Candis Cayne Talks 'Crazy Bitches' and 'Drag Race'

by Fred Topel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday March 3, 2015

We're going to have to spoil Candis Cayne's new movie to talk about the role she plays, but it's such a fun horror tradition that it should only make you more excited to see her play it. Directed by Jane Clark, "Crazy Bitches" stars a cast of women as grown-up sorority sisters taking a vacation for a friend's birthday party. In horror movie tradition, they are picked off one by one by a killer, and if you've seen "Scream," you could say Cayne has the Drew Barrymore part.

"Crazy Bitches" is available on VOD services. We were going to speak to Cayne the week it premiered February 13 but she was on vacation in Maui. Every girl deserves a break and this worked out well, since she's back on "RuPaul's Drag Race" which happens to be back on the air (on Logo) this week.

Cayne has made strides for the trans community being the first trans actress cast in a primetime series, with 2007's "Dirty Sexy Money." She currently recurs as a guest star on CBS's modern day Sherlock Holmes show "Elementary," but the important thing to Cayne is to be seen as simply an actor, as we discussed by phone in this interview.

Every girl's dream

EDGE: So you were in Maui, was that for business or a personal vacation?

Candis Cayne: It was a personal trip. I grew up in Maui so I haven't been home in seven years. It was a family vacation.

EDGE: How long ago did you shoot 'Crazy Bitches?'

Candis Cayne: It was like a year and a half ago.

EDGE: You had the Drew Barrymore part, didn't you?

Candis Cayne: I did. When Jane called and said, 'I want you to be the opening death scene,' I was so excited. That's every girl's dream to die in the opening scene because it's the most dramatic, memorable part. I was super excited about that.

EDGE: So it was always going to be that role? It wasn't like you had your pick of any character and that's the one you chose?

Candis Cayne: No, it was going to be that role, but I was excited. I've worked with Jane a bunch before. She always seems to pick the right parts for me, so I was excited about it.

Baby steps

EDGE: There's no mention that the opening girl is a trans woman at all, so was that important to you?

Candis Cayne: It was important to me personally. I don't know how often that's happened, to be honest with you. Once the industry knows there's a trans woman involved, they want to publicize that. So Jane said, 'No, it has nothing to do with that. It's just the opening scene.' She made a point of not working that angle which was important to me because acting is acting. It's not about that. It's about being a good actor and doing the part and playing the role.

EDGE: You're famous enough now that when you go on auditions, do the casting directors already know it's Candis Cayne coming in? So that they only call you in for things they're prepared to see you for, or do you get to try out for everything?

Candis Cayne: That's just my lot in life of being one of the first trans actresses to be well known in the industry. I'm called in for parts, but it all depends. It all depends on the right people around you, like Jane or I have a new manager that's calling up casting agencies pitching me because they have to pitch me as just an actress. It's going well. It's the industry and being somebody in the forefront of my industry as a trans woman, I have to take the good with the bad and just accept the things that are there and try to push forward.

EDGE: It's baby steps, right?

Candis Cayne: Yeah, it's baby steps for sure.

EDGE: Did you shoot the role in 'Crazy Bitches' in one day, or did it take longer?

Candis Cayne: It was a couple of days. It was the opening scene so usually a scene of that length takes one to two days to shoot.

Back on 'Drag Race'

EDGE: Since we're talking about it, I guess people know that you get killed in the scene. Was it fun to choreograph that? Had you ever done anything like that?

Candis Cayne: I know this is going to sound funny, but being one of the first trans actresses out there, we got killed a lot in film and television. It was kind of a joke to us girls, like, 'Oh, you got killed in the toilet this time, you got killed this way.' More and more it's changing, but this was not about trans so it was fun for me to play this death scene. It was good to choreograph it and turn it into something exciting. There's been a few times where I've been murdered but I've never been in a horror movie where I've actually been slashed. That was kind of fun.

EDGE: I guess I haven't seen all of your shows because I didn't see the toilet one.

Candis Cayne: Yeah, that was 'CSI' in '07. I got murdered in the toilet.

EDGE: Are you still on 'Drag Race?'

