After you see the film Real Boy [premiering on PBS June 19 at 10pm; check local listings], you may be interested to hear from the main players involved. We recently checked in with not only Bennett, but his mom Suzy, plus Joe and Dylan, to find out what they’ve been up to since the filming stopped. Bennett was 19 when filming began and is 24 now; how has his life and those of the rest of the cast changed since then? Read on for more.
What have you been up to since the filming of Real Boy?
Bennett: So much has changed since filming. After completing a few semesters of sociology classes, I hit the road and embarked on an adventure to explore my country. Along the way, I met a lot of people that inspired me to deepen my commitment to creating art. Currently, I am living and working on a ranch in Northern California with my sweetie and our two dogs.
Suzy: I’m doing well. Still living in Pasadena and working in the school district where my kids grew up. I am fortunate to love what I do and the people with whom I work. I have the greatest friends who are supportive of me and Bennett.
Joe: I am working on a musical called “The Transcivility of Albert Cashier,” set to premiere in Chicago in October 2017. I’m also touring with my own music and playing bass, banjo, and guitar for other songwriters. I plan to apply to a graduate program in Spain to study music production starting in the fall of 2018.
Dylan: I’m so grateful to be able to say that Ben and I are still close friends and that I’m still in contact with all of the wonderful people that were involved in the film. Since Real Boy, I was in a car accident that ultimately led me to a find new sense of purpose in Emergency Medical Services. I am now a certified EMT in Los Angeles.
What was your initial response to participating in the film? Did you have reservations?
Bennett: When I met Shaleece through Joe, I don’t think any of us knew what this film would become. Any reservations that I may have had in the beginning were overcome when I saw the ways in which this film could positively impact my community.
Suzy: I initially had some major reservations and didn’t want to be a part of the film because I feared for my child’s privacy and the consequences of making his story public. Bennett has always been one to go his own way. I realized that if I truly wanted to be there for him, I had to be there every step of the way. That ended up meaning I was going to be in front of a camera.
Joe: Having done my own activism within the trans community for many years as an out trans musician, I was fairly comfortable being open about my experiences. It was almost easier to share intimate parts of my life on film (rather than on stage) because I wasn’t thinking about the audience. I was just going about my day and there happened to be a camera there.
Did participating in the film affect your relationship with yourself or others in your life?
Bennett: Real Boy has been a catalyst for healing in many ways for me. This film has given me the opportunity to understand the transition that my family had to go through to support me.
Suzy: Participating in Real Boy helped me come to a place of acceptance quicker because of all the wonderful people I met through filming and the stories they shared.
Joe: It was great to see the parents’ experiences in the film. During my own transition I wasn’t paying attention to what my parents were going through because I was so caught up in my own experience. Watching Suzy’s story helped me have a better sense of my own family’s journey.
Bennett, have your other family members seen the film?
Bennett: My dad has seen it, and I think he’s proud of us for sharing this story. My relationship with both of my parents has evolved so much since we started this project, and I’m grateful to say that today they are my biggest supporters.
What impact do you hope the film will have on the communities who watch it?
Bennett: My hope for this film is that it serves as a resource for families in transition. I want the parents of trans youth to have better support systems to deal with the journey. I want viewers that have felt rejected by someone they love to know that there is a community of kind and loving people waiting to meet them. We can all heal ourselves, together.
Suzy: I hope that people use this as a resource to educate and to show that acceptance is a process. It’s hard for me to watch Real Boy because I cringe at some of the things I said early in the film – clearly I had a lot to learn! Have compassion for those that are different and accept your children for who they are.
Joe: I hope the film will give hope to trans, LGBTQ, and questioning folks and their communities of all ages, and show that there is life after the hard times. I also hope it will show folks who aren’t familiar with trans/LGBTQ issues that we have far more in common than they might think.
Joe, the film includes some vulnerable moments about your experience with addiction. What was it like to have that part of your life filmed?
Joe: When we were filming, I didn’t really think much about it. I just felt like I was talking with my friend [the director] Shaleece, and she [happened to have] a camera with her. It felt good to have someone to talk to who wouldn’t judge me in the middle of some really awful times. I didn’t think I would keep drinking as long as I did. I thought surely the consequences would have shaken me out of it. But they didn’t for a long time. My path with addiction hasn’t turned out like I expected it to. But I have less judgment now – of myself and of other people’s struggles.