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After much speculation since the firing of Jeffrey Tambor from Transparent last year, creator Jill Soloway has finally confirmed that his character will be killed off in the extended series finale of the critically acclaimed Amazon Studios comedy.
The upcoming musical ending to the series will begin with the passing of Tambor’s leading character, Maura, and will then follow the Pfefferman family as they come together in their grief and celebrate her life, according to an Amazon release about the movie musical that will serve as the final chapter of Transparent.
“When the time came to bring the Transparent journey to a close, it was clear that saying goodbye to Maura was our path forward,” Jill and Faith Soloway said Thursday in a statement. “In this musical finale, we dramatize the death of Maura in an odyssey of comedy and melancholy told through the joyful prism of melody and dance.”
The statement continued: “As we reflect on the process we began so many years ago to bring Maura Pfefferman to the screen, we hope this tribute to the meaning her story brought to the public consciousness also marks a moment in time where art-makers recognize the importance of trans actors playing trans characters. Everything changes, and we are grateful to make art that will live on as a bridge from this era to the next. As the world transforms, so does the Pfefferman family. Transparent is not ending, it is transitioning into a musical, becoming itself over and over again.”
The extended finale, titled “The Transparent Musicale Finale,” was directed and written by Jill Soloway (who identifies as nonbinary and prefers the third-person plural pronoun “they”), with their sister, executive producer Faith Soloway, penning the music and lyrics. The final installment of the series will be released on the streaming service in the fall.
“We were all in mourning in many ways, and we all had to process together,” Jill Soloway told the Los Angeles Times about the decision around the death of Maura. “It was important [for the show] to go through all those stages. The show has always been a reflection of who we were, and we were mourning our own narrative.”
Tambor parted ways with Transparent following sexual harassment claims against the Emmy winner, who had played the groundbreaking transgender character Maura Pfefferman since 2014. Upon his firing and after a subsequent internal investigation, the retail and streaming giant confirmed that Tambor would have no role in the final season.
Soloway later broke the news to The Hollywood Reporter that, after four seasons, the fifth installment would be the end for the Emmy-winning show. “Hopefully it sets the Pfeffermans up with some sort of beautiful reclaiming,” Soloway said at the time. “I think we’re going to get there with some time.”
Tambor was accused of sexual misconduct by two trans women, his former assistant Van Barnes and co-star Trace Lysette, the latter of whom will appear in the finale. (Tambor has denied the claims.)
Until now, Soloway had not divulged their ultimate plan for how they planned to tie up Maura’s story, only that they knew they couldn’t “go back to a plain old season five.” So, Soloway sat down with newly minted Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and said they wanted to do something big. When Soloway suggested a musical movie, Salke jumped on board.
That’s why the series will be ending unconventionally and with a musical installment. “We were able to do something that I feel like is going to astonish and reward fans and was a way to take music and transform the family to be able to come together and have that kind of feeling of, in some ways, transition,” Soloway said at the time. “The show isn’t necessarily ending; it’s transitioning — into a musical.”
Now, speaking to the Times, they say the musical treatment will be a way for the remaining characters — Shelly (Judith Light), Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass), and Ali Pfefferman (Gaby Hoffmann) — to grapple with Maura’s death. “People say when they’re making musicals that there are moments when the characters have to sing because they can’t put something into words. I think it’s the same thing with what our show went through: We felt like we needed a different way of looking at the family. And we did it through song,” said Soloway.
“The Transparent Musicale Finale” will feature a number from Light, Soloway told the Times, that would follow-up the Tony winner’s scene-stealing performance from the season-three finale. Light and Landecker will also sing a song about the power of maternal love called “Your Boundary Is My Trigger,” and, when speaking about the episode in general, Soloway called the musical a “genderqueer Jewish fantasia.”
The episode will include many of the show’s ensemble, including Alexandra Billings, Kathryn Hahn, Cherry Jones, Tig Notaro, Melora Hardin and Rob Huebel.
On Thursday, the Soloway siblings spoke about moving on after Tambor during an appearance at the annual Women in the World summit in New York. When the allegations first surfaced, Faith Soloway recalled, “It didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel right. It felt like we messed up and didn’t protect people and it was very confusing and painful. Trauma.”
Added Jill Soloway, “We went through all the stages. It felt like the death of a dream, the death of a revolution. We had made so much of our way it felt to come work on our show, which is that we prioritized a safe space, especially for trans people, so yeah, it was incredibly painful.”
The siblings said they weren’t sure what to do at first, which is why they temporarily shut down in order to “rebuild” instead of bowing out completely. “People wanted to regroup and they did want to come back,” added Faith Soloway of the show’s “collaborative spirit.” As for the comedy’s transition into a musical movie, she said she always saw the Pfefferman family journey as “very musical-worthy” and had already been at work on songs in hopes of bringing a play to Broadway.
“The songs kept us alive and kept us afloat when we thought that it was over for the Pfeffermans,” added Jill Soloway.
Transparent is one of several film and TV projects to move forward after the exit of a star amid the #MeToo era. For its final season, Netflix’s House of Cards similarly killed off Kevin Spacey’s leading character after he was fired between seasons over sexual misconduct allegations.
April 11, 11:45 a.m. Updated with Soloway statement.
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