In the pilot episode of the Amazon series Transparent, family patriarch Mort Pfefferman, played by Jeffrey Tambor, invites his three grown children to dinner planning to make a big announcement. But his kids, played by Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass and Gaby Hoffman, are not the best listeners. They can barely stop talking long enough to let their father speak.
What Mort is trying to tell his children is that Mort is actually Maura. This character’s process of coming out as trans is one of the stories woven through the first season of Transparent, which also follows the lives and relationships of Maura’s children and ex-wife Shelley, played by Judith Light.
Transparent showrunner Jill Soloway has experience writing about complex families: she’s worked on shows like HBO’s Six Feet Under and Showtime’s United States of Tara. And when one of Soloway’s parents came out as trans, she found inspiration for her own show and led to the big break that she’d been dreaming about for years.
Soloway shopped Transparent around to cable networks, but the best fit for her came not from television, but from the internet. When Amazon made all ten episodes available at the end of September, it became the site’s most-binged show. Since Amazon doesn’t release numbers, it’s hard to exactly know what that means, but following immediate critical praise, Amazon quickly ordered a second season.
When she joined us in the studio, Soloway shared how she made the set of her show a trans-friendly place and why she thinks shows with dynamic, multi-faceted female characters like Transparent and Orange is the New Black have found such success on the Internet.