The Mirror gets personal with the trans actress
In the fourth season of the beloved “American Horror Story” series on FX, Erika Ervin joined the “Freak Show” cast and was nothing less than a show stopper. Set in Jupiter, Fla. in the 1950s, a circus filled with “freaks” is on its last legs and the neighboring community accuses the group of a series of murders. Ervin played the strong woman, Amazon Eve.
“The narrative of our show is this is a family, the horror is what’s happening to us in this paradigm,” Ervin said.
Also known as Amazon Eve off screen, the nearly 7-foot-tall transsexual woman was a former paralegal turned wrestler and model and nailed the role originally slated for a man. While she’s tight lipped about her future on “American Horror Story,” she did tell us that she was offered two auditions for two network television shows. Also, she’s working on a solo show to be accompanied by a book.
“The work is coming my way which is really nice,” she said. “I’m getting noticed all over the world.”
How did you come up with your stage name, Amazon Eve?
Amazon Eve was a creation of a kind of contrivance of my first, middle, and last name. Everybody in my little freak show world of tall, strong, powerful women was either Amazon this or goddess that or the Mile High Mistress, Alexis Skye. There’s a lot of name play, Amazon Electra, that kind of stuff. We run around the world, we wrestle men, we are strong women in the world of freak show genre or sideshow genre. We have our own little niche market. For me, Amazon Eve was just a name that sounded well together. I really started it off as kind of a desperate move because I was not making enough money to make ends meet and it propelled me to where I’m at today and I’m very pleased at the results.
Why did you make the transition from law to entertainment?
I wouldn’t call it a transition -- that was the problem. I couldn’t find work in a law office when I transitioned. I sent out about 1,000 resumes and made phone calls. It was around 2004, 2005, I was still working in some private practice as a consulting paralegal, but it was difficult and I couldn’t get any major firm work and you either starve or you look for work elsewhere.
The original role in “Freak Show” wasn’t Amazon Eve, tell us about that.
I told my manager to think outside the box, that finding roles for me are going to be a little tricky, so you might as well [try different] gender, creature, disability, it doesn't matter, just get me in there to get me to see casting directors. He brought [“Freak Show”] up to my attention. The part was originally written for Johnny Long in the Pants, a very tall man. So I bound my breasts, slicked back my hair, no makeup, no jewelry, pretty nondescript blue jeans, tennis shoes, walked in there, and nailed it. I was fully prepared to play this role as a male, but they let me do it as Amazon Eve, which is doubly validating.
What does it mean to you to play the character?
I felt very honored and very validated that I get a chance to work in a profession I’ve always wanted to work in. I thought I would never be able to do this. I somewhat became employed peripherally to the industry -- I worked in entertainment law at one point in my career. It’s interesting what happens when you don’t chase it, when you become authentic and you do your own creative, that it finds you. People who are excluded from life’s benefits don’t have to play by the rules, right? So I might as well think outside the box as per my instruction to my manager. So that’s when I got the part. I’m very pleased at the work I’ve done, I’m very proud of my body of work, and I’m very blessed to be working with some of the most talented people in this business.
American Horror Story has had LGBT themes from the very beginning. What does this say about the show?
They want to represent society, all of society, not just the homogenized pretty people, the carbon copy pretty faces, Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It’s a tough business and let’s just say Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are different animals, so they get the big golden statue for diversity awareness. This has been a big year for diversity in television. Did you see “Transparent” win the Golden Globe? I was pleased at that and it’s a really good time for LGBT people, especially transgender people in film and cinema.
I need to qualify that word “transgender.” I say that because it’s shorthand. I identify as transsexual and really I’m not going to transition anymore, so I’m past that. I am female, I identify as woman, but for shorthand reasons I use the word transgender. It’s a simple way of just kind of cutting to the chase. I play a cisgender woman, which you see the world didn’t come to an end, nothing fell apart, dogs and cats aren’t living together. Well, they do I guess. I’d like to get a pet soon.
Were you expecting so much love from fans?
I’m getting lots of love from the fans. I’ve got a chance to come back from Austin signing autographs and nothing but love and acceptance and this is Texas, OK?
I got to keep my ego in check. It’s honoring. It feels good to be validated. It’s not like theatre where you get that instant validation. I love to watch the episodes in a crowd because you get the applause if you’re in there and that feels really good.
What can young LGBT people learn from you? What would you say to them?
I’m going to give them the same advice my mother gave to me: you can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t let that world out there say you can’t. Omit the “I can’t” attitude and don’t be a victim. Don’t fall for that trap.