Elliot King is Third
By Rose Troche
In 2024, gender is identified by microchip implant, and trans people like Elliot are classified “third.” But can he change his identity in an attempt to build a safer life?
The conversation of Elliot King began a long while back. I would say that the seed of this idea was formed over time and places and events. Things like involvement in LGBTQ activism, casual conversations with friends over dinner, witnessing the changing political landscape of America – these were all important in the development of this story and the character of Elliot King.
We’re fortunate enough to live in a time and place where identity doesn’t stop at male or female and that gender and sexual identity is fluid across a large spectrum. That being said, how does one reconcile the difference between self-identification and when a government defines it for you? I’ve never believed in outing someone. It’s something that should happen when a person is ready. Elliot King began as a question of giving other people the power to make those choices for you and the consequences of that. This film is an exploration of how pressure and time can be extremely transformative powers in a modern society. In the script, Prop 98 begins as a protective law for trans people but quickly becomes the main form of discrimination for them. We were also interested in the idea of a hero and the acts that define heroism. Through this story, I wanted to portray that living an authentic life can be a form of courage and heroism. It takes strength to live a life that is outside of mainstream society. Most of the time it is a silent struggle, lonely, and demands a force of character and sacrifice that many will not understand. It is, ultimately, worth it.
- Rose Troche, writer/director
Rose Troche pitched the idea of trans people being classified as “thirds” in 2024. The idea was dark but compelling. And the timeline was only 12 years away. But as we all got into making this film, we started to understand that the groundwork for so much of what Rose was writing was already being discussed politically in the United States. Technology, immigration, and marriage policies can all be easily conflated and muddied by people with different agendas. Very often, the people making our laws are not people who have our best interests at heart.
To that end, I would say that the casting process was the most important aspect of this production. Finding the right actors was absolutely essential. When we met T.E. Frost, we knew he had the right mixture of heart and talent and understood the ideas the piece was trying to evoke. Rose was incredibly protective of this cast and what she wanted, and that has made all the difference.
We shot for five days up in a motel in Congers, New York; in office and restaurant locations in Manhattan; and did a green-screen shoot at a studio space in Brooklyn.
In terms of production design, Rose wanted the worlds between 2024 and 2028 to seem radically different. In 2024, with the exception of some tech advances, the world doesn’t seem that different. Most of the “thirds” are poor and disenfranchised and therefore stay in sub-par motels and drive old cars. But when Rolan reclassifies himself, the way he finds the world changes radically. The world becomes more futuristic, colder in a way. The choice of Elliot’s sterile work environment, complemented by projections of graphs and numbers and layers of glass windows, reflects that concept.
Rose and director of photography Alison Kelly wanted to create layers that they would see Rolan/Elliot through. They shot through glass and Plexi and put guitar string and glass chips across the lens to create slight distortions and get across the idea that he was on a journey to see himself clearly.
- Stacie Passon, producer
Rose Troche is the director of Go Fish, Safety of Objects, and Bedrooms and Hallways. She began her career by making short films and video and has worked as a director for 20 years, helming dozens of television shows in the U.S., including executive producing and directing The L Word for six seasons.
Stacie Passon is the writer and director of Concussion, which premiered at Sundance 2013. She has produced and directed for dozens of clients, including Atlantic Records, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Sony Music. She is now developing her second feature and a television pilot for a new series, Animals.
T.E. Frost – Rolan/Elliot
A native Mainer now residing in Boston, T.E. Frost joined theater in high school because that’s where all the freaks and geeks were. Later, he ran away to San Francisco for a time to make queer films. He appeared as Kilgast in Maggots and Men and as Michelle in Chapter 13. Frost plays banjo for campfires and guitar in the Homestead Family Band.
Juan Reyna – Oscar
Juan Reyna received his BFA in acting from Brigham Young University and recently completed both the Summer Shakespeare Intensive and Spoken Word Workshop at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City. He is currently performing in the show Verbal Measures: Voices from the Edge, which he co-wrote.
Rose Hemingway – Rebecca
Rose Hemingway recently starred on Broadway as Rosemary Pilkington in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. She also recently made her TV debut guest starring on The Mob Doctor. Other stage roles include Mary Phagan in Parade at the Mark Taper Forum and Sophie Sheridan in the Broadway National Tour of Mamma Mia!.
Sean Kleier – Ben
A stand-up, sketch, and improvisational comedian, Sean Kleier has been performing all over New York City since 2009. In addition to stage and film performances, he has garnered more than 750,000 views for his web-based sketch content. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, he hopes to one day never return.
Ryan Castro – Eddie
Ryan Castro’s select theater credits include Way Off Broadway: All I Want Is Another Meanwhile (Brick Theater) and Liverpool Trading (Dixon Place). His TV and film credits include Gossip Girl, Hanging Tree, Emasculation, A Fine Line, Celebrities In Disgrace, and The Road Home.
Amy Driesler – Mel
Amy Driesler has been a working actor in New York and regionally for several years. She co-starred in two award-winning shorts, Hens and Chicks and Poker Face. A regular member of The Queen’s Company, she most recently played Silvius in their production of As You Like It.
Shakeem Holmes – Said
Shakeem Holmes aka B.O.I. Sha (Brilliant Original Intelligent) hails from the streets of Jersey City, New Jersey. He is an aspiring underground hip hop artist and actor and has appeared in The People’s Court and performed in concerts at Harvard University, the University of Massachusetts, and Brown University. He currently working on a DVD titled Long Way 2 Da Top.