The OA Junior Ian Thompson Stars In The Latest Netflix Original Series


Before all this started, his name was Ian Thompson. It still is, of course, but more and more he’s known for his stage name Alexander. He’s well known in the LB chorus, despite (and because) his quitting the department last year. He’s one of a number of transgender students who made this decision, objecting to being assigned into the wrong gender’s choir. He opted for the Unplugged shows instead where he first used his stage name, always walking onstage amongst loud cheers from his fans. People love Alexander. His compassionate political beliefs, his progressive views on gender, sexuality, and relationships made him very iconic in chorus and in the rest of LB. Then he was cast in a Netflix series.
“I thought why not,” Alexander said. “I auditioned for the role not because I particularly wanted it, but because I could, and then they responded.”
The OA dropped on Netflix on Dec. 16, 2016. The series stars its co-creator Brit Marling as Prairie Johnson, a young woman who returns to her Michigan, suburbanite parents after seven years of being missing. But what should be a joyous reunion is complicated by Prairie refusing to identify by anything other than the OA and her inexplicably being able to see, having been blind when she disappeared. The series continues Netflix’s growing compendium of original series. 2016 alone saw the premieres of Luke Cage, The Crown, Love, and Stranger Things. The OA drew numerous comparisons to Stranger Things, with both series boasting science fiction elements and adolescent character ensembles. “There’s definitely a lot of conflict between fans of The OA and those of Stranger Things,” Alexander said. “I think they’re two completely different things. Sure, they have some similarities, but those elements… are in so many different shows.” Alexander stars alongside several other actors in the show’s ensemble, but he’s the only one in the cast who was a minor and had no professional acting experience previous to the show. Before The OA, the extent of his acting was limited to community theatre productions. But in the summer of 2016, a casting call for a mysterious Netflix series began circulating across social media platforms and internet forums. The casting call was highly specific: a pre-op, Asian American, transgender boy, around fourteen years old. Alexander began sending in readings and personal information around that time.
“I hadn’t told my parents I had done anything.,” Alexander said. “My mom always told me not to talk to strangers online, which is exactly what I did. She was surprisingly really calm about it.”
The OA is, to say the least, complex. It’s the kind of show that defies any typical genre designation, blurring the lines between drama, fantasy, and science fiction. Its purpose is as much storytelling as it is religious and philosophical. But amongst these sprawling topics, ranging from near death experiences to substance abuse, the most noteworthy has to do with Alexander himself. Transgender characters on television are few and far between, Laverne Cox’s character on Orange is the New Black being a rare example. Alexander is unique, representing a rare minority: transgender Asian Americans. “I’ve had about a dozen people [direct message me] telling me about how my character on the show helped them come out to their family,” Alexander said, “or just helped them feel better about being there true selves.”
Now one just has to wonder what’s next for Alexander. Even before being casted, he had an interest in both filmmaking and acting. Not unexpectedly, being on The OA has only furthered this interest. Alexander isn’t entirely sure what side of the camera he wants to end up on, but he knows for sure that The OA is just the beginning.