Name: Quintessa Swindell
Hometown: Virginia Beach, Va.
Now Lives: In a loft in Downtown Los Angeles and a one-bedroom apartment in the East Village of Manhattan.
Claim to Fame: Quintessa Swindell is a nonbinary trans actor who stars in DC’s “Black Adam,” a big-budget film in which Mx. Swindell plays Cyclone, a superhero who has the power to manipulate the wind. The film, which opens on Oct. 21 and also stars Dwayne Johnson, marks one of the first times that a transgender actor has been cast in a main role in a DC production. “My trans and nonbinary identity is the thing that I’m the most confident about in my life,” Mx. Swindell said. “Having that understanding and comfort has enabled me to progress through my life with way more ease than I ever had in the past.”
Big Break: Raised by a single father in Virginia Beach, Mx. Swindell took theater classes at the Governor’s School for the Arts during high school as an outlet for personal growth. “Acting became therapy sessions because I was forced to translate bottled-up feelings into whatever scenes I was studying,” Mx. Swindell said.
In 2015, Mx. Swindell moved to New York City to study theater at Marymount Manhattan, before dropping out two years later to pursue acting in Los Angeles. A former acting coach put Mx. Swindell in touch with Robert Myerow, a talent agent at the Gersh Agency, which led to roles in the 2018 film “Granada Nights” and, later, as a high school senior grappling with family issues on HBO’s “In Treatment.” “I’m always super-focused on how every performance or piece of work can be better than the last,” Mx. Swindell said.
Latest Project: Balancing comic-book blockbusters with independent films, Mx. Swindell also stars in “Master Gardener,” a philosophical thriller with Sigourney Weaver that premiered last month at the Venice Film Festival. (The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis called the film “an austere, beautiful, romantic, wordy, implausible and touchingly Utopian story of love, loneliness, violence and redemption.”) “When I met Sigourney, the first thing I thought was, ‘How am I possibly going to thank her for everything she has done?’” Mx. Swindell said.
Next Thing: Mx. Swindell is in the early stages of producing two films that “say something about the world we live in today.” One is “a movie about female dispatch riders during World War II.” The other is “about two female D.J. pioneers in London’s ‘second summer of love.’”
Gender Performances: Mx. Swindell found New York City to be a wellspring for identity studies — not only in college classrooms, but at after-hours parties like Battle Hymn, where gender fluidity was flaunted and celebrated. “I was learning things in my gender-studies classes, and at the same time I was going out at night and seeing the very things I was learning about in the wild.”