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West Side Story’s Iris Menas On ‘Profound’ Experience Bringing Anybodys’ Trans Story To Life

iris menas as Anybodys in West Side Story
(Image credit: 20th Century Pictures/ Disney)

Spoilers ahead for West Side Story.

As far as major American filmmakers go, few have had as prolific a career as Steven Spielberg. The Jurassic Park icon recently turned his attention to the movie musical genre, bringing a new version of West Side Story to theaters. One major change to the story was the handling of the character Anybodys, who is a transgender man in Spielberg’s film. And iris means, the actor who performed the role, recently explained the “profound” experience of bringing Anybodys’ trans story to life.

In most productions of West Side Story, including the original movie, Anybodys is a tomboy played by a cisgender female. The character was expanded and adjusted for Steven Spielberg’s movie thanks to a screenplay by Tony Kushner. I had the privilege of speaking with iris menas about the role in the movie, in particular the scene where menas' character is told “You done good, buddy boy.” It’s a profound moment seeing the character addressed by their true gender identity, and it turns out it was an emotional experience to film on set. As menas told me,

It definitely was a very profound moment to me as well. And I felt like everyone on set could really feel that, and really gave their attention to that moment. Cast and crew alike. And just met me right where I was for that moment. It was so beautiful in a way. Because as trans people, let’s be honest, the trans community is not at the moment, unfortunately, accepted. There’s obviously violent attacks against the trans community currently, that we’ve seen rise in the last year and a half especially. And to feel seen and dropped in, and have Anybodys seen at a time when the trans people weren’t even part of the conversation widely. I mean, I could feel my trans and queer ancenstors before me, all with me in that moment. Just feeling seen in that moment. It was truly a life-changing experience.

Sometimes art and real life intersect, and it seems that’s exactly what happened for iris menas while on the set of West Side Story. Because when Anybodys is finally seen for who he is, menas felt especially connected to the trans and queer ancestors who lived in New York City as early as the 1950’s. 

While Anybodys is far from the protagonist of West Side Story, he’s one of the many characters who are more fleshed out thanks to the screenplay by Tony Kushner. “You done good, buddy boy” is one of the few lines of dialogue directly lifted from the original script, and the new context makes it all the more powerful. 

The performance given by iris menas in West Side Story really helps to elevate the character’s somewhat limited screen time. And it’s clear that menas was able to bring a personal experience to the role, which likely resulted in such a dynamic, genuine presence onscreen. And there’s no telling how future productions of the musical will be influenced by this moving change to Anybodys. 

West Side Story is in theaters now. Be sure to check out the 2022 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.