Wilson Cruz, Tatiana Maslany, more discuss importance of LGBTQ+ representation on and off TV
On Thursday evening, Comic-Con@Home assembled actors Jamie Chung (Once Upon A Time), Jamie Clayton (Roswell: New Mexico), Wilson Cruz (Star Trek: Discovery), Tatiana Maslany (Perry Mason), Anthony Rapp (Star Trek: Discovery), J. August Richards (Council of Dads), Harry Shum Jr. (Shadowhunters), and Brian Michael Smith (9-1-1: Lone Star) to discuss LGBTQ+ representation on screen and beyond, and how the television landscape could improve for LGBTQ+ people.
While acknowledgement was given to the trail blazed by shows like My So-Called Life and Sense8, which starred Cruz and Clayton respectively, one thing many panelists agreed hasn't changed yet is the burden of being the only representative for the LGBTQ+ community once they're finally on set.
In response to Smith saying "I like the idea of having more representation in the show so you don't have to put that responsibility on just the one [trans] character," Cruz said that "the thing that nobody talks about is that when you are a first, when you're of the first in an industry that isn't used to having to have these conversations and don't even know what they don't know, it's part of our job to be brave enough to have the conversation, to be vulnerable enough, and authentic enough to say, 'Hey, I have something to add to this conversation that is valuable to the storytelling,' and it's great when actors take ownership of that power. You're doing work for trans actors who are coming after you."
Smith agreed, saying, "I'm excited about the opportunity that I have right now, but what can I do for the people that are coming behind me that I'm hoping to bring with me, that I'm trying to hold this door open for. If that takes me sitting down at lunch and having a long conversation and doing a lot of education, okay, get me the General Tso's, let's do this."
Of course, as August Richards said during the panel, "It really shouldn't be the responsibility of the actors all the time to write it for them. The actor should be able to just come and interpret the material." Part of the progress for LGBTQ+ representation on TV is for members of the community to work behind the scenes as well. As Maslany noted, it has the potential to change the way things are filmed, and even how the camera is used. "I'm so interested in different actual physical points of view that the camera can take to be inside of an experience as opposed to objectifying it," the former Orphan Black star said.
Clayton summed up the next steps that need to be taken in terms of LGBTQ+ representation by stating, "I'm so sick of showing up to set and feeling so alone. I would love to go to crafty and see a trans person at crafty. I would love for a lighting person to be trans. I know we talk about writers and producers and directors, but those are tough jobs to get."
Touching on her additional goal of getting trans actors in the room to audition for cisgender parts, Clayton closed her honest moment exclaiming, "Don't bring me in just to tell a transition story; bring me in because I'm good at what I do, and also get me an assistant who's trans so we can be trans together."
Watch the full panel above.