Laverne Cox was invited to join Whoopi Goldberg, Nicole Wallace and Rosie Perez as a guest cohost on ABC’s The View Wednesday, as the talk show hosts chatted live about the Michael Brown case and Officer Darren Wilson’s “clean conscience,” as well as with pop superstar Lady Gaga and the legendary Tony Bennett about their chart-topping duet.
The other Rosie on the network’s flagship afternoon gabfest, out actor Rosie O’Donnell, had the day off. Her absence created a historic opportunity for the Emmy-nominated star of Orange Is The New Black, never before offered to a transgender actor in America: a seat at the table of the talk show created by Barbara Walters.
It seems Cox earned the approval of her absent cohost, as O’Donnell tweeted Wednesday morning that she would “vote Laverne Cox — as the 5th host permanently” on The View.
Wednesday’s “Hot Topic” segment joined in the national conversation surrounding the events in Ferguson, Mo., perhaps unsurprising as the show now operates under the auspices of ABC News. It also provided an ample opportunity for Cox to speak passionately and informatively on some of the issues she has already built a reputation for advocating.
Goldberg introduced a clip of an exclusive interview with the man at the center of the controversial shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. Wilson told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos his conscience is clean, and that he was confident there was nothing else he could have done but to shoot to kill Brown — otherwise Wilson himself would be dead, he said.
“It’s deeply painful for me to watch that,” said Cox, who is herself African-American. “And this moment for our nation is a deeply painful one. We have yet again another young black person killed in the street without accountability.”
Cox, Goldberg, Perez and Republican strategist Nicole Wallace bemoaned what they saw as the absence of compassionate humanity in Wilson. “Where is the sense that a life has been lost, that a family has lost their child?” Cox asked.
Cox also addressed Wilson’s testimony to the grand jury that Brown’s face looked “like a demon” as an example of the “literal demonization of another young black person.”
“We have to, as a culture, really begin to unpack and look at how police forces all over the country have implicit bias when it comes to people of color,” Cox continued emphatically. “This is a racial issue, when disproportionately, black folks are being gunned down, assassinated, in the street, and there’s no accountability. We have to take a look at that.”
An analysis of federally compiled data published last month by the independent nonprofit newsroom Pro Publica backs up Cox’s claim: “Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts — 21 times greater,” according to the October report.
Watch Cox’s trademark poise and passion for yourself as she pointedly notes that the events following Brown’s death are “an indictment of the justice system.
In addition to the Brown case and racism in America, Cox had the opportunity to speak about her own pet project: a documentary currently in production that details the transmisogyny and injustice faced by transgender women of color, entitled Free Cece. The film focuses on the plight of Cece McDonald, now 26, a fashion design student who survived what the filmmakers describe as “a violent, racist and transphobic attack” in 2011, by defending herself with a pair of fabric scissors that ultimately killed her attacker. As the result of a plea deal, McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in prison for second-degree manslaughter, and served 19 months behind bars in a men’s prison in Minnesota, where she was denied access to medically necessary hormone treatment and was periodically kept in solitary confinement.
Cox, one of the producers of the film, visited McDonald behind bars and not only supported efforts to win her early release, but also greeted her at the prison gate. Since her release, McDonald has become an outspoken advocate for prison reform and establishing a consistent, compassionate set of guidelines for humanely detaining transgender women — important work that landed McDonald on The Advocate’s “40 Under 40” list this year.
More celebratory moments from Cox’s stint as a guest host included Cox meeting — and hugging — Lady Gaga, who was on the program to promote her chart-topping duet album with classic crooner, Tony Bennett.
Cox even donned a special fascinator in tribute to Mother Monster, and posted photos on her Instagram:
Later, Cox joined Perez to interview Dancing With the Stars runners-up Janel Parrish, Val Chmerkovskiy, Sadie Roberston, and Mark Ballas.
While discussion of Orange Is The New Black was kept to a minimum on-air, the show’s Twitter account did offer one teaser about Season 3 of the Emmy Award-winning show:
— The View (@TheView) November 26, 2014
Watch the full episode online at ABC.