Laverne Cox has spoken about cisgender actors being cast in trans roles
Laverne Cox has spoken about casting trans roles and whether cisgender actors are suitable for the job.
Cox, who is known for her role in Orange is the New Black, spoke about the issue this week after controversial clips from the film “Anything” were released.
The film follows the story of a transgender sex worker but Matt Bomer, who is not trans, has been cast in the role.
A number of people criticised the decision to cast Bomer, including actor Jen Richards who is trans and auditioned for the part.
Speaking about casting trans roles, Laverne explained that she believes having trans actors helps the audience connect on another level.
“My experience as a trans woman playing a trans character is that I have found that audiences not only have empathy for the character that I play but they find themselves having empathy for the actor who plays that character,” she said.
“And I think there’s a lot of evidence that this moment happening with me and ‘Orange’ has created an enormous amount of social change. Right? I mean, like just look at the resume! The proof is there.”
Cox went on to say that casting cisgender people in trans roles creates a vicious cycle in that people could come to doubt trans identites.
She said: “Jen Richards said that she believes that when cisgender men or non-transgender men play trans women it sends a message to people who don’t know trans folks that trans women are really men.”
“And then, as brilliant as Jeffrey Tambor is, as brilliant as Jared Leto is, and all these actors who play trans women, when people who don’t know anything about trans folks and trans women see the very sexy Jared Leto and his beard accepting an Oscar for playing a trans woman, the message that it sends is that trans women are really men.
“So when men find themselves attracted to trans women they have anxiety about that because of their own internalised homophobia and transphobia and they’ve gotten this message that trans women are really men and then this leads to violence. [Jen Richards] contends that this leads to violence against trans women. And I think she makes a really strong argument,” she added.
However, Cox believes that the art of acting would not be true if actors didn’t play a character that was worlds away from their true selves, even if there are consequences.
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“I would never want to tell another actor that they should or shouldn’t play a part,” she explained.
“Art is art and artists should have the freedom to do whatever we want. But there are consequences to that. There’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but there are consequences to that speech. So Jen Richards’ arguments I think are worth considering when we think of casting trans folks.”
She added that the idea works both ways in that trans actors should not be limited to trans roles.
“I think that trans folks should not just be playing roles that are expressly trans. I just did a pilot for ABC and played a part that was not written as trans. But the producers, after looking at a lot of different actors, thought that the qualities that I have as an actor would lend themselves to this character. And it didn’t get picked up but they loved what I did and I tested very well with audiences apparently, which is exciting to hear.”
Cox, who hopes to soon produce her own show, added that she hopes the industry will soon just hire actos for the right part with little regard to gender identity.
“So that’s, hopefully, the future of trans folks acting,” she continued. “That we are cast as roles that we are right for. There a lot of trans stories to tell. We’ve only tapped the surface. And that’s why I want to create my own show.”