during a pandemic. "It's a great cast," she gushed. "It's bizarre to sort of stand there in front of all those people. In the midst of all of this stuff, it's quite extraordinary. And let me be honest, the feeling is not lost on me. I'm extremely grateful that this is happening, especially at this stage of my life."

Billings had especially kind things to say about Sara Gilbert, who pulls double duty as the star of the show and executive producer. "She has some kind of sixth sense [for acting], I've never seen this before," Billings explained. "When she's in the scene, she's an actor and she's fully present, and as soon as they call cut, she is with the writers or she's with the camera people, or she's with the script supervisor. She's doing 55 things from one thing to the next, and then she'll go right back into the scene."

Ultimately, Billings is thrilled to be playing a trans character who is given depth, and even was given input on her character's personality and development. "They asked me, they talked to me, they heard me, they wanted my ideas and my input," she said. "You know what's really fun is playing a trans character who's just a little bit of an a—hole. So much time I'm playing what I like to call the 'magical trans lady.' I come into scenes and I'm sort of like, 'I'll solve the problem.'"

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"It's kind of nice to just be a little edgy," Billings joked. "Robin is smart and fun, she's still a human being, but she's got some edges to her and that's really fun to play." The Conners airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.