9:19am PT by Jackie Strause
'OITNB' and 'Sense8' Stars: Inclusivity on TV Is "Imperative" in Trump Era
In today's political climate, it's imperative for TV series to show how being different equates to being better.
That was the collective message from several Netflix stars who participated in a Wednesday panel during the streaming giant's press day for several of its original series.
"It doesn’t matter what anybody in any white house or red house or blue house or whatever the f— kind of a house they live in says, there are all kinds of people in this world," Sense8 star Jamie Clayton told reporters at the press event. "Not everyone sitting out here in front of us is white, and they’re not all men."
Clayton was joined by Orange Is The New Black's Uzo Aduba and The OA co-creator Zal Batmanglij — all three representing Netflix originals series that pride themselves on featuring stories and characters not typically shown on TV.
On sci-fi thriller Sense8, Clayton, a trans actress, became the first trans character (Nomi) whose storyline did not revolve around transitioning. Netflix's newest sci-fi original series, The OA, also features a trans character (played by Ian Alexander) who continued to break the TV barrier by simply existing within the story — something Clayton praised Batmanglij for on Wednesday.
"You included a trans character but it had zero to do with the story," she said. "Because trans people just exist. I’m trans, I exist, I’m sitting here. That’s what Nomi does, but it has nothing to do with why she becomes a Sense8 or the story. She just is."
While touting the inclusiveness of storylines seen on several Netflix originals, both Clayton and Aduba described the need to continue to represent diversity on TV as "imperative" in the era of President Donald Trump.
"When you are able to see people for their humanity, it becomes more and more challenging for you to impose on them your preconceptions, your discriminations, prejudgments," said Aduba. "Because you now look at them as a person for who they are as an individual and perhaps not as just a group."
Batmanglij also praised the power of OITNB after discovering how many people in traditionally red states across the country are fans of the diverse prison dramedy.
“Something we found overwhelmingly is that people were huge fans of OITNB," he said of traveling America to speak to students as research for The OA. "This looks like a red state, a Trump-voting guy, and he loves OITNB. That’s the power of storytelling, people don’t know what they’re connecting to and I feel that with OA too. It pulls people from all walks of life.”