Canada Flicks On 'The Switch,' TV's First Transgender Comedy
TORONTO – Netflix's Orange Is the New Black has openly transgender actress Laverne Cox in its cast, but liberal Canada now has TV's first transsexual comedy.
The Switch, from OUTtv and Canadian indie producer Trembling Void Studios, features Julie Vu, a transgender woman and YouTube sensation, in the lead role of an upwardly mobile IT manager who loses her job and Vancouver apartment after coming out of the closet.
But rather than being a downer, the Canadian single-camera comedy follows Vu's character as she rebuilds her life in Vancouver's queer underground with the help of friends, including five transgender characters, each played by a transgender actor.
"I really wanted to provide something where people walked away feeling good about being transgendered, or meeting and knowing transgender people," The Switch writer, actor and producer Amy Fox said of the sitcom that mixes geek and fantasy elements typical of Community or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
That contrasts with most TV portrayals of transgender men or women, especially in documentaries or factual series, which Fox brands as depressing.
"I don't want people to feel sorry for us, or we to feel sorry for ourselves. I want us to feel optimistic about our future," she added about the homegrown sitcom that chuckles over hot-button transgender issues like employment and housing.
Canadian TV has a history of controversial gay and lesbian portrayals and story arcs.
The homegrown TV high school series Degrassi, which launched the acting careers of Drake and Shenae Grimes, in 2010 introduced a transgender character, played by Jordan Todosey.
After airing The Switch pilot in spring 2014, OUTtv is in negotiations with Trembling Void on the number of episodes to be ordered for the first season on Canada's gay and lesbian cable channel.
As politicians legislate on LGBT issues in the wake of landmark court rulings in North America and elsewhere, OUTtv COO Brad Danks argued the Canadian transgender community is at the forefront of LGBT issues in our society today.
"OUTtv was very proud to support Amy Fox and her team on The Switch and very excited about the possibility of having a full series on our network that prominently features so many transgender performers," he said.
Fox said he's in talks with Participant Media's Pivot channel and the U.S.-based Logo channel about a U.S. deal for the Canadian sitcom, to be shot in Vancouver.
Producer credits on The Switch are shared by Fox and Ingo Lou, with Monika Mitchell directing and executive producing along with Fox.