A Hollywood veteran of nearly two decades, Alexandra Billings is currently guest-starring on a multi-episode arc of the hit ABC sitcom The Conners as Robin, a transgender woman who is a supervisor in the factory where Darlene and Becky work.
For The Connors, it’s another sign that the reboot of classic sitcom Roseanne is continuing it’s trend of reflecting current America on the show, and for Billings, it’s another extraordinary role in a storied and successful career that’s included stops on Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away With Murder, Never Have I Ever, Goliath, and Transparent. More recently, she was playing Madame Morrible on Broadway in the iconic musical Wicked.
“The cast and crew are so smart and funny and kind and open, they’re just great. It’s a wonderful set,” she tells The Advocate about working on The Conners. “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 has nothing but praise for her costars. “It’s a great cast. 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.” she says. “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.”
She especially has praise for the show’s star and an executive producer, Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene. Billings says Gilbert is the heart of the show.
“She has some kind of sixth sense [for acting], I’ve never seen this before,” Billings says. “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.”
Not only has everyone on set been great, but Billings says she got to give input on her character. “They asked me, they talked to me, they heard me, they wanted my ideas and my input,” she says. “And I can’t wait to go back, and it’s just a joyful experience.”
Billings is having a great time playing the tough-as-nails Robin. “You know what’s really fun is playing a trans character who’s just a little bit of an asshole,” she says. “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.’” But her character on The Conners is different.
“It’s kind of nice to just be a little edgy,” she laughs, “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.”
Catch Billings as Robin along with the whole Conner family tonight, Wednesday, on ABC at 9 Eastern. Episodes are also streaming on Hulu.