Transparent's first transgender director Silas Howard on his experience with the show
The second season of Transparent will have some behind-the-scenes additions to its creative crew: Lady J, the show’s first transgender writer, and Silas Howard, its first trans director. “Having trans writers and directors is important,” creator Jill Soloway said during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “Trans people want to tell their own stories.”
Howard—best known for the indie feature By Hook or by Crook and both seasons of the Above Average web series Hudson Valley Ballers, which was created by Saturday Night Live veterans Paula Pell and James Anderson along with Michelle Lawler and includes guest stars such as Tina Fey, Josh Charles, Natasha Lyonne, and Lena Dunham—will direct episode five in the forthcoming season. “It’s a big deal because it feels like instead of being put into the system that isn’t necessarily integrated, I’m in the room with all these professional, incredibly talented people and they come from a lot of different backgrounds,” he says.
The director was initially attracted to the show, which follows the Pfefferman family — including Maura, played by Jeffrey Tambor, whose coming out was the focus of season 1 — largely because of the complexity of its characters, and their weaknesses, fallibilities, hopes, and dreams.
“Everyone in the family is wrestling with identity, [but] I love the way the trans identity of Maura is very real and also such a metaphor for the ways that we’re all struggling to find ourselves and be ourselves,” Howard says. “It’s seated in this family dynamic so it gets to have all of this richness around it instead of doing that thing where we have to explain [trans culture].”
As a result, Howard says he was able to approach broader narrative possibilities. “We have other things interesting about us besides being trans,” he says, adding that he is a trans director but also just a storyteller — and that like everyone else he tells stories from his personal experiences. “Certainly my family and where I come from is more interesting to me than the fact that I’m trans.”
As for the actual storytelling, Howard aimed to, among other things, play with contrast. “I looked for opportunities where a sort of paradoxical quality is happening, where things are messed up and beautiful at the same time, or funny and tragic,” he says, but was not able to reveal specifics because of spoilers. “I think as a trans person it just is true to me, to my core, in terms of how I feel as a person, in my body, in the world — and just sort of try to really embrace the messy parts of life.”
Transparent has already been renewed for a third season, and Howard may or may not return to direct, but he seems to be okay with whatever happens in the future. “That’s always the dream, but I also feel that it’s such an incredible show that it could seem just as exciting that they open it up to different directors to have that experience.”
Transparent returns to Amazon on Dec. 4.
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