Transgender actress Nicole Maines, just cast as TV's first transgender superhero on Supergirl, says cisgender actors aren't motivated by "malice" when they take trans roles, but such casting can contribute to "harmful rhetoric."
In an interview with Variety at Comic-Con in San Diego over the weekend, Maines discussed the controversy around the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug -- controversy that eventually forced Johansson to withdraw from the role.
"Cisgender actors don't take trans roles out of malice," said Maines, who will play Nia Nal, a.k.a. Dreamer, in the next season of the CW's Supergirl. "I think it's just failure to realize the context behind having cisgender people play transgender characters because we don't see the same issue with sexuality."
"We have straight people playing gay people all the time and that's because there isn't a larger conversation around -- there's not so much harmful rhetoric flying around that they are parading around, dressing up, pretending," she explained.
"And so you have to think about context with that. And with trans folks, we have a lot of people accusing us of just playing dress up for whatever reason, and that's not true. And so having trans people play trans roles shows that we are valid in our identity and we deserve to exist as we do. And so when we have cisgender actors play trans characters, it furthers that stereotype that we are playing dress up, which is not true."
Nia Nal is a reimagined version of the comic book character Nura Nal, or Dream Girl. "Nia is described as a 'soulful' transgender woman with a 'fierce drive to protect others,'" Variety reports.