Sis: Rising Actress Talks American Horror Story: NYC, Leading Oklahoma! on Broadway and Social Activism
As American Horror Story fans may have noticed, some new faces have come to town in Season 11 of the series which just premiered October 19. Among them is budding actress Sis, who plays the part of Dunaway. While Sis is new to American Horror Story, she’s a long time fan of the series. She’s also worked closely with producer Ryan Murphy in the past, having worked together previously on Pose. Her feature on American Horror Story comes shortly after her finale on Broadway.
Sis starred in the Tony-award winning revival of the Broadway show Oklahoma! Having just wrapped up the tour, Sis played the leading role of Ado Annie, putting a fresh new modern twist on the role.
Sis is also no stranger to social activism and aided in leading the Trans March on Broadway in order to increase the representation for trans performers within Broadway and the theater scene at large. She has also founded the Next Generation project which aims to support the next generation of performers and creators who face many of the same obstacles and prejudices as members of the LGBTQIA+ community and as members of other diverse identities and marginalized communities.
We sat down with Sis to learn more about her and what she’s working towards.
Congratulations on your tour with Oklahoma! as Ado Annie! You shared in your interview with the Washington Post that we’re getting to see Ado Annie in a new lens that we haven’t seen before. Could you speak more on how this lens has shaped your interpretation during your time on the tour? Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot. My journey, in this role and getting cast in this role and being the first openly Black trans woman to lead a national tour…I feel it’s a product of the time we’re in. And there’s a love hate relationship with that. The hate relationship is [that] had people had the understanding, or the thought, or the care, or the goals, that they now seemingly have, this could have happened many, many moons ago. This type of representation, generally, that we have in the media with Black women, plus size Black women, dark-skinned Black women, Black trans women, more specifically, we could have had the opportunities and abilities to see ourselves in this way a long time ago. And so that’s the hate part of it. But the love part of it is that I am the one who gets to usher in this fresh interpretation of this character that was written in the 1940s.
I think the experience of the tour was also a product of its time, [with] this idea of diversity being this exciting thing. However, the spaces in the rooms that we’re putting diverse existences in are not equipped to hold it.
Would you say that in your experience, you’ve seen theater and Broadway are evolving but not quite at the rate that they should be or that you wish they had been? Yeah, I think it’s behind, very much so in a multitude of ways. But I think what I’m seeing is that the idea of diversity looks a lot better than the execution of diversity. And I think that…somewhere push is going to have to come to shove or something is going to explode there.
As you’ve said goodbye to this role that’s been so important in many ways, what’s been your biggest takeaway in your journey as Ado Annie? To be able to do great work you need great foundations. You need the ability to be able to be in a room and be in that room. For a long time, a lot of things when I was younger I put aside when it came to performing because I was just so blessed to have the opportunity. But I realized that I have to take ownership of my existence in the room as well.
Everybody’s getting something. With me being here, I’m getting something from them. They’re getting something from me; there are contracts. There’s a lot of things on the line to assure that they get from me what they asked for. I had to realize as well [that] there are things that I need to make sure I’m leaving with.
So my takeaway is…you have to advocate for yourself, and it has to be consistent. You have to be willing to continue the battle of getting what you need. And more so performance-wise, a takeaway is that, you know, I can do it. I don’t think [that] I didn’t think I could. But because of history…there are a lot of thoughts about…diverse people in musical theater [and] people with diverse experiences in musical theater. What does that look like and what does that feel like? It’s whatever it needs to be. I think people have many thoughts because they don’t know and they’re not interested in knowing.
But I’m playing this role and I’m doing it great, and that’s that. And I’m playing it because I am this role and I am her. I think a lot of the time, people don’t realize that people like me live similar lives. We experience love, we experience mistrust and heartbreak and all of these things. [There’s] just a narrative that has been spun for a long time, that only cisgender white folk lead and live a specific existence. Everybody else gets cut out of the narrative. But I was happy to get to showcase that to America.
You’ve also said Ado Annie’s song “Cain’t Say No” is very special for you. You have shared that it’s an anthem for “allowing yourself to experience what life brings you.” Can you expand more on what that means for you? Yeah, I mean it was special in that regard…there is a lack of resources that I’ve had. I didn’t go to musical theater classes when I was in elementary school or middle school or high school. I kind of just had to take what I had and just believe in myself, but also fight for my dream.
