Is Chloe Sevigny Playing A Pre-Op MTF Transgender Assassin Because There Are No Trans Actors?

During her career Chloe Sevigny has played an HIV+ teenager (KIDS), the girlfriend of a bisexual murderer (Party Monster), a trans-teenager’s girlfriend (Boys Don’t Cry), the voice of Warhol’s transwoman superstar Candy Darling (Beautiful Darling), and a 1970s lesbian lover (If These Walls Could Talk 2 pictured right). But now she’s working on her southern Irish accent for a miniseries where she’ll play “a pre-op male-to-female tranny assassin” (her words, not ours)—a very cool, edgy role for an actress who made her career tackling roles of different sexualities. But will her miniseries face the same flack that Trans-America did for casting Felicity Huffman instead of a transgender actor?

In her interview with Blackbook Mag, Sevigny says she expects the series to have an edgy, realistic appeal as it involves the creators behind the original Skins:

I feel this will be my most feminine, most glamorous role to date. I hope that I have enough gay stripes that I won’t get totally attacked. It was the creators’ idea not to hire a boy to play the part, and of course as an actor you’re going to jump on that. I’m going to try to play it as beautiful and as feminine and as glamorous as I can—not like Transamerica.

Rachel C. Thompson, the transsexual reviewer for The Advocate, ultimately liked Transamerica, but she did not like its overall representation of trans issues or Huffman’s portrayal: “[Huffman] did a fantastic job of acting the part of a transsexual—of the 1970s. But the movie is set in the present.” She wondered whether producers asked Kate Bornstein or Namoli Brennet to audition, something she says is highly unlikely.

Looking at a current list of famous transgender actors any producers looking to create a successful miniseries with a trans lead would have to cast a young, unknown trans actor and make them a breakout star.

But is the outrage over trans-roles needing to be played by trans-actors really fair? Consider the outrage when Abigail Breslin played the blind-deaf Helen Keller in the New York revival of The Miracle Worker. Advocates of the deaf and blind asked “Why not get an actual blind or deaf actor to play Helen?” The show’s producer claimed that he needed a star instead of a deaf-or-blind unknown to ensure a return for his investors. Yes, big names bring big bucks, but producers always fall back on the almighty dollar as an excuse to keep the door closed to actors from diverse backgrounds. At this rate no trans actor will ever achieve star power, unless LGBT media heavily promotes them first and then helps them crossover into mainstream work.

Ironically, an inexperienced transgender actor might play the role of an FTM assassin less ably than a cisgender actor. We’ve seen lots of independent gay films where gay men play gay men horribly compared to more nuanced performances by celebrities such as Tom Hanks, Kevin Kline, or Greg Kinnear. While LGBT actors deserve the spotlight and badly need promotion, we shouldn’t lambast any production with queer-scripted characters not played by queer actors. After all, authenticity really depends on the demands of the role and the skill of the actor, not their sexual identity.

And talking about straight actors playing gay roles, here’s comedian Drew Droege playing Chloe Sevigny, herself. Let them teach you how to make a to-ast.

Image and link via AfterEllen

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  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    The fact is the majority of het actors, dirctors, producers and writers don’t want to work with us. And if they must, we must be closeted, so that our queer taint won’t rub off on their precious “art”.

    This is no different than white directors and producers using white actors to play black, or asian charaters. They’ve convinced themselves that they can play us better than we can.

  • Ginasf

    There have actually been many European films (and even some ones in Latin America) where trans women have portrayed trans characters with great impact (most recently Maria Clara Spinelli in the award winning film “Paulista.”) A recent film that’s headlining film festivals this summer is “Gun Hill Road” about a family with a trans daughter. A young trans woman is playing that role and has gotten great reviews.

    Moreover, let’s be honest, Chloe Sevigny is no great shakes as an actress. Not only has she had no formal training but she’s a member of the “former model club” which pretty much guarantees a vacuous performance. Yes, she’s been in some good projects but can anyone say she was really the reason they succeeded?
    It’s pretty obvious the producers of this project, especially by specifying that the character’s a “pre-op transsexual” (why does that even have to be mentioned?) that this is about exploitation and sleeze-candy and not accurately portraying someone from the trans community.

  • ChiGuy76

    Correction: Drew Droege is openly gay. At least that’s what he has said in the few interviews with him that I’ve read.

