My Generation: Actor Tash Keddy

Meet Tash Keddy, part of the next generation of talented creatives you need to keep an eye on

Tash Keddy. Picture / Babiche Martens

Tash Keddy, 21, made history when this year he became the first transgender actor with a long-running role on Shortland Street.

It’s been a few months now since you joined Shortland Street. What are your proudest moments?
Yes, it’s been almost a full year. On reflection, it has been empowering for me, considering I came mid-way through a fine arts degree into a full-time acting role, all under my own steam. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine doing anything apart from studying full-time. I’ve learned things like how to be assertive on camera as well as the art of the on-screen kiss. I’ve somehow also continued my art practice, helped run a gallery, performed my own writing, and studied part-time on the side. It’s been an extreme crash course in something I think might be called life.

Which struggles of your character Blue do you most relate to? And what are some of the biggest differences between you?
I think Blue has huge capacity for empathy and compassion, which at times can be a challenge. He has a very strong moral compass, which I identify with a lot, sometimes it is hard for him to know the best course of action. I’m several years older than Blue, so sometimes I just want to give some serious advice to the boy. We always seem to be surprising people with our respective complexities, I guess it can be easier for people to just see “gender identity” and not push past that.

How important are Blue’s storylines that aren’t directly related to gender identity?
Obviously Blue is much more than one aspect of identity therefore it’s fundamental that the storyline reflects this. I’m realising more and more in my own life that it’s important to let fluid aspects of identity such as gender and sexuality just be, and not to let them dominate or hold other elements of identity to ransom. The trajectory of identity for me personally, is one of growing into oneself so with that being said, the most important part of Blue’s storyline is his experiencing what it means to grow up and learn.

I have noticed that with sensationalising particular issues also comes a reduction of the natural depth that everyone possesses. I feel strongly that media outlets have a responsibility to not fall into the trap of just picking up and perpetuating clickbait-type stereotypes, as resisting this actively helps grow an environment where discrimination is harder to justify.

Have you ever encountered discrimination because of how you identify? If so, what happened?
I think there’s a tendency now, with gender diversity not being as alien as it historically has been, for discrimination to take a much subtler role, sometimes coming from quite a subconscious place. It’s important to be aware of biases and prejudices on all levels.

Sometimes I find it easy to feel like an outsider but I’ve worked quite hard to know myself and find comfort in who I am and how I choose to do things, so that really helps when I have adverse feelings. Once you’re through the barrier of feeling different to others it’s easier to connect on other levels. Also, the ability to repurpose difference as a strength is key. If the dominant system is against you, there is a unique opportunity to do whatever the hell you like; there’s power in self-determination and freedom from convention.

READ: Dressing Gender Diversity

As someone in a powerful position, hopefully making an impact on attitudes, would you consider yourself a rebel in some respects, or someone fighting for a cause?
I think what it is to be political means embodying both. The power from my position comes from the opportunity to be 100 per cent myself and that’s radical. I’m not comfortable with representing a whole community because the essence of representation is diversity and breadth, something one person couldn’t possibly achieve alone. I would hate for someone’s perception of a whole community of people to be formed solely around either myself or Blue.

Millennials often get a lot of flak — whether it’s for the so-called overuse of social media, for being overly sensitive or the “me generation”. Why are people so hard on Gen Y-ers and just how fair are the criticisms?
Inter-generational criticism is nothing new at all, maybe it’s not something that can be avoided. Difference and new-ness is inherently threatening and if people have invested in the status quo, they might feel their stability is under fire. Personally, I’m not so interested in engaging with any criticism like that, it seems futile and completely negates what people can learn from others. But who do I get to blame for not being able to EVER afford a house? (Just kidding, I know exactly who to blame.)

In what ways would you say your generation thinks differently to the older generation?
Maybe it’s as simple as seeing possibilities in condemnation. I really believe my generation possesses a unique set of tools to address the future, maybe from integration with exponential technological growth, or maybe due to past demonstration that viewing a problem one way doesn’t really yield the best solution. I also love how, among millennials, veneration for hierarchies seems to be a thing of the past — feats like Chloe Swarbrick’s inspiring run for Auckland mayor gives me so much optimism for people my age.

How do you hope to make your mark on the world?
Some days I flip between tangents like frantically researching career paths in global policy in a surge of energy aimed somehow towards having an active hand in change, and other days I convince myself that strong individuation and self-fulfillment is more strategic. I think it’s really hard to know where your skill set will resonate the most but I don’t think you necessarily have to know. See: studying fine arts, working as an actor.

What are the most significant things you’ve learned from the past year?
To get up at least an hour before call time. On a more serious note, I have felt the weight of how important it is to be open to new things so much this year, and just how far-reaching newness can be. A nice by-product is feeling a lot more solid in myself, and having confidence in my own endurance.

READ: Shortland Street Actress Frankie Adams' Beauty Routine

What’s next for you after Shortland Street?
I’m not completely sure, which is both exciting and a little scary. I do want to return to studying fine arts, but I also would really like to find a way to connect all my interests in a new way, maybe something like radio … watch this space.

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