Brigette Lundy-Paine’s Acting Dreams Are Coming True
The former Alamedan is a rising star and a non-binary role model.
Photo by Zachary Donovan
Alameda’s Brigette Lundy-Paine is in big demand these days. The 25-year old non-binary actor can currently be seen as Megyn Kelly’s assistant in Bombshell, the new film about the Fox News Network and the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal that saw anchorwomen Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson end the career of the man who built the network into a conservative media behemoth for owner Rupert Merdoch.
It is Lundy-Paine’s biggest film role yet, playing alongside stars Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow, and Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon, among others. Admitting it was intimidating to be on the set, they couldn’t hide their nervousness from Theron, who, after observing Lundy-Paine, gave the young actor some advice. “She told me not to be so weird. Say what you feel,” said Lundy-Paine.
For her part, Theron, already an Academy Award-winning actress, has generated some Oscar buzz for her perfect portrayal of Kelly. She had Lundy-Paine enthralled with her performance during filming. “She was in character all the time. I felt like I was working with Megyn Kelly,” said Lundy-Paine.
But Lundy-Paine is best known for their role of Casey in the Netflix series Atypical, a coming-of-age dramedy about an autistic teenager, Sam, and his family, now in its third season. Lundy-Paine portrays the teenage sister who battles with the parents and assiduously protects Sam while thumbing a nose at the world. The role has earned Lundy-Paine critical praise and a significant following on social media. The show’s gotten good reviews overall and developed a loyal audience, although the autism community has questioned its authenticity and stereotypes. But it’s also the first television show to feature an autistic character in the lead role and has also raised awareness of autism.
Lundy-Paine’s star has been on the rise since 2014, when, while an undergraduate acting student at New York University, they were cast in a small part in the Woody Allen film, Irrational Man, which starred Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. After graduating from NYU in 2015, Lundy-Paine got a part in the short-lived web series entitled Margot vs. Lily, where they played Margot.
But Lundy-Paine met casting director Ryan Tymensky while doing Margot vs. Lily. Later in 2016, he was casting for Atypical. Lundy-Paine auditioned, and got the part. “He expedited me for Atypical. He knew it was just right for me,” they said.
Lundy-Paine said Casey was exactly the part they were searching for at the time. “I wanted a part of a teenager. She’s mean, funny, and doesn’t give a shit about anything except her family,” they said. “It’s very personal in some ways; therapeutic to work on it right after being a teenager. It’s an opportunity to learn from the character and circumstances. She’s had to forgo teenage things — having people like you — she’s trying to get through the day-to-day.”
Lundy-Paine said they knew early on that Casey was going to be important to them, personally and professionally. “It’s been a funny couple of years working on a show. It’s been a gift to explore myself. Season 3 is my favorite. It’s found its voice,” they said. The 2019 season sees Lundy-Paine’s character explore her gender identity and whom she wants to date. Casey, on a track scholarship at a private high school, begins to date Izzie, another girl runner on the team, after they’d both been dating boys previously.
And sometimes art and life mirror each other, as is the case for Lundy-Paine.
In November 2019, Lundy-Paine revealed in an Instagram post that they are non-binary, identifying neither as male or female. In 2018, Lundy-Paine had come out as queer, but a year later they took another step in clarifying their gender identity: “I’m non-binary, always felt a lil bit boy, lil bit girl, lil bit neither,” Lundy-Paine wrote in the post’s caption that featured a photo of their cat. “Using they/them as of late n it feels right. Scary af to come out n been rly putting this off. But I feel I owe it to myself and to all of us who struggle w gender.”
As of Jan. 2, the post had received 249,600 likes and 7,921 comments. Some national magazines, websites, and online publications covered it, including TeenVogue and PopSugar, which called Lundy-Paine “cool as hell” in its article entitled “Ten Reasons Brigette Lundy-Paine Is the Inspirational Icon You Need Right Now.”
Lundy-Paine is happy they came out but it’s been a challenge, too.
“It was very scary to come out and be in a vulnerable position. But I’ve never been more comfortable. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s been a double-edged sword — to be myself but also to have to explain it to the world,” they said. But it’s also about being a role model for younger people. “I want to be an example of validation. You have to create more space for the next person.”
But acting and gender boundary bending aren’t all Lundy-Paine’s been up to.
Lundy-Paine along with three friends Zach Donovan, Misha Brooks, and Mina Walke also started an experimental vocal band — Subtle Pride — in 2014. Each show begins with improvised vocals. “We also play songs we’ve written. It’s all that’s striking us at the moment,” said Lundy-Paine. The band had shows in Los Angeles and New York in January.
To promote Subtle Pride, Lundy-Paine, Donovan, Jordan Baum, and Matthew Keim founded and edit Waif Magazine, an alternative magazine (IsWaif.com) about arts and culture. “Waif is about what makes you excited. The current issue looks at what it means to sell out in the digital age,” said Lundy-Paine.
Lundy-Paine moved to Alameda with her parents at age 2, grew up in a house on Pacific Avenue, and graduated from Encinal High School in 2012. Lundy-Paine has acting in their blood. They have been around actors and theater their entire life. It’s the family business. Their parents, Laura Lundy and Robert Paine, both actors and directors, founded Alameda’s Virago Theatre Company in 2005 along with their uncle, Bruce Lundy, Angela Dant, and Eileen Meredith.
They took their first steps on the stage at age 1, while Lundy-Paine’s father was directing a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And they were drafted into the family business during a production of The Bombing of the Innocents.
“They held me up on stage at age 1,” they recalled. “I never had a choice.”
Lundy-Paine acted all through their adolescence and teenager years, appearing in roles with Virago, Alameda Children’s Musical Theater, Berkeley Repertory, and Encinal High School.
In August, Lundy-Paine can be seen in the film Bill & Ted Face the Music where they’ll play Keanu Reeves’ daughter. Netflix hasn’t decided if it will renew Atypical for a fourth season.