Candis Cayne: I am. I filmed the last season, I choreographed it.

EDGE: How is 'Drag Race' taking it to the next level this season?

Candis Cayne: I don't know how they are, but for me personally I realized it's a drag competition so I have to get out of myself just flipping hair and being super glamorous. This year, I went in full drag makeup and full drag look. It was fun for me to get back to my roots. It was a lot of fun for me this year so it'll be a good experience, I think for me and for everybody watching it.

Back on 'Elementary?'

b>EDGE: What exactly does that entail when you go in drag?

Candis Cayne: I always went in downplayed choreographer mode, but this time I was like, 'I'm going to go in drag mode.' So it's like a full piece with an amazing outfit and my hair snatched in this top bun. It was very '80s gorgeous, '80s realness. So it was fun.

EDGE: So we're going to get to see a much more flamboyant Candis Cayne?

Candis Cayne: Exactly. Well, I think so. In my mind, I think it's more flamboyant. Maybe for all the drag queens on it, they're like, 'You're just normal.' But for me personally it was very flamboyant.

EDGE: What did RuPaul think of it?

Candis Cayne: Well, RuPaul always lives for what I do and I live for her. She and I go way back and so she's very supportive of me. She always brings me back so it's really nice of her.

EDGE: As the seasons go on, do the contestants get better and better at performing choreography? Do you have to keep topping the previous year?

Candis Cayne: I think that drag, a lot of times, is dismissed as a fickle industry, but there are stars that come along every season that are really charismatic. That doesn't change from season to season. They're stars and they know how to work it. They know how to work their look. They know how to do what they have to do to get ahead and be noticed. So I think that doesn't change every year. I think there's a girl or two every year that really makes a splash.

EDGE: What else is coming up for you?

Candis Cayne: It's pilot season so I'm auditioning a lot. I have a recurring role in Elementary so you just kind of wait for them to call you for your next involvement on the show. I've just been auditioning a lot. This life is amazing but you've also got the roller coaster ride where you're working a lot, you're not working a lot. Right now I'm auditioning a lot. I'm getting things, I'm on hold for things I can't really talk about, but everything is good.

EDGE: So 'Elementary' is still open for you to return?

Candis Cayne: For sure, for sure. My last episode aired two weeks ago. I'm kind of his maid, because my character is OCD so she's the only one who can relate to is OCD. So she figures out how to make his character be calm with her housecleaning. I come in from time to time and I do little bits on the show. It's amazing working with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.

EDGE: It sounds like it would be harder to explain why you're not there than to just have you in every episode.

Candis Cayne: That's what I think. [Laughs] But you didn't hear it from me.

Working at home

EDGE: Do you watch much television yourself?

Candis Cayne: You know, I don't watch a lot of television personally. I spend a lot of time living life than sitting in front of the television, but there are things that I do watch. I just got Netflix so I just started watching a couple of shows that I haven't seen before that I've been meaning to watch. I basically spend my time working on my house and home, traveling.

EDGE: What is the latest home project you're working on?

Candis Cayne: Once you buy a house, you get enveloped by it. So I'm doing kitchen and the yard. I love to garden. I'm out in New York all the time gardening and being myself. I'd like my house to have a full botanical garden. I'm kind of obsessed with that. I have two dogs so I hang out with them and take them on hikes and stuff like that.

EDGE: You just got back from Maui but do you have any other travel plans in the future?

Candis Cayne: Yeah, I hadn't been home in a while so I went and visited my house back home. I love to travel. I love to see the world. I love to experience new things, but right now the next trip that I have planned is New York City. I'm hosting the 'Night of 1,000 Gowns' with Dionne Warwick. I think it's going to be amazing. [April 11, for The Center and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force]

EDGE: It feels like a cliche to even ask, but have you seen Jeffrey Tambor in 'Transparent?'

Candis Cayne: Yes, I have. I think that any show that's out there that's pushing the trans issue in a positive way and shedding light on it is a good thing. I have a girlfriend, Alexandra Billings, who's in it and I think she's doing an amazing job.

Crazy Bitches is available on VOD. RuPaul's Drag Race airs Mondays at 9pm on Logo.