It didn’t take long for the Primetime Emmy Awards to become a soapbox for pivotal social issues.
“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway, who won for outstanding directing for a comedy series, accepted her award by thanking her own transgender “Moppa” and pleading for the audience to urge passage of the transgender Equality Act.
“We have a trans civil rights problem,” she explained.
Soloway’s win was immediately followed by her star, Jeffrey Tambor’s win for lead actor in a comedy series.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to act because people’s lives depend on it,” he said, adding “I’d like to dedicate my performance and this award to the transgender community. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your stories.”
The high-profile series’ Emmy success shouldn’t be much of a surprise: it won best comedy series at January’s Golden Globes and Tambor accepted the leading actor in a comedy series trophy at that ceremony. And, as he pointed out in his Emmy acceptance speech, the publicity team of streaming service Amazon Prime has been working overtime to draw attention to this property and away from rival Netflix.
“I always thought there was teaching in the laugh and the humor; with the laughter and with the humor you can kill prejudice,” Tambor said backstage in the press room, adding “This is bigger than me. It represents what Amazon has done and what the transgender community is doing and what our show is about.”
Tambor’s win wasn’t much of a surprise for pundits or for his castmates. Amy Landecker, who plays his character’s eldest daughter Sarah, told Variety on the red carpet that she’d called it from the first table read. Judith Light, who plays his character’s ex-wife, added then that she and Tambor had known each other for a long time and she’d “never seen him operate this way.”
“He’s always brilliant in what he does, but there’s some depth about this that is really beyond description and definition,” Light told Variety. And he takes the responsibility of it so seriously for the work and to the transgender community — he is very responsible, as is Jill.”
The “Transparent” wins come as trans issues and characters have filled movie and television screens of late. Most famous is Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait,” but others include ABC Family’s reality series “I am Jazz” about a trans teen and its scripted series, “The Fosters,” which features a transgender character played by a trans actor. Laverne Cox of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” broke ground last year when she became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy.
Perhaps Jimmy Kimmel, who presented the lead actor in a comedy series Emmy (and Variety TV critic Brian Lowry) was onto something when he said that it might be time for gender-neutral categories.
Watch Jill Soloway praise Tambor in the video below:
Elizabeth Wagmeister contributed to this report.