“Transparent” Creators to Ousted Star Jeffrey Tambor: “We Are In A Coup.”
Since the #MeToo movement began, Hollywood has seen its once feted industry elites exiled for their abuse of position and power over women. Hundreds of men have been accused, ranging from Bill Cosby to Ben Affleck, the former currently awaiting sentencing after being found guilty on multiple charges presented by multiple victims dating back some 30 years.
One of the most shocking allegations, undeniably, came from the set of the heavily lauded Amazon original series “Transparent” against it’s central star, Jeffrey Tambor. Tambor, a cigender actor, played the role of Maura Pfefferman, the Patriarch of a dysfunctional family who, in her golden years, finally opts to acknowledge her true gender identity and transition from male to female. The first accusation of sexual misconduct against Tambor came from his own former assistant, Van Barnes, whose claims he dismissed as a revenge tactic by a “disgruntled” ex-employee.
Unfortunately for Tambor, his “Transparent” co-star, an actual Transgender woman, Trace Lysette, stepped forward with her own accusations of being subjected to inappropriate, sexually charged behavior. While Tambor denies the allegations, another “Transparent” co-star, Alexandra Billings, corroborates at least one of Lysette’s claims, having been present at the time.
In the aftermath, it appeared that “Transparent” showrunner Jill Soloway, along with sister Faith Soloway who has served as writer, consulting producer and even appeared on the show, as well as transgender producers Zackary Drucker and Our Lady J, stood in solidarity with the accusers. Tambor was fired from the show, which had been hailed as “groundbreaking” and saw Tambor himself awarded Emmy and Golden Globe awards (As well as many others) for his “Brave” portrayal of a Transwoman.
As is the case of most every cisgender actor who has donned a dress and lipstick, they’re deemed “Daring,” “Bold” and “Brave” for playing a Transgender person and subsequently decorated with accolades. Eddie Redmayne, for example, was nominated for an Oscar for portraying a Transwoman in the tepidly received film “The Danish Girl.” Meanwhile, stars of the critical darling and massively successful independent film, “Tangerine,” Mya Taylor and KiKi Rodriguez were unceremoniously snubbed. Taylor and Rodriguez are both Transgender actresses.
Naturally, the Trans community expressed reservations regarding the casting of Tambor as the central figure of a show intended to increase representation and awareness in mainstream. However, once the show took off, landing on the sensitive pallets of middle America with the oft-forgiven cis-male playing Transgender, it proved to be a hit. The first series of it’s kind to introduce Transgender characters in a long running series, and many of them, with the exception of Tambor, played by Transgender actors… a rare event, at best. It was progress to see Trans actors working in a show where they’re not represented as prostitutes, the punchline of a joke or suffering any of the clichés we’re typically riddled by for the sake of mainstream appeal.
What’s not so good is seeing that Jill Soloway and their (Pronoun preferred, as Soloway has come out as non-binary) sister, Faith, seemed to feign solidarity with Lysette, other series producers and the #MeToo movement, as it pertains here. While Lysette made an appeal to them via twitter, saying; “It is vital that the show’s creator, showrunner and it’s studio re-center the narrative of Transparent on the experiences of the other trans characters and family members audiences have grown to love on the series,” the Soloways were busy, not just consoling Tambor, but blaming a ‘coup’ for all that had taken place.
“We’re in a coup.” Faith Soloway wrote to Tambor, via email, just before he was fired. For those unaware, a coup refers to a hostile takeover or a seizure of power. “You are fucking fantastic. You have changed the world. We will get through this.”
In a separate email to Tambor from creator Jill Soloway, they wrote; “They have been after Maura from the beginning.” One can safely presume that “They” are the Trans community or his transgender co-stars- neither of which had anything to do with dictating Tabor’s actions or the consequences of them. It isn’t unreasonable to expect that in the wake of the #MeToo movement, they would understand this.
Suffice it to say, the Soloways went to great lengths to validate Tambor and soothe his bruised ego both before and after his dismissal, despite the behavior he exhibited, which he has admitted to the extent of being “Volatile and ill-tempered” but stops short of calling it predatory. “Never.” He says. According to him, he expected, simply, a “Slap on the wrist.” It appears that the Soloway siblings expected the same and were clearly angry over his departure, as they had been scrambling to include Tambor, regardless of the allegations pinned against him, in the upcoming season, with the actor agreeing to play a pre-transition version of Maura, Mort Pfefferman, instead. That was the goal, it appears, regardless of his conduct. Soloway was not giving up- until Amazon executives completed their investigation and determined the reports against Tambor to be valid, and justified his firing from the series. This brought all of Soloway’s efforts to eschew the controversy to an abrupt halt.
While most of those named in the #MeToo movement, such as actor Kevin Spacey and producer Harvey Weinstein, found themselves not just fired, but hard pressed to reassert their privilege by finding sustainable work in the film and television industry, Tambor was quickly re-situated to return to yet another popular series, “Arrested Development,” which he had appeared in prior to landing the role of Maura Pfefferman on “Transparent.”
Despite Lysette’s urging of Soloway to re-centralize the focus on the other transgender characters, Soloway announced that the show will air its fifth- and final season in 2018 via the Amazon streaming service.