Actors Mj Rodriguez and Indya Moore have recently become part of television history as part of the cast of producer Ryan Murphy’s latest offering, Pose. The series, which features both the largest-ever number of transgender actors as series regulars and recurring cast of LGBTQ actors for a scripted series, also broke new ground with series writer and producer Janet Mock becoming the first trans woman of color to direct a television episode.
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But hot on the heels of the show’s renewal for a second season, series stars Rodriquez and Moore have some choice words for cisgender actors who feel entitled to play transgender characters, which they shared with MTV News:
“Gender is a social construct, but so is race,” said Moore, who plays “Angel” on the hit series. “And that still doesn’t make it OK for white women to play Asian women. It still doesn’t make it okay for cis people to play trans people.”
Moore is clearly referring to actor Scarlett Johansson, who recently faced backlash for accepting the role of a trans character in an upcoming film. Johansson, who famously also sparked backlash over her casting as anime character Major in 2017's Ghost in the Shell, initially defended the choice, referring her detractors to the casting of other cis actors in trans roles. As CNN reported, she has since reversed course, relinquishing the role and releasing the following statement:
While I would have loved the opportunity to bring Dante’s story and transition to life, I understand why many feel he should be portrayed by a transgender person, and I am thankful that this casting debate, albeit controversial, has sparked a larger conversation about diversity and representation in film ...
Our cultural understanding of transgender people continues to advance, and I’ve learned a lot from the community since making my first statement about my casting and realize it was insensitive. I have great admiration and love for the trans community and am grateful that the conversation regarding inclusivity in Hollywood continues.
But for Moore, the issue is simple: “It’s not like you’re doing us a favor, because you’re flicking your nose, essentially, at an entire demographic of people who are telling you, ‘we are not OK with this,’” she said. “And we’re more than capable of not only of telling our own stories but telling stories in general.”
And Rodriquez has a constructive solution to level the playing field for trans actors: “If this is your way to ‘challenge’ yourself as an actor, then I think you should let us challenge [ourselves] and let us play some cis roles; we’ve been asking for it for a very long time,” she said. “If someone can do that and play our roles, then I think it should be allotted to us.”
Moore agreed, asking, “And what is a ‘cis role’?” Her argument? That trans actors shouldn’t be relegated to roles where their gender is “dissected” and made the main focus. It’s a dilemma she contends that Pose—which focuses on the lives and experiences of a group of trans women and gay men of color in late 1980s New York City—circumvents by telling those stories through the lens of trans people.
“I think we just want to tell stories that aren’t always specifically about our experience as trans people,” Moore told MTV. “We want to tell stories that really investigate what it is to be a human being and have those human experiences.”
The Glow Up tip: The finale of season one of Pose will air on Sunday, July 22, at 9 p.m. EDT on FX.
Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?