Savannah Burton is breaking down barriers for transgender actors
Savannah Burton has been acting for 16 years. She was born and raised in the small town of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, but moved to Toronto to pursue her career. She starred in the film My Wounded Head, and appeared in Syfy’s hit show Killjoys. She is to star in the upcoming film The Kiss, as well as the film The Long Weekend. But what makes Savannah Burton so extraordinary is that she is consistently breaking down barriers for transgender actors in the industry.
Burton is branching out of typecasting for trans actresses. In the CW series Beauty and the Beast, Burton appears in the second season not as a transgender character, but simply as a female cashier at a video store.
“Being a trans actress in the Union there are very few parts that come down the pipeline. Much of the time the role has been cast before we even hear about it. This has been starting to thankfully change with more high profile trans performers in larger roles in film and television,” said Burton.
Beauty and the Beast is an American television series, very loosely inspired by the 1987 CBS series of the same name, created by Sherri Cooper-Landsman and Jennifer Levin .Kristin Kreuk and Jay Ryan star in the title roles alongside Austin Basis, Nina Lisandrello and Nicole Gale Anderson. Burton was in the twenty-first episode of the second season.
“I was a huge fan of the original Beauty and the Beast series with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman. It was a big step in my career being the first time I had been cast in a major network show after my transition,” said Burton. “I learned so much from the other actors on the show. They are so talented and make the craft look so easy and their performances seem so natural. I felt truly comfortable while on set and knew that this was what I was meant to do.”
Being cast in Beauty and the Beast was a highlight of Burton’s burgeoning career, as well as being cast on the Space and Syfy show Killjoys. Both, she describes, were a huge confidence boost as well as providing much more exposure as a versatile transgender actress.
“I’ve always had an emotional connection with films and television,” she said. “Growing up the movie theatre was always one of my favorite places to be.”
Burton will also be in the upcoming LGBT period piece film The Kiss, alongside producer and actress Barbara De La Fuente. The two worked together previously on the horror film Recurrent, and De La Fuente was eager to work with Burton again.
“Savannah is talented, professional, and very easy to work with. She collaborates, follow directions, it’s always a pleasure to have her on set. Her openness, her emotional availability, her capacity of going deep in a character. She is not afraid of exploring,” said De La Fuente.
Burton has had many inspirations through the years, including Laverne Cox, Jamie Clayton. She loves what Jen Richards and Angelica Ross have done on the television show Her Story.
“My goal is to have an emotional connection with the audience. Sometimes it can just be through a look or gesture. I’m not really into doing a huge back story on a character. The character is me, at least some incarnation of me. I’m not trying to act but be real and tell the truth from my character’s point of view,” she said.
Burton is gaining increased exposure. She is being looked at by VICE, who is looking at doing a video segment on trans actresses, and has spent time in Los Angeles connecting with others in the industry.
“Even as a small child I would pay attention to the credits for a film of TV show. I have a weird ability of recognizing actors from previous roles from years ago. Seeing my name in the credits for the first time was a huge thrill and motivated me to work harder at my craft,” she said.
Despite the challenges that she still encounters as a transgender actress, Burton will continue pushing through. She knows what she is meant to do, and won’t stop.
“I knew I wanted to do this during my first acting class and the first scene I did. I would hear an emotional reaction from someone in the audience and that was like a drug for me,” she concluded. “I was completely addicted.”