Jeffrey Tambor on 'Transparent' Role: "My Motto is 'Do it Right'"
Tambor called his lead role on 'Transparent' "a great privilege and a huge responsibility."
"Jill Soloway changed my life," Jeffrey Tambor said of the Transparent creator during The Hollywood Reporter's Comedy Actor Emmy Roundtable. "She just handed me this role of Maura Pfefferman." He referred to himself as "a cisgender male actor" who is "essaying this role," and called the experience of playing a trans woman "a great privilege and a huge responsibility."
"Even in the third season," said Tambor, "[the role] just keeps tapping at me every day."
"It weighs on me, it really weighs on me," the actor explained. "I’m having these conversations on the set in terms of Maura talking, and I’m having these conversations in life."
He noted experiences of people coming up to talk to him about his portrayal of the transgender community, noting one man in particular. Based on the man's appearance, Tambor assumed he would be angry with his work, thinking, “Oh. So here it comes.”
Instead the man put his hand in Tambor's hand to shake it, and said, "Thank you for introducing me to a subject I had no knowledge of.”
Tambor said he thought then, “Well there’s the revolution.” He also went on to say that he has had the other conversation where he has to tell people, “You can’t say that word. You can’t talk like that.”
As it was the Comedy Actor Roundtable, the conversation didn't remain heavy the entire time, and Tambor went on to credit Garry Shandling as the most influential person in teaching him what it meant to be funny. “What I think is interesting is that for me, laughter wasn’t merely laughter, but it was a teaching instrument," he said. "And in the laughter and beyond the laughter, you can change.”
Tambor stayed true to the actor Roundtable tradition of sharing his most embarrassing story which involved defecating in his costume while performing repertory theater in 1967, while suffering from the Asian flu.
More roundtables featuring comedy actresses, drama actors and actresses, and reality hosts and producers will roll out throughout June in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter starting June 26 on SundanceTV, with the premiere of the Comedy Actors Roundtable on Sunday, July 17. And look for clips at THR.com/roundtables with full episodes on THR.com after broadcast.