On HBO’s In Treatment, Swindell plays, Laila; a teen who struggles to trust Dr. Brooke Taylor (Uzo Aduba) with the details of her internal battles as she struggles to claim her own identity outside of her wealthy family’s expectations.
At the beginning, Laila makes a mockery of therapy and puts on a front as this tough girl who wears a Chanel bag better than Naomi Campbell. But as the episodes unfold, Laila defies stereotypes and peels back layers to reveal who she is and what she truly wants. The topic of gender and sexuality that we often talk about on “woke Twitter’’ finally has a face and a name. Being non-binary, this role was especially important to Swindell, considering their own experiences opening up to friends and family about their identity.
“As a non-binary person, there was… as long as I can remember… since I was a kid, being queer, of course people come out and how do I do that? Of course it’ll be terrible, right? And so, there was kind of that period… yeah, so realizing, I can subtly do it and I was in a safe enough space to be like ‘oh I’m queer’ and then when I got to college I was like ‘can I tell people I’m more masc? (masculine) and I feel trans… and of course we can all understand it but it turned into more of a safety issue,” said Swindell.
Swindell goes on to talk about the dangers of opening up about one’s gender identity stating that they were worried about the types of people they’re interested in or someone being accepting of them being queer but not trans or vice versa.
“It’s a very interesting experience but I feel like it translated to Laila because Laila is so distrusting of people generally and specifically to adults because she’s been confined to this environment which is not understanding queer identity or anything of that kind of sort so I think that kind of leads her to be more isolated especially mentally and emotionally especially with her grandmother and her own father.”
Laila’s character is so important for representation within the LGBTQIA+ community as well as educating those who may not understand the internal struggles some go through.
Swindell’s ability to dig deep when playing an emotionally complex and layered character had me invested from the start. Audiences will not only relate to but fall in love with Laila as the series continues.
The HBO therapy drama will return for Season 4 on Sunday, May 23 at 9 p.m ET/PT.