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New Trans-Themed Film Three Generations Features No Trans Actors

New Trans-Themed Film Three Generations Features No Trans Actors


The new indie production will star cisgender actress Elle Fanning as trans male teen Ray, using a casting approach criticized by many trans advocates.

A new independent film exploring trans male identity, Three Generations, will start filming next week in New York, the The Hollywood Reporter announced on Thursday. The "three generations" portrayed -- a trans male son, his mother, and his grandmother -- will be depicted by actors Elle Fanning, Naomi Watts, and Susan Sarandon, respectively.

Written by Nikole Beckwith and based on an original concept by director Gaby Dellal, the film will likely face a similar criticism to recent trans-focused scripted dramas on both the large and small screens, including Dallas Buyers Club and Transparent: Fanning, who plays trans teen Ray, is a cisgender (nontrans) woman depicting a trans character.

Trans advocates have become more vocal, in recent years, in criticizing casting decisions that result in trans roles being filled by cis actors, arguing that producers should seek trans talent if they aim to portray and profit off of trans life stories.

Three Generation's narrative will center on the early days of Ray's transition as he lives with his single mother Maggie (Watts) in their New York home, according to the Reporter. Maggie struggles to come to terms with the fact that she has a son while Maggie's mother Dolly (Sarandon), a partnered lesbian who works as a music manager, similarly tries to come to grips with her grandson's transition.

Over the past several decades trans characters have entered mainstream productions, yet trans male characters have most often been played by cis women. Instances include Boys Don't Cry's Brandon Teena (Hillary Swank), The L Word's Max Sweeney (Daniella Sea), Degrassi: The Next Generation's Adam Torres (Jordan Todosey), and Orphan Black's Tony Sawicki (Tatiana Maslany).

However, a recent boom in trans visibility has been generated through activism, political wins, and star power, including that of trans male musician Chaz Bono and trans female actresses like Laverne Cox and Erika Ervin. This may have contributed to two recent castings of trans male actors in trans roles: Transparent's Dale (Ian Harvie) and The Fosters' Cole (Tom Phelan).

Three Generations will launch sales next year at the American Film Market, notes the Reporter. It remains to be seen whether Three Generations' production team, like Transparent producer Jill Soloway, will actively seek trans people's input in their portrayal of Ray.

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Mitch Kellaway