May 14, 2014 10:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Tyra Banks to Produce Transgender Docuseries for VH1 (Exclusive)
VH1 is continuing to serve as a voice for the transgender community.
The Viacom-owned cable network is teaming with Tyra Banks for docuseries TransAmerica, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The eight-episode docuseries will chronicle a group of Chicago women united by the shared experience of being transgender. The series is described as an earnest look at a group of millennial women -- who happen to be transgender -- living, loving and building their careers. The series will explore how their sexuality impacts their lives.
Model/activist Carmen Carrera will lead the five women in the hourlong series slated to bow in late 2014 or early 2015. Banks (America's Next Top Model) will executive produce alongside Gay Rosenthal (Behind the Music, Push Girls, Little People, Big World).
"It would be easy to focus on the transgender aspect, but this series is about so much more," said Susan Levison, executive vp programming for VH1. "This is a show about a group of compelling, gorgeous young friends who are on a unique journey while staying true to their authentic selves. We believe that message resonates."
TransAmerica marks VH1's third series to either star or prominently feature a transgender person or cast. Docuseries I Want to Work for Diddy helped jump-start the career of Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox in 2008, with the actress earning a spinoff series -- TRANSform Me -- in 2010. Cox, a recent GLAAD honoree, credits VH1 for her first break. (Cox, meanwhile, is teaming with MTV and Logo for documentary the Trans Teen.)
"TransAmerica is a groundbreaking docuseries that will blow the roof off stereotypes and set the record straight as we experience the lives of these fun, stunning women. I am so happy to be a part of telling their fierce story," Banks said. Added Rosenthal: "I am thrilled to partner with Tyra in telling the story of these incredible women and to make this unprecedented series."
Carrera will relocate from Jersey for the series and serve as a role model for the cast; the series will feature cameos from other well-known people in the transgender community. (Writer/actress/exec producer Calpernia Addams has a cameo in the pilot.)
"Being a woman means everything to me," Carrera said. "Before my transition I felt trapped, and now I’ve been set free. Carmen has arrived and I can’t wait to share my story."
Banks will produce for the Tyra Banks Co., with Rosenthal overseeing for Gay Rosenthal Productions and Mark Schulman for 3 Arts. Levison and Nina L. Diaz will oversee for VH1.
Here's a look at the cast:
Signed to Elite Model Management, Carrera is on the path to becoming a supermodel. Recognized as a leading advocate in the transgender community, Carrera is constantly balancing her career goals with her personal life and reminding others of the importance of friendship. Now this Jersey girl is ready to take the Windy City by storm.
A recent college graduate, Giselle is focused on continuing her education and applying to graduate school. As she prepares for her upcoming sexual reassignment surgery, Giselle is set on finding her perfect man in Chicago.
Natalia is a beauty consultant for Christian Dior cosmetics. She is faced with the challenge of trying to reconnect with some of her family and gaining their support.
Sidney is the ultimate party girl. Struggling with the idea of juggling a social life and professional goals, she is focused on finding her true direction in life.
Victory dreams of becoming a doctor but must deal with the discrimination she receives as a transgender woman. Nevertheless, she won’t allow others to step in the way of her goals.