Matt Bomer Plays a Trans Sex Worker in ‘Anything’ Trailer
Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto, Hilary Swank, David Duchovny, Phillip Seymour Hoffman; the list of cisgender actors playing transgender characters is a long one, and unfortunately, a continuing trend. Matt Bomer is the latest name to join that list in the Mark Ruffalo-produced indie drama Anything.
The first trailer for the film follows John Carroll Lynch as a widower whose life turns around when he meets his neighbor Freda (Bomer), a trans sex worker living in Los Angeles. The two pursue a romantic relationship, but not without rough spots as Freda experiences anti-trans violence and rejection. Those are important topics for a film to tackle, but the trailer sends up a couple red flags off the bat: one, obviously, is that Bomer, an openly gay cis man, is deeply recognizable in the role, which further perpetuates the harmful notion that trans women are men in dresses and not real women. The other is that this seems to be a movie where a trans character is mainly a vehicle used by a sad cis hetero white man for recovery. All that said, I haven’t seen the film yet, and it is worth nothing that Anything was developed with a trans woman behind the scenes. Indiewire spoke to associate producer Kylene K. Steele, who rewrote elements of the script with writer Timothy McNeil to bring more nuance to Freda and real-life issues that face trans women.
Regardless, the issue remains that trans talent was passed over for the role, and that has plenty of ramifications. Actress and Her Story co-writer Jen Richards called out the casting in 2016, noting that she auditioned for the role and encouraged the casting team against hiring a cis actor. She’s spoken about the problems behind this casting trend before, and even wrote ScreenCrush’s video, “Why Hollywood Needs Trans Actors,” which breaks down the reasons cis people playing trans roles is problematic not just for the film industry, but the dangerous ripple effects it has within our culture. “When cis people play trans parts, they’re focused on playing trans,” Richards says in the video. “When we play a trans role, we play the character,” says Transparent star Alexandra Billings.
Anything opens in New York May 11 and expands to other cities on May 18.