In case you are one of the few people who managed to savor the latest season of “Transparent,” rather than watching all ten episodes in one or two sittings when they came out last Friday: Racy spoilers ahead.
The cast spoke to IndieWire about Sarah’s (Amy Landecker) meltdown in front of her professional dominant, and Josh’s (Jay Duplass) pursuing a trans woman (the very talented Trace Lysette in a breakthrough role). What’s clear from speaking to these seasoned actors is that they don’t blink when taking on difficult scenes; mostly because of the singularly supportive environment created by revolutionary “Transparent” creator/producer/writer/director Jill Soloway.
“I’ve never been on a set like it,” Jeffrey Tambor, who plays Maura, told IndieWire. “It’s the safest environment I’ve ever been in. There is a very welcome, wonderful feeling that you can’t err, you can only grow. She’ll whisper in your ear a note that will change you.” He cited an emotional scene in the first season, when Maura lashes out at her son-in-law, Len (Rob Huebel), for being uncomfortable with Maura being trans.
“I was doing a number of takes, and then [Soloway] came over and whispered in my ear, and she changed it from A to Z. Basically she said: ‘That’s the masculine response. What is the feminine response? What is Maura’s response?’ I was so thrown by it and I loved what we got, but I didn’t quite know what we got,” said Tambor. “Whirlpool. I would never have thought of that word. ‘You either get in this whirlpool or you get out.’ It’s a brilliant line, and I don’t even know if it was written. I didn’t write it!”
While Maura’s outing and transition provide the show with its central theme, the success of “Transparent” lies in its entire ensemble of lovably flawed and relatable characters. The Pfeffermans may be messy and imperfect, but they’re so tight-knit and engaging that spending time with them is a pleasure. The same can be said of the three actors who play Maura’s grown (but never grown-up) children: Landecker, Duplass, and Gaby Hoffmann.
IndieWire sat down with the trio, who are just as comfortable together offscreen as on. By their own admission, “Transparent” has changed them personally as much as professionally, as evidenced by their impressive knowledge of preferred gender pronouns and queer, kinky subcultures.
Amy, you have some intense scenes this season.
Amy Landecker: I actually manage to fuck up my relationship with my paid dom. But, Jiz is amazing and I love them.
Jay Duplass: Who’s Jiz?
Landecker: Jiz is my Pony.
Duplass: That’s her name?
Landecker: First of all it’s not her, it’s they.
Duplass: Sorry. That’s their name? You’re treating me like Josh right now.
Landecker: They’re a genderqueer porn star. Who I met for chemistry read with my father–
Gaby Hoffmann: You brought your dad to a chemistry read?
And for those who don’t know, what’s a chemistry read?
Landecker: It’s to make sure you have chemistry with someone if you’re going to have a sexual or romantic interaction. Especially since the stuff I was going to do with Jiz was so… I was scared. I’d never been involved in that world.
Hoffmann: She only knows if she has true chemistry with the person if her Dad is also in the room.
Landecker: Shut up! He didn’t stay! He just dropped me off.
How does that work with something like this? Was there spanking at the chemistry read? Did you talk about kink?
Landecker: Yes. That’s exactly what happens. And I will say, they never hit me as hard as I was willing to be hit. I was like, “you BDSM people need to get on this!”
I went home that night, and I’m crying because I’m so freaked out by the scene [in Episode 4, “Just the Facts”]. Not because of the BDSM, but because I emotionally lose it on them. I’m talking to Silas Howard, who directed the episode, and I was like, “I feel like I was so mean.” Then I get this text from Jiz and they’re like, “I am just basking in the glow of that glorious day.” That’s the difference between a BDSM person and a non-BDSM person.
Duplass: They want to go out for beers after, and you’re crying on the floor of your bathroom.
Landecker: I’m way too repressed to enjoy it.
Hoffmann: Did you call your Dad after?
It’s interesting because I think queer people feel a lot of ownership over the show. You all seem so fluid with these very radical queer topics.
Landecker: That comes from the writer’s room. When this storyline came up, I didn’t even know what BDSM meant. We have authentic, queer voices that write our content. I think Ali Liebegott is one of the greatest comic voices — I get really hyperbolic about her — but she’s a friggin’ genius. Her voice is just not heard anywhere else. It’s a pure, queer, San Francisco, poet, funny — it’s just an incredible voice and she’s writing a lot of that content. So it’s authentic.
Hoffmann: And vulnerable.
Duplass: The set is so open and gender fluid. We just feel like we’re standing on the shoulders of all these people who are living it. So there’s implicit trust.
Landecker: Silas [Howard] is trans male and had connections to the BDSM community, and I had Jiz to work with. It was Jill’s idea to get someone from the community and not an actress coming to play that, so there’s this sprinkling of authenticity around us. So that helps too, that the people we work with are often authentically from that community.
Jay, your character has an affair with Trace Lysette’s character this season. Reaction to that is going to be interesting, since a lot of the straight men who watch the show most identify with Josh.
Duplass: I’ve been told it’s a historic moment that a cisgender male is going to pursue a relationship with a trans woman that’s not fetishized, isn’t prostitution, isn’t a one-off fling experiment. It’s interesting, because if you think about Josh in Season 1, there’s no fucking way in hell. He was making fun of Maura coming out as trans. I guess for me personally, too, if Jill had told me in Season 1, “you’re gonna pursue a relationship with a trans woman,” I would have been like, “what is that gonna be like? I have no idea.” And when she told me that was gonna happen in Season 3, my basic thoughts were, “oh, it’s Trace [Lysette]? Fuckin’ A, she’s awesome. She’s so cool. I’m gonna feel super comfortable.” Because sex scenes are just weird, no matter who they’re with. On a very different plane, I have had personally a somewhat analogous arc to Josh’s.
Landecker: Of all the stories we’re going to tell this season, this is one of the most important. One of the saddest things about the trans women I know who like to date cisgender men is they have a really, really hard time and there’s a high level of discrimination. The men won’t come out, the men won’t acknowledge it because of the culture. I think they would be fine if the culture wasn’t so oppressive. So to tell the story first is always the way culture learns. We have to see it first on television before we can accept it.
Hoffmann: Because we constantly need permission to be ourselves. And that’s really sad, but that’s one of the reasons it’s so important. Aren’t you excited for all of those straight men to see that episode?
Landecker: And aren’t you excited to see me dom on Pony and go off?
Hoffmann: Aren’t you excited to see me T.A.?
“Transparent” Season 3 is now available on Amazon. It’s safe to say we’re excited for all of it.