How Jamie Clayton Transformed Herself For The New Hellraiser

When it was announced last year that Jamie Clayton had been cast to play the iconic Hell Priest, aka Pinhead in David Bruckner's reboot of "Hellraiser," an unfortunate number of horror fans were left asking, "Who?" Headlines primarily focused on the groundbreaking decision to cast the character originated by Doug Bradley with a woman, discussing the idea of Clayton's inclusion far more than her talents as an actor. It seemed as if the general discourse was more interested in debating the merits of Pinhead being played by a trans woman, rather than celebrating the trans woman chosen to play the part.

Jamie Clayton first broke onto the scene with a short-lived reality TV series called "TRANSform Me," with Laverne Cox and Nina Poon. A successor to the original run of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the series saw the three hosts providing full-life makeovers to cisgender women in need. In the years that followed, Clayton appeared in a handful of television series, before nabbing her breakout role as Nomi Marks in the Netflix series "Sense8." This led to a slew of roles in other high-profile projects, like "The Neon Demon," "Bojack Horseman," "The Snowman," "Designated Survivor," and "The L Word: Generation Q."

Clayton has been a working actor for years, but entering the holy hallowed grounds of "Hellraiser" is unlike anything she's ever done before. Not only is her take on The Hell Priest a revolution for the legacy series, but it's also a star-making lead performance that will certainly change her life forever.

An entirely different role

Fangoria Magazine's October cover story was an interview with Clayton, where she got candid about taking on the role and how it specifically relates to her identity as a trans actress. "There were big parts of myself that I brought to this role, but there was a lot that I had to find because it was so dark," she said. "It's so sexual and aggressive and dangerous and terrifying and sensual, and not that I'm not all of those things, but I'm so grateful that I've been given the opportunity to do this because I don't want to be limited in this industry, by my transness."

While Clayton has certainly had her fair share of playing roles not defined by her trans identity, most of her well-known roles until this point have been trans or queer characters. While the "Hellraiser" films have always been steeped in queerness thanks to creator Clive Barker's own gay identity and inspiration from the queer underground BDSM communities when crafting the Cenobites, the "Hellraiser" series has a massive fandom that spans generations and is comprised of a heck of a lot of straight people. Clayton has been a beloved favorite in queer circles for over a decade, but her turn as The Hell Priest/Pinhead is breaking her out of a so-called "niche" sub-community, and into the mainstream in the biggest way possible.

And all she had to do was completely transform herself.

Power in the performance

As is the case when playing any of horror's most famous villains, Clayton is almost unrecognizable as The Hell Priest/Pinhead. While she may not have a completely covered face like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or Leatherface, she dons extensive prosthetics and special FX makeup crafted by FX artists Josh and Sierra Russell of Russell FX. The design allows for plenty of room for Clayton to emote, portraying a quietly seductive albeit transcendent harbinger of pain and pleasure. "David [Bruckner] took the time to play with me on set and to get several takes of even just certain lines in different ways," Clayton said in our interview at /Film. "That also helped [the crew], too, to see it on screen, to see what was working and what wasn't, because there isn't much you can do once the sclera contacts go in."

Clayton has been hailed as the standout performance in "Hellraiser," completely transforming the character synonymous with Doug Bradley into something unlike horror fans have ever seen. Her power lies in stillness, a commanding voice that does not beckon excessive volume, and unmeasurable confidence that sets fire to even the slightest insecurities of her victims. When looking at The Hell Priest, gone is the host of "TRANSform Me," nowhere to be seen is Nomi Marks of "Sense8," and Sasha Booker of "Designated Survivor" feels like a distant memory. Pinhead is sexy, scary, and a testament to the transformative talent of Jamie Clayton.

Pinhead for a new generation

Doug Bradley is one of only a handful of actors to play the same character at least six consecutive times in a horror movie, which has rightfully turned him into a horror icon. His face has been plastered over official (and unofficial) horror merchandise for the past 35 years, and his likeness has been etched into the flesh of legions of fans. It won't be long until Clayton experiences the same honor, as the new face of Pinhead for a generation. "It's crazy because I did a show called 'Sense8,' and the character ...had this great tattoo that was in Latin, and it said, 'Know thyself,' and a bunch of people got that tattoo," she said in her interview with us. "Oh my God, I didn't even think about that! People are going to get tattoos! That's so cool. I want to see them."

No actor should ever feel as if they have been pigeonholed into playing the same character over and over again, but this is an unfortunate reality for many openly LGBTQIA+, and especially transgender performers. Queer people are often defined by their orientation or presentation, seldom given the opportunity to play outside of an extremely rigid sandbox. Jamie Clayton's turn in "Hellraiser" is not just historic for the obvious "woman replaces Doug Bradley" reason, but because it's one of the most visibly mainstream examples of why relegating an actor to one aspect of their identity is unnecessary and outdated. Clayton has been delivering dynamic performances for over a decade, but thanks to this massive transformation, the general populace will finally be able to see what so many have known for a very long time.

Jamie Clayton has such sights to show us all.