As a member of Caitlyn Jenner’s transgender posse on I Am Cait, Candis Cayne has been thrust into the spotlight. Though, it’s not the only time she’s enjoyed a burst of media attention, which first came in 2007 when Cayne landed a role on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money as the first openly transgender actor in a recurring role on a primetime series.
While the spotlight faded after the series was canceled, Cayne kept working with appearances on Nip/Tuck, Drop Dead Diva, and Elementary, on which she recurs as Ms. Hudson. Once a drag performer early in her career, she has also choreographed competitions on several seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Now, Cayne is appearing as herself on Jenner’s limited reality series documenting Jenner’s burgeoning journey as a transgender woman. Initially recruited by E! producers, Cayne has formed a bond with Jenner over the course of the 8-episode series.
And the show has media clamoring for new details about Cayne and her would-be romantic relationship with Jenner--a notion teased over the course of the season as Jenner explores her sexuality identity as a transgender woman but shut down by Cayne herself. “[We’re] very good friends,” she told the New York Times.
Ahead of the season finale--which aired on Sunday night following our phone conversation--Cayne talked to ET about her bond with Jenner, her experience on reality TV, and what’s next for her.
ET: It's been a while since fans have seen you at this level of media attention. How does it feel to be back in the spotlight?
Candis Cayne: Wow, it’s kind of interesting because it wasn’t until I got back on this level of TV, which I realized, “Your career--if you really stick with it--has peaks and valleys. Sometimes you're really on and sometimes you're really not. And when you're not, sometimes you lose a little bit of hope that something's going to happen again. But this has taught me that if you work hard and keep on doing what you want to do in life, things happen again.” So I'm really happy.
Most audiences know you primarily as an actress, but on the show you're appearing as yourself. Was there any hesitation about making this your next move?
Yeah. For me, probably seven or eight years ago I would have never thought of that. But I think the world has changed where you can be both. You can still be respected as an actor and still do reality. The reason why I did this show in particular is because I know the struggle I had growing up with my transition and just trying to figure it out without any help. I knew that this show would change the world. I knew that people would be seeing this and see a group of women who are successful, adjusted, and happy. That was so important to me.
Was there any added pressure over how you presented yourself or to make sure things remained politically correct when it came to the portrayal of the transgender community?
You know, I kind of live my life politically correct. I wasn't worried about saying the wrong thing or trying to figure out the community. I know it--I lived in it for over 20 years. There was no pressure. I think it was important for the show to have a group of woman who could talk the talk and walk the walk.
Was Caitlyn’s journey on the show an accurate portrayal of what you experienced in person?
Yeah, it truly is. Everything that she is discovering and understanding about the community is really kind of real time. It's been an amazing experience going through the beginning stages of her transition--being televised, all the questions she has, all the times she reflects what's going on with the community and her journey. She really is very inquisitive about everything--she just says she doesn't know.
What about what you saw of yourself on the show? Did fans see the real Candis Cayne?
It was refreshing for me. Everybody just knows me as an actress, but it was important to show people who I am. I'm not putting on an act. It's just kind of who I am--either the good or the bad. You know, I've talked about the struggles I've had in the industry and in life, but I also talked about the amazing moments. I tried to have fun because as much as there is struggle, there is joy.
There was a lot of focus on her sexuality and the possibility of you two dating. But I’m curious if the show did a disservice to Caitlyn or transgender people by focusing so much on that element.
You have to have a completely encompassing, real-life moment. Her story isn't just one aspect. There are all sorts of things to discover about who she is. Her sexuality is one of them. Like I say in interviews, her sexuality has nothing to do with her gender. Really, she can play with ideas--and the show can play with ideas--but it really isn't anybody's business who she wants to sleep with unless she makes it their business.
How do you feel about her recent comments about gay marriage?
She has come from a place didn't want to talk about her own gender for so many years. She was kind of like, 'This is who I am, what I am, where I've come from.' So, she's discovering through her own transition what her life really entails. She is part of this community. She will come to the understanding and ideas of our community. When the show started filming, that's when she started to transition. She's discovering things along the way. She'll get there. She was telling Ellen that it took her a minute to get there.
LGBT encompasses a lot of people and perspectives. Is it hard to be a transgender person and share all the views and ideas of the community?
We're a diverse community. I'm very liberal and I've been an advocate for our community and outspoken. There is room for everyone in our community. Someone like Caitlyn, who does come from a more conservative background, could possibly change the minds and hearts of people in the conservative party. Everybody is jumping to conclusions because she made such a splash. People want to start nitpicking now.
As the show draws to a close, what is one aspect of Caitlyn's journey--or even the transgender community--that people are forgetting about?
There are so many stories out there and there are so many different ways of living the life as a transgender woman or transgender man. We haven't really focused on the male gender of this. The good about this show is that we've been able to visit different organizations that fight the fight on the ground level and work for transgender rights. It's just the beginning of that and hopefully we'll be able to do more.
Were there any moments that didn't make it on-screen that you wish fans did get to see?
There were so many moments. There was so much footage that we filmed that didn't end up making because there were so many things that had to be said and stories that needed to be told. Who knows, maybe if there is a season two, we'll be able to tell more stories.
Would you do your own reality show?
No. Not really at this moment because I really enjoy acting. I really enjoyed doing this show because of the advocacy and the lives that we're changing. You never say never, of course. But at this point I'm not looking to do a reality show.
Are you still driving that Volvo we saw in such disrepair on the show?
Oh my god, it just broke down. So I'm sitting here in a rent-a-car and I'm going shopping this week for a new car. I have no idea what I'm going to get. That damn car!
What's next for you?
Well, I just came from an audition. So I'm still working as an auditioning actress. I still have that recurring role on Elementary, even though I haven't filmed this season yet. I'm working on a couple of other projects that hopefully will be really amazing.
Even though Jenner and Cayne have finished filming I Am Cait, the two were recently spotted celebrating Cayne's 44th birthday. Get more details about their night out below: