'Transparent' Boss Reveals the Moment She Decided to Make a Show About a Transgender Parent
Featured in THR's Rule Breakers 2014 issue alongside star Jeffrey Tambor, Jill Soloway shares her reaction to her father's coming out as transgender: "You're so brave" and "This is going to be my show"
This story first appeared in the Jan. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Even with 15 years as a writer or showrunner on HBO's Six Feet Under and Showtime's The United States of Tara under her belt, Jill Soloway never could have guessed how dramatically the inspiration for her pilot would be drawn from her own life.
A couple of years ago, my father came out as transgender to me," says Soloway, 49. "For most of the phone call, I said, 'I love you, I'm proud of you, you're so brave.' And pretty much in the same instant I was like, 'This is going to be my show.' " Soloway now finds herself — and her half-hour dramedy Transparent, which just garnered three WGA nominations and two Golden Globe noms — in the eye of a cultural zeitgeist. The best TV series (musical or comedy) Globes nominee — about an L.A. patriarch who reveals to his three self-obsessed grown children that he's transgender — debuted its first 10-episode season on Amazon in February and was an instant critical hit that already has been renewed for a second season.
Although Netflix's Orange Is the New Black has most famously featured Emmy-nominated transgender actress Laverne Cox, Transparent is the first to showcase a lead character; Jeffrey Tambor's fearless embodiment of Mort/Maura landed the series its other Globe nom. The actor says widespread acclaim for the show only has reinforced what has guided his decades-long career, from roles on shows from The Larry Sanders Show to Arrested Development. "Go where your heart is, not the dollar sign," says Tambor, 70. "I love getting emails saying, 'I just binge-watched the whole season!' Recently, even my doctor said, 'I watched five episodes last night.' "
Soloway says execs at Amazon — which had no scripted series on the air when it bought Transparent — assured her that the etailer (like streaming competitor Netflix, it doesn't release viewer numbers) was a "safe place" for her subject to flourish. "They — and we — have embraced the activism piece of our show," she says. "I'm happy to have the trans community insist we get it right."
Read below for the full Rule Breakers 2014 list: