Meet Roscoe Kaan, House Of Lies‘ Sexually Ambiguous Child Star

When I set out to write a son for Marty Kaan, Don Cheadle’s ethically challenged character on House of Lies, I thought, “What kind of kid would just undo this guy? What kind of kid would unbalance and upend Marty? What kind of kid would take him out of his role as smug superman who can solve any “case” using a variety of consulting tricks and genuine analytical genius?”

And I came up with Roscoe, based loosely on several children I’ve met over the years whose gender identities have come differently from those of the majority of their peers. He’s a kid who’d rather play Sandy than Danny Zucko in Grease—for now. And in creating a challenge for Marty, I’ve also encountered a barometer for the varying attitudes and preconceptions of the audience. An entire segment of the audience simply dismisses Roscoe as gay. Another immediately jumps to pushing him into a transgender role. Some just think he’s weird. How about this: he’s just Roscoe.

Matthew Carnahan, creator/executive producer of House of Lies, talks to the HuffPo about the show’s “genderqueer” child star, Roscoe Kaan (played by Donis Leonard Jr.). House airs on Showtime Sundays at 10pm and follows Roscoe’s father Marty (Don Cheadle) swindling corporate fat cats with brilliantly conceived con-man schemes.

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  • MEJ

    Oh, thank God we have hets pontificating on sexuality, and chastising us for making judgements about the characteristics of the fictional character he created. Boy, he sure put all of us in our place.

  • B-Rock

    SUPER psyched to see a femmy boy being used as device to “undo, unbalance, upend, and challenge” his father for (probably) comedic effect, yet again…

    Granted, I haven’t seen the show, but there’s nothing in this article that makes me want to. How about queer characters who people people are just fine with as opposed to vexed by, or who have other aspects of their character to focus on than simply their gender expression? It looks as if they’ve already pegged him as a theater queen… why is it so impossible for him to be a science nerd, mini-entrepreneur, or rabble-rousing punk in addition to wearing scarves and making snappy quips?

    Sure it’s reductive and insensitive, but they should really be more worried about the fact that it’s also just bad writing.

  • Oh, ok.

    @B-Rock: Roscoe’s father is the one on the show who doesn’t have a problem with him and Roscoe is definitely not the comedic character of the show. He seems more like the voice of reason most of the time. Marty’s co-workers were also great with Roscoe, if anything they’ve only showed him having some problems at school, and his mother having problems with him being effeminate. Roscoe is one of the best characters on the show hands down.

    It’s a really good show with a stellar cast. I wouldn’t write it off before watching it.

    @MEJ: He never pointed out gay people specifically he said the audience meaning everyone. I think he just wanted to create a character that won’t be defined in any way just to make us comfortable and we should be ok with that. It goes way beyond just being gay or transgender. Most of America can’t seem to let people just be.

  • Aric

    Roscoe is one of the few characters in any show that I genuinely love. He is dynamic, human, and more than anything compelling.

    Excellent actor, excellent character.

  • Matthew Carnahan

    Hey, this is Matthew Carnahan. I’m trying, based on my experience with kids I know, to create a multi-dimensional character who happens to be exploring his gender. I really appreciate any comments, positive or negative, that can help in this endeavor. I’m certainly not chastising the audience for having a reaction to the character. That’s why I wrote the piece in the HuffPost that this was excerpted from; because I’m finding it interesting and fertile ground as the audience and critics attempt to define Roscoe. My hope is to keep trying to make him an honest character on an honest search, surrounded by people, some comfortable with his self-expression, some not. Thanks all!

  • Shannon1981

    I love that we finally have genderqueer representation on television! Thank you!

Comments are closed.