I think with “Cain’t Say No”…I can’t ever get to a place where I’m denying who I am or what I want to be. And I have to proclaim it from the mountaintops because there’s so many people that want me to stop and give up. But I can’t. I have to keep going. And so I think that in terms of love, too, or just being available and open for all the things life has available to you is just a good way to live life.
You’ve since moved on from this tour and have debuted on American Horror Story as Dunaway. Congratulations! You worked before with Ryan Murphy on Pose as a background actress, and now you are a fleshed-out character as Dunaway. What’s that experience been like, especially in such a short turn around? Yeah, we don’t always get to see [people’s] rise, and I love that mine has been very organic. The exciting part about my journey is that it is a journey. I’ve kind of been able to see it every step of the way. I think that makes you a better creator and that makes you a better overall human being when you get to really just experience life at every stop, [and] every turn, as opposed to just, you know, elevating and being this overnight thing. And so it’s very special to not have any responsibility necessarily with doing background proposals. I got to come every day to this environment where a lot of people looked like me and had a similar existence to me. I got to watch and learn and just exist.
And then with Dunaway, I got to apply, generally, my dream as a human being, what I learned on Pose, what I learned…in the industry, and what I learned from just being an American Horror Story fan for ten years. And now…I’m up to bat and I get to do this really cool thing and play my own role on this show, and I think that was really special.
And since you’ve been touring for a while on Broadway, what was your favorite part of working on American Horror Story in contrast? Yeah, I think the thing about it is [that] with Oklahoma!, this production that we did was a very polarizing production to America. A lot of people had a hard time just reconciling with and dealing with it. We got the flak in real time. And so, that can be really difficult as an artist when you’re trying to perform and give your all and do your best, only to kind of be met with negativity.
With American Horror Story…everybody’s creating the art for each other. You don’t worry about the feedback and you’re not interested in the feedback until the product is finished. And so, I think I love that you get to be in a contained space just telling the story and then the audience gets to have their own journey with it…It’s a blessing and a curse with theater, because sometimes when the audience is really invested, it is really invigorating to just be going on the story with them [and] they see it as they go. But TV protects you a little bit from that.
You’ve accomplished so much in the past few years. I’m wondering, where do you want to be in 2025? Where do you see things happening for you? Definitely a household name, but in a way that my dreams are satiated but also my goals and my hopes are satiated. But I always say, I would love more access to do the things that I want to do, and do the things that…help in the ways that I want to help. It’s difficult trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps when you don’t have boots, you know? That’s a lot of energy.
But it is important to say that when there are marginalized people trying to help other marginalized people, that doesn’t hit the main frame. There are a lot of people who want to help because they see themselves in [others] or they’re reminded of their high school crush, you know, and things like that. And nine times out of ten, that’s not going to be me. So I have to make as much noise as possible and consistently, to get an iota of what people have. There is a realm of care for people who are not marginalized and people who are already franchised. And so it’s hard to be somebody trying to create a lane and a life when you have what some might say “the odds stacked against you.” I don’t believe that, but, you know.
Would you say it’s more the role of privilege and power within majority groups? Yeah, I think it’s the idea of the LGBTQ community. I think it’s that the people who face a lot of the harm and a lot of the issues from being a part of that community are not the poster child of that community. And when the representation of queerness is a cisgender homosexual white boy in his twenties who has appropriated this culture of queerness from Black and brown folks…as the poster child – you’re going to care about that person, and you’re going to see that person and love that person. And then the person behind them that is holding them up, whether that be, the Black or brown, visibly trans person – there’s not enough care left. I think the hard part is [that] the people doing the most work for a lot of our communities are not looked at or cared about because we haven’t been forced into the mainframe to care about us.
Contrast means to be strikingly different. What makes you strikingly different? My authenticity. I never fold on who I am. I pride myself on how I’ve always felt that no matter what space or room I’m going to be in, I’m going to be myself, and I’ll let the cards fall that way. I don’t want to be in a space where people don’t want me to be me and aren’t interested in me. And so my authenticity is what I thrive on.
Follow along with Sis’ updates on Instagram (@UCanCallMeSis) and catch her performance on Season 11 of American Horror Story as Dunaway.