Back to IndieWire

The Future of ‘Transparent’ is Trans: Why Recasting Jeffrey Tambor’s Role with a Trans Actress is the Best Option

Without Jeffrey Tambor, there are different ways to make "Transparent" Season 5 work. But one in particular stands out.

Transparent Season 4 Alexandra Billings Trace Lysette

Merie Wallace/Amazon Studios

Maura Moves to Israel

So what do you do with Maura? One option is to send her away, and Season 4 did open the door to a more permanent stay in Israel. Maura’s long lost father lives there with his new family, and Maura could potentially decide to join him. Call it making up for lost time, a devout interest in her faith, or what have you, it’s a conceivable rationale for removing Maura from the ongoing family dynamic in America.

…kind of. When Ali said she was staying in Israel during the finale, Maura gave no indication she would join her. She supported her daughter, but she didn’t seem to share the same connection. Plus, she’s got a boyfriend in Los Angeles and seems to be getting happier with her life there.

Even if she did move to Israel, how the writers would incorporate Ali’s story into the mix without also including Maura’s sounds illogical. At best, it would be strained, and even if they pulled it off, sending Maura away only creates the expectation she would return — and that’s the wrong message to send to the audience. All in all, Maura moving seems like the least likely option.

Transparent Season 4 Gaby Hoffman Jeffrey Tambor

Kill Off Maura

Though we don’t know for sure that the “House of Cards” writers are killing off Frank Underwood before Season 6, it seems like a distinct possibility given Kevin Spacey’s unceremonious exit. So could “Transparent” follow suit with their own departing star?

Not really. Obviously, the writers can do whatever they want, but it’s hard to imagine Maura’s death benefitting the series. This series has always focused on how her transition has affected the family. It’s led each of them to explore parts of themselves long ignored and forge new paths they may have never found without their mother’s bravery.

Death can certainly stimulate similar change, but not for similar reasons. Besides the fact that Maura’s transition is ongoing — and her kids are still learning, growing, and changing along with her — her death would take over. They would be reacting to her death, not her new life, and that changes so much about what makes the show what it is.

Yes, the series is about much more that just Maura, and the children (as well as her ex-wife, Shelly) have become far better characters than they were in Season 1. They’re more empathetic, more challenging, and more dynamic. These characters could potentially carry their own show, but the one they began isn’t over yet. And the one they began hinges on how they respond to Maura’s transition, as well as how she responds herself.

Why They Should Recast Maura Pfefferman

Eliminating the character seems like an impossibility, so why not embrace the benefits of recasting with a trans actress?

  • The show doesn’t have to change course. Any broad plans made by Soloway for where her show is headed can remain in place, and the immediate narratives started at the end of Season 4 can be given their due attention.
  • It would be a strong message of support to a community that’s supported this show. Even before allegations came out against Tambor, an ongoing debate has raged about cisgender actors playing transgender roles. “Transparent” has always aimed to be as inclusive as possible, and the series actively incorporated more trans actresses — including Alexandra Billings and Trace Lysette — as it went along. But having a trans actress takeover the lead role would be a huge acknowledgement of LGBTQ activists’ wants and a big step forward for representation as a whole.
  • If they cast a trans actress as Maura, the audience would go along with it. For one, TV viewers are savvier than ever and, as outlined above, have stuck with programs that made similar switches. But “Transparent’s” audience specifically would be supportive, and Amazon doesn’t have to worry about explaining the switch to mainstream audiences. Though Amazon doesn’t release ratings, all indications are that Soloway’s show plays to a relatively small viewership. These viewers — likely progressive-minded individuals, either before watching or after — will go along with a change in the lead role because they want to; they know what’s going on now, regarding Tambor, and they will know why the change had to be made.
  • There have been calls for a trans actress to take over since allegations first came out, and each post has seen strong support. This would be a positive message and action that could draw more fans to the series who a) would’ve abandoned it otherwise, b) already stopped watching, or c) had yet to give “Transparent” a chance.
  • Finally, there’s the idea that casting a trans actress could lead to a creative resurgence for the show. Season 4 was a solid season and still among the better third of quality TV shows, but it was still the series’ worst entry to date. Who knows what they’ll find in the role that Tambor had yet to discover, and who knows what having someone so personally attached to the role could inspire in the rest of the cast and crew? New blood could be just the boost the series needs.

“Transparent” needs its trans parent to continue. It just doesn’t need Jeffrey Tambor — or another cisgender actor like him.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox