TORONTO — Jill Soloway and her Transparent cast were on hand to present the first three episodes of the show’s new season at the Toronto International Film Festival; and like those episodes, the show creator promised the festival audience that Season 3 would address issues of racial oppression and white privilege.
At the premiere's audience Q&A on Sunday, BuzzFeed News asked Soloway what her desires were in addressing issues of race in the dramedy's newest run. “The first episode is a real tightrope walk for us as creators,” Soloway responded. "It’s something I think that is a plot and story conversation about where I feel feminism is right now."
Shy of spoiling Transparent’s premiere episode — due for release Amazon on Sept. 23 — Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) stumbles into what Soloway called “confronting one’s own privilege” when she meets Elizah, a black trans woman (played by trans actor Alexandra Grey).
“I feel like there’s a constant evolving conversation on the internet about feminism and its relationship to intersectionality,” Soloway continued. Since Transparent introduced audiences to the Pfefferman family in 2014, the director-writer said, intersectionality has come up many times. Intersectionality is “the notion that there are multiple kinds of oppression. Sometimes someone might be female, or they might be a person of color, or they might be trans, they might be queer. But these multiple oppressions intersect and create different kinds of oppression.”
Soloway has been both a lightning rod and conduit for the conversation of intersectional feminism, as her show has mostly featured white, affluent Jewish lead characters, providing less room for perspective from characters of color. The series digs deeply into religious and LGBTQ identity, and has frequently put its characters’ various entitlements in check.
“We wanted to go straight at it, not avoid it,” Soloway said of making race a theme of this season. “That’s what we wanted to do with the first episode, is having a white [person] encounter a loss of privilege, and have that through the prism of meeting Elizah and asking these questions about intersectional relationships. Meaning, do they have something in common because they’re trans? Do they have more in common because they’re trans, or do they have less in common, maybe, because of their class or race? These are the questions that our writers room is obsessed with.”
Grey — who stood alongside series regulars Tambor, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Kathryn Hahn on the Elgin Theatre stage in Toronto on Sunday afternoon — said she was “overwhelmed just to be small part” of Transparent. She said it was important being a trans actor playing a trans character, adding, “I have a responsibility to really tell these stories.”
“I get messages every day from little trans girls and boys who say, ‘I’m not going to kill myself because I see you,’” Grey said, pausing. “We’re doing something right if we’re putting this kind of program out and sharing that message.”
Soloway hinted at the symbolic combination of Elizah’s character with Passover, the Jewish holiday that serves as an umbrella to Transparent's newest journeys. The visuals in the show's opening title sequence has changed slightly from season to season, and Season 3’s new version splices footage of “television, spirituality, and race.”
“The Passover question of whether or not god is a woman and the Elijah-Elizah mystery is probably a spiritual, intersectional journey. I’ll stop there,” Soloway said, smiling.