Thomas Jane's character Ray has serviced a number of ladies on HBO's racy series Hung, but his latest client, the beautiful Kyla, has a secret past.
Actress Jamie Clayton, who plays the strawberry blonde with the raspy voice and enviable set of gams, shares more than striking features with her character: They're both women who happen to be transgender.
"Obviously this storyline is different for Hung," Clayton tells PEOPLE of her surprising character. Kyla is a receptionist at a suicide prevention call center who first requests Ray's services on the episode airing Sunday (10 p.m. ET). "The writers really just trumped all of the things that I knew were going to bother people [about Kyla]."
Clayton, 33, is a former makeup artist, who previously starred on the Vh1 makeover show Transform Me in 2010. She first made a splash in 2008 when the New York Observer proclaimed the San Diego native the "Second Most Beautiful Girl in New York" in what she calls a "kitschy" profile.
"I'll never forget the day the article came out. My whole life just completely changed," she reflects of making the decision to be "visible to the public" as a transgender woman and in effect say, "I'm here, I'm this girl. I'm totally like everybody else."
And that sense of normalcy is what initially attracted Clayton to Kyla, which is her first acting role. (Watch a clip below.)
"I love that she's just a regular girl, and I love that she wanted Ray to know [she's transgender]," the actress says. "With Kyla coming into Ray's life he has a big lesson, and I think it shows people we're constantly growing, and if we open ourselves up to new experiences we become better people."
But how did she feel about her leading man Jane – and their steamy makeout scenes?
"He was an absolute gentlemen from the minute that I met him. I was just completely mesmerized by him," she says. "He was very patient with me and he was so, so good."
Despite their chemistry, Clayton admits that Jane's character was "uncomfortable at first, but then by the end of it he comes full circle," she says. "I really hope that people walk away from the episodes with exactly what Ray walks away with: knowing that Kyla is a beautiful girl who deserves to be treated like everybody else."
Though Hung co-creator Collette Burson recently told TV Guide they're thinking of bringing Clayton back as Ray's girlfriend next season, the budding actress has only one hope. "At the end of the day," she says, "I just want people to judge me for my work, and not for my past."