    I think the trans community should be rightfully critical of this. There are a number of transgender actors who could hold their own in this type of role: Calpernia Addams, Candice Cane, and Alexandra Billings come to mind. Each have been fairly good in the roles that they’ve had to tackle. Time for Hollywood to open the doors and start promoting actors other than straight and non-openly LGBT ones.

  • Right Wingers Are Socioptahs (John From England)

    @ChiGuy76: Never heard of em.

  • ChiGuy76

    @Right Wingers Are Socioptahs (John From England): Probably because they are only on American television and in American Independent movies.

    Candice Cane played a recurring role in “Dirty Sexy Money” as a transgender prostitute and Billy Baldwin’s love interest.

    Calpernia Addams was the subject of the movie “Soldier’s Girl,” had a cameo in “TransAmerica,” and starred in her own reality show on Logo (I forgot the exact name).

    Alexandra Billings had a supporting role in the gay horror/thriller “Socket” and a guest appearance on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

    If all else fails, go to for more.

  • Atlas

    I’ve never been a fan of the queer characters have to be portrayed by queer actors mindset because conversely queer actors wouldn’t be allowed to play non-queer characters. If I was an actor I wouldn’t want to be stuck playing only queer characters simply because there aren’t that many parts and most of them are similar.

    If we’re trying to make this the official guide line, we’re pretty much guaranteeing that actors who happen to be gay will never come out of the closet.

    I say leave it be, and I think the best actor should get the part and who he sleeps with in his personal life is irrelevant. I would love to see more queer actors, but this is not the way to make it happen.

  • missanthrope

    Don’t forget Alexis Arquette and Alexandra Billings

  • Stace

    Yes its discriminatory but it is not the same as blackface. As a person of color there is more than one dimension to discriminatory practices that can involve sexuality, gender, race and class. It is not a one to one correlation.

  • Mike

    Id rather see someone who can act a part rather than who they sleep with. I think the idea that a trans character is a main character in a mini series is a step in the right direction. Granted this debate would go either way, if they had chosen a trans person, the issue of type casting would be flung about.

  • JR

    @Atlas: I agree completely. It’s ACTING, people.

    Neil Patrick Harris is gay, but his character on How I Met Your Mother is a 0 on the Kinsey scale.

    Patty Duke could see AND hear when she won an Emmy for portraying Helen Keller.

    Christian Bale–you know: Bruce Wayne, Dicky Ecklund, Patrick Bateman–is Welsh.

    Gary Sinese had legs when he played Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump.

    Robin Williams, Ray Walston, Kim Basinger, and Leonard Nimoy were really born on Earth. (OK, I’m not positive about Williams.)

    Nearly everybody on TV who plays a character in high school has already graduated. Hell, I’m pretty sure a few are grandparents!

    Mark Wahlberg is (alas) not hung like Dirk Diggler. (Yes, I know this for a fact. Wanna take this outside?!!)

    Lucille Ball’s hair was mousey brown.

    And for nine seasons Charlie Sheen, who is clearly a truly amazing actor, was TV’s highest paid actor by playing a man who is not insane.


  • ChristopherM

    Don’t worry, if it is a movie with Chole Sevigny, it is going to be a tiresome piece of hipster trash that no one will ever see.

  • moon batchelder


    i loved candace cane in dirty sexy money!
    and as mommy of a seven year old trans-daughter this kind of attention and programming is welcome for its ‘awareness raising’ value, but i doubt it would be so hard to find talented trans-women to play these roles.

  • Bob Smith

    Umm…she’s playing an assassin. Transgender or not, if you’re looking at casting someone who “fits” the role, why are you more concerned with her gender than the fact that, as far as we know, she hasn’t killed anyone? I’ve been murdered on stage, and I’ve killed people on stage. No one actually died.

    Chloe Sevigny was cast because someone thought she could play the part. That’s why they call it acting.

  • saul creighton

    @Atlas: Oh thats so good ! If everybody who is guy wants to play gay and every body who is Trans wants to play Trans what type of a challenge is that?
    I spoke to somebody putting on a play about a pre op Transgender in Edinburgh. Actually nobody of Transgender applied to the ad.
    It should go to who can portray this the best its the writing and direction and whether the actor has even bothered to spend some time with the relevant community.

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