Okay. I was not expecting Oscar-winner Halle Berry to publicly share that she’s interested in playing a transgender character for a new project she was pitched.
I’m a huge fan of Halle Berry. I’m looking forward to watching her directorial debut Bruised (which will premiere during TIFF 2020). She will also begin filming the sci-fi Moonfall this Fall. Due to her hard work over the decades, Berry has become the type of established actress in Hollywood who can do what she wants (including creating projects). And I’m here for all of her future projects. However, what she said about wanting to play a transgender character in a movie is what made me go, “Wait a minute!”
When it comes to actors playing transgender characters in media, I’m not going to hesitate to say that transgender actors should play those characters, not cisgender actors. What Pose did for transgender representation in media is just amazing. And others need to follow suit.
But it looks like, certain cisgender actors are still not completely on board with supporting such a change. And, frankly, can you really blame them? Hollywood has a history of awarding cisgender actors who have taken up such roles. Just off the top of my head, Jared Leto, Hilary Swank, Felicity Hoffman, and Eddie Redmayne have earned Oscar recognition for playing transgender characters.
It’s kind of similar to how straight actors are applauded for playing gay roles in films when out queer actors still aren’t getting the acting opportunities they deserve. Now, don’t come at me with the (weak) argument of how the “perfect” actor should always be cast for particular roles even if it means casting a straight actor to play a gay character. As far as I’m concerned, until an out actor is considered to play James Bond, I don’t have time to listen to such an argument. Also, why is it that the “perfect” actor for a gay role always ends up being a straight actor? Ufff!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against straight actors not being able to play queer characters at all. My point is that queer actors should be offered the same opportunities as their straight counterparts. If a straight actor is going to play a gay role in a project, why not cast an out queer actor as the co-lead, or even have a queer actor play a straight role? It’s all about offering a platform to everyone involved. Weird City is a good example of that.
Anyway, back to Halle Berry, she shared her interest in playing a transgender character during an interview with Christin Brown (or Curlfactor on Instagram) on July 3, 2020. The two talked about growing up with Black hair and what having such kind of hair meant in terms of finding strength and power in your natural self.
The story Brown and Berry shared about how they first met was quite emotional. The way they met just goes to show that a stranger might have the power to change your life for the better and how we should be open to welcome others. Berry was, basically, questioning her decision to make Bruised when Brown showed up and helped Berry realize that she already had what was needed to complete her directorial debut.
At around the 36-minute mark, the conversation led to Berry talking about a character she would like to play in her career. That’s where she shared how an idea got pitched to her when she was preparing to work on Bruised. Due to there being a time-limit on how convincingly she could play an MMA fighter (Berry is currently 53 years old), she decided to put said pitched idea on the backburner.
Now, that she’s completed Bruised, Berry’s been revisiting said idea and it involves her playing a transgender character. From what I can tell, the character is supposed to be a transgender man.
Berry why would you want to go down that route and that too in this climate?
I’m not sure what to make of this information. Maybe the project will never happen? Maybe Berry will think about it more and realize why it’s important to cast transgender talent in the main role? I’m sure the people who worked on Pose can share some recommendations.
After all the backlash Scarlett Johansson got, Johansson finally realized why her wanting to play a trans man wasn’t a good idea. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want Berry to experience a similar incident. If Berry’s so passionate about telling such a story, there are many other ways for her to be involved.
She can consider directing the project. Depending on the cast of characters involved, she can take up the role of the transgender character’s love interest or maybe another important role. There are many options for Berry to choose from. I just don’t want her to play a transgender character.
Also, I have to say that there’s a difference between a cisgender actress playing a transgender character in a project and an actress playing a man onscreen due to narrative reasons.
Berry has played the role of a man in Cloud Atlas. Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz disguised themselves as men in Charlie’s Angels. Angelina Jolie disguised herself as a man in Salt. Tilda Swinton played a man in Suspiria. Likewise, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, Tyler Perry, and the late Robin Williams, have all played or impersonated women in films. Again, there’s a difference between such instances and being cast as a transgender character in media.
Halle Berry continues to be very open about her support for the LGBTQ+ community. So, here’s hoping she talks to transgender talent to understand why her taking up such a role isn’t the right move.
Let’s see what happens.
While we’re on the topic of trans representation in media, I recommend you consider watching the documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen on Netflix. It’s quite informative.
Feel free to share your thoughts about what Halle Berry said with us.
Update: July 5, 2020
Still trying to understand why Halle Berry would be interested in playing the role of a transgender man. Sigh! pic.twitter.com/S7W2y8SMfd
— A.J Raven (@tempest071990) July 5, 2020
Update: July 6, 2020
Halle Berry took to social media to share an apology.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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