Amazon’s foray into creating television series has already proven successful with their pick-up of Jill Soloway‘s Transparent. The award-winning producer, screenwriter and filmmaker is behind a show about a family that viewers will love and embrace, despite their being a little quirkier than most.
“We just dubbed ourselves the Jewish queer Cosby Show!” Amy Landecker said during Amazon’s TCA press day. Amy plays Sarah on Transparent, a married mother who reconnects with her ex-girlfriend when their children attend the same school. Sarah has a younger sister, Ali (Gaby Hoffmann and brother Josh (Jay Duplass) with their separated parents played by Judith Light and Jeffrey Tambor. The talented cast make up an irreverent and adorable Los Angles Jewish family, The Pfeffermanns. What makes them even more watchable, though, is that the family patriarch, Mort, is transitioning to Maura.
“The issues that are discussed and characterized are coming for with sincerity, humanness, compassion, understanding and the goods,” Jeffrey Tambor said, his nails painted a deep shade of violet. “It’s also about family. And how decisions about authenticity affect family. We were doing an episode the other day and I thought ‘Any family that has a Thanksgiving will understand this scene.’ And this is 2014 and this is 2014.”
Even in 2014, though, the number of transgender storylines and characters are still incredibly few, with Laverne Cox‘s MTF character, Sophia, as the only regular on Orange is the New Black. Transparent ups the amount of trans actors and themes, though, with their outreach program and trans consultants on set including trans-identified director Rhys Ernst.
“Trans stories are important for all people because they do expose the rigidity of these boxes we’re placed in. Everybody is trapped in a body and everybody’s trapped in a gender, no matter how much they fight against it or not. We are stuck in a very gendered society and I think particularly for feminist issues—basically it applies to everybody,” Rhys said. “The job’s been very multi-faceted as trans consultants but we’ve been the liaisons to the whole trans and queer community. We bring in a lot of people from the community to have speaking roles on the show, to be extras, to be crew. We have like a transfirmative action program where we have trans people hired as much as possible behind the camera. We have about 12 speaking parts for trans actors. ”
The set of Transparent has all gendernetural bathrooms, which Jill said has been an interesting experiment.
Forcing these kind of union-y guys—I walk in the bathroom and I see a dude peeing and I’ll be like, ‘Well this is interesting’ and we go about our lives,” she said. “On the ground, we’re trying to live the questions: ‘What would it mean if we all shared bathrooms?'”
The amount of research and respect that goes into each script of Transparent is clear when you walk into their writers’ room and photocopies of trans-themed pages from magazines and books and interviews from the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives are up on the wall. There are queer-identified writers on staff (including Jill’s out sister Faith Soloway and novelist Ali Liebegott and both producers Andrea Sperling and Nisha Ganatra are lesbians), which also informs the bisexual/lesbian storyline that plays out for Sarah character as well.