“Transparent” creator Jill Soloway is a constant at Outfest Los Angeles. This year, she brought two new episodes of the Emmy-winning show to the festival to give fans an early preview of Season 4. The post-screening panel included Soloway, writers Our Lady J and Ali Liebegott, director Marta Cunningham, and cast members Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, Trace Lysette, Judith Light, Alexandra Billings, and Jeffrey Tambor.
A running theme of the discussion was how Soloway helped transform all the artist’s careers and lives. Light recalled her pivotal phone call with Soloway, “I was happily living in New York. Jill and I talked about advocacy for the LGBT community. I prayed this show would bring me back to California. This show changed my career and life: it combined my advocacy and my work.”
Duplass recounted how resistant he was to accepting the role of Josh Pfefferman, which was his first acting job, “I didn’t want to do it and Jill said I had to read with the family. I said, ‘No.’ Then I read with the family. Jill made an actor out of me. I came home one day and my wife said, ‘You’re so much happier now.’”
Liebegott recalled meeting Soloway at a writer’s retreat while she still had a day job at a grocery store. When Soloway emailed her after the retreat asking if she’d ever thought of writing for TV, Liebegott joked she hadn’t as “I’d only written books that three lesbians in Cleveland read.”
Our Lady J was a classical pianist whose career “went from Carnegie Hall to Mexican restaurants after transitioning. No one took me seriously. I met Jill at the GLAAD Awards. Jill was looking for a trans writer for season two. I wanted to tell stories. I submitted a short story to Jill and prayed at my altar that I’d get the job.”
When we left the Pfeffermans at the end of Season 3, they were on a cruise. In Season 4, they travel to Israel, where more revelations have profound effects on the entire family. The backstory of Davina (Billings) is also explored. Josh (Duplass) is trying to cope with his emotional damage as a sexual abuse survivor. Sarah (Landecker) is back with husband Len (Rob Huebel) and they find a new friend in Lila, played by Alia Shawkat. Shelly Pfefferman (Light,) emboldened by her one-woman show “To Shel and Back,” takes on improv comedy in the new season. Soloway also promised more queer and trans history in the new episodes.
Season 4 of “Transparent” streams this fall on Amazon